Last week, news reports surfaced that attorney Bob Costello, a longtime friend of Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani, reached out to the president’s ex-fixer Michael Cohen last year with a potentially scandalous suggestion: Trump might consider pardoning Cohen amid growing legal problems owing to his business deals and skirting of campaign finance law.
Giuliani’s camp denied the stories, suggesting that the pardon had been floated by Cohen’s campaign. From there, the entire matter degenerated into a he-said-he-said affair.
On Wednesday, however, CNN reported that Costello wrote an April 2018 email to Cohen telling him that he could “sleep well tonight” because he had “friends in high places.”
It seemed, at first blush, possibly like evidence that a pardon—or, at a minimum, a telling wink and nod—had been dangled and that it was Team Trump doing the dangling.
Not so, says Costello.
In an email to The Daily Beast, Costello said that he was not hinting at a Trump pardon when he talked about sleeping well at night. Instead, he was referencing a song by music star Garth Brooks in an attempt to comfort a “suicidal” Cohen. And, he added, there were documents that could confirm as much.
“To repeat myself, Michael Cohen and his counsel’s interpretation of events is utter nonsense,” Costello said. “This statement: ‘Sleep Well tonight, you have friends in high places’ was a tongue-in-cheek reference to a Garth Brooks song, to a client whose state of mind was highly disturbed and had suggested to us that he was suicidal. We were simply trying to be decent human beings. There is no hidden message.”
In fact, the popular 1990 single that Brooks recorded is titled, “Friends in Low Places.”
Costello went on to claim, “Michael Cohen and/or his counsel have selectively leaked copies of emails to bolster the false narrative that they originally tried to peddle in the media last week. We have documents to back our position up, and are preparing to provide these to the U.S. Attorney’s office, who has asked for them.”
Lanny Davis, Cohen’s legal adviser, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on this story.
The Garth Brooks defense marks yet another escalation of a prolonged back-and-forth between the Cohen and Trump camps over whether a pardon was dangled. It’s a dispute that carries with it serious consequences: including whether the president and his team attempted to obstruct justice or whether Cohen lied about the matter to Congress.
Last week, Giuliani had told The Daily Beast that his friend Costello would likely soon back up his version of events.
“[Last year], Costello and I had several conversations on the phone, at least one, possibly two, meetings in person, when the [joint defense agreement between President Trump and Cohen] was in place,” Giuliani said. “During one of those telephone conversations, he told me Michael asked him to ask me if there is a possibility he could get a pardon… and I said to him that is not on the table—something like that—the president is not going to consider any pardons or make any decisions on any pardons while the investigation is going on… I said, ‘You should assume, for safety’s sake, that you’re not gonna get a pardon.’”
Giuliani also said Costello had mentioned that he had told Cohen it was a “bad idea” to fish for a pardon, but Cohen “insisted” that Costello press Team Trump about it anyway. Costello, as Giuliani recounted last week, subsequently told Giuliani that “Cohen got really upset” after Costello delivered the news last year.
“I’ve known Bob Costello for 40 years, and he’s going to tell the truth,” Giuliani emphasized. “He will corroborate everything I said.”