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Trump NY Grand Jury Near End of Work   03/21 06:04

   A New York grand jury investigating Donald Trump over a hush money payment 
to a porn star appears poised to complete its work soon as law enforcement 
officials make preparations for possible unrest in the event of an indictment.

   NEW YORK (AP) -- A New York grand jury investigating Donald Trump over a 
hush money payment to a porn star appears poised to complete its work soon as 
law enforcement officials make preparations for possible unrest in the event of 
an indictment.

   Trump over the weekend claimed without any evidence that he would be 
arrested on Tuesday, with his representatives later saying he was citing media 
reports and leaks. There was no indication that prediction would come true, 
though the grand jury appeared to take an important step forward by hearing 
Monday from a witness favorable to Trump, presumably so prosecutors could 
ensure the panel had a chance to consider any testimony that could be remotely 
seen as exculpatory.

   The next steps in a grand jury process shrouded in secrecy remained unclear, 
and it was uncertain if additional witnesses might be summoned. But a city 
mindful of the riot by Trump loyalists at the U.S. Capitol more than two years 
ago took steps to gird itself from any violence that could accompany the 
unprecedented prosecution of a former president, while fellow Republicans 
eyeing the 2024 presidential nomination sized up how an indictment might upend 
the race.

   The testimony from Robert Costello, a lawyer with close ties to numerous key 
Trump aides, appeared to be a final opportunity for allies of the former 
president to steer the grand jury away from an indictment. He was invited by 
prosecutors to appear after saying that he had information to undercut the 
credibility of Michael Cohen, a former lawyer and fixer for Trump who later 
turned against him and then became a key witness in the Manhattan district 
attorney's investigation.

   Costello had provided Cohen legal services several years ago after Cohen 
himself became entangled in the federal investigation into the hush money 
payments. In a news conference after his grand jury appearance, Costello told 
reporters that he had come forward because he did not believe Cohen, who 
pleaded guilty to federal crimes and served time in prison, could be trusted.

   "If they want to go after Donald Trump and they have solid evidence, then so 
be it," Costello said. "But Michael Cohen is far from solid evidence."

   Responding to Costello's claims on MSNBC later Monday, Cohen said that 
Costello was never his lawyer and "he lacks any sense of veracity."

   There were no clear signs that Costello's testimony had affected the course 
of the investigation. Cohen had been available for over two hours in case 
prosecutors wanted him to rebut Costello's testimony but was told he was not 
needed, his attorney said Monday.

   The testimony came two days after Trump said he expected to face criminal 
charges and urged supporters to protest his possible arrest. In a series of 
social media posts through the weekend, the Republican former president 
criticized the New York investigation, directing particularly hostile rhetoric 
toward Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, a Democrat.

   New York officials have been monitoring online chatter of threats of varying 
specificity, and even as portable metal barricades were dropped off to 
safeguard streets and sidewalks, there were no immediate signs that Trump's 
calls for protests were being heeded.

   Costello briefly acted as a legal adviser to Cohen after the FBI raided 
Cohen's home and apartment in 2018. At the time, Cohen was being investigated 
for both tax evasion and for payments he helped orchestrate in 2016 to buy the 
silence of two women who claimed to have had sexual encounters with Trump.

   For several months, it was unclear whether Cohen, a longtime lawyer and 
fixer for the Trump Organization who once boasted that he would "take a bullet" 
for his boss, would remain loyal to the president.

   Cohen ultimately decided to plead guilty in connection with the payments to 
porn actor Stormy Daniels and model Karen McDougal, which he said were directed 
by Trump. Since then, he has been a vociferous Trump critic, testifying before 
Congress and then to the Manhattan grand jury.

   Trump, who has denied having sex with either woman, has branded Cohen a 
liar. Costello broke with Cohen before he pleaded guilty, after it became clear 
he was no longer in Trump's camp.

   In the years since, Costello, a veteran New York attorney, has represented 
Trump allies including his former political strategist Steve Bannon and his 
personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani.

   Even as the New York investigation pushes toward conclusion, Trump faces 
criminal probes in Atlanta and Washington that, taken together, pose 
significant legal peril and carry the prospect of upending a Republican 
presidential race in which Trump remains a leading contender. Some of his 
likely opponents have tried to strike a balance between condemning a potential 
prosecution as politically motivated while avoiding condoning the conduct at 

   Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, an expected GOP presidential candidate, 
criticized the investigation but also threw one of his first jabs at the former 
president in a move likely to intensify their simmering political rivalry.

   "I don't know what goes into paying hush money to a porn star to secure 
silence over some kind of alleged affair," DeSantis said at a news conference 
in Panama City. "I can't speak to that."

   But, he added, "what I can speak to is that if you have a prosecutor who is 
ignoring crimes happening every single day in his jurisdiction and he chooses 
to go back many, many years ago to try to use something about porn star hush 
money payments, that's an example of pursuing a political agenda and 
weaponizing the office. And I think that's fundamentally wrong."

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