Donald Trump’s hush money trial

10:28 a.m. ET, May 21, 2024

Analysis: Costello’s testimony backfired for defense, legal experts say

From CNN’s Maureen Chowdhury

Robert Costello’s testimony appeared to backfire for the defense, several legal experts said on CNN.

Costello’s behavior toward Judge Juan Merchán caused the courtroom to be cleared Monday and his exchanges with prosecutors may not be working in the defense’s favor.

“It’s just terrible the way it happened and the strange thing is that Costello knows better, right?” said David Oscar Markus, a criminal defense attorney. “He’s a lawyer, he’s been in that courtroom, in that courtroom. He knows better, so it was a terrible, horrible day. And you know the defense took a big risk here and struck out really bad.”

CNN Chief Legal Analyst Laura Coates noted that Costello’s goal was to go after Michael Cohen’s credibility by calling him a liar, but he failed to do so.

“The prosecutor is undermining this,” Coates said, “and is not allowing him, frankly, on this very tight leash, to try to go outside of what the documents say. Now, the idea, the color that we had in the courtroom before from the court about him telling her to ‘speak up, speak louder’ may not have sat well with the jury,” Coates said.

“Now he cannot explain what the documents say. “That’s where you want your witness to be if you want to undermine them,” she added.

The district attorney is “gradually but surely turning Bob Costello into a prosecution witness,” said CNN senior legal analyst Elie Honig, because Costello is talking about a pivotal moment in time” in April 2018, where the Emails indicate Costello was trying to hold Cohen in the crease and not flip. “This underhanded effort to keep Michael Cohen from flipping is coming back down. It’s bad for the defense and good for the prosecution.”

William J. Brennan, a former lawyer for Trump Payroll Corp., also said Costello’s testimony does not favor the defense. “It’s really sad for the defense that this is what we’re focused on now, when we had a couple of days that don’t usually happen in a criminal trial. “You know Cohen was just a gift.”

Brennan continued, now they put Costello in, “he imploded, he fought with the judge, he’s dancing with her (Susan Hoffinger), it’s just not a good way to end.”