- Bob Costello, a lawyer with ties to President Donald Trump’s legal team, claimed that Michael Cohen misread an email with a country song’s lyrics as an offer of a pardon.
- Costello, a longtime friend of Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani, emailed Cohen last year saying he could “sleep well tonight” because he had “friends in high places,” CNN reported, citing a copy of the email it obtained.
- Cohen said the email was a reference to a possible pardon from Trump, given its timing just as Cohen was under pressure from investigators, CNN reported.
- In a message to The Daily Beast, Costello argued that the lines were an innocent reference to the 1990 hit single “Friends In Low Places” by Garth Brooks.
- In an email regarding Costello’s claim, representatives for Cohen referred Business Insider to the 1974 Queen song “Liar.”
- Cohen and Trump’s legal team have long disputed Cohen’s truthfulness and whether he was offered a pardon to stay quiet.
Events just took another strange turn in the battle between President Donald Trump’s legal team and Michael Cohen, this time centering on whether a cryptic email was an offer of a pardon – or just some lyrics from a 1990 hit single by the country music star Garth Brooks.
On Wednesday, CNN said it obtained an April 2018 email to Cohen from Bob Costello, an attorney and longtime associate of Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, saying Cohen could “sleep well tonight” because he had “friends in high places.”
CNN said that, to Cohen, the message seemed to hint that Trump was prepared to use his pardoning power to let him off the hook, at a time when investigators were probing his role in 2016 hush-money payments to women who said they had affairs with Trump.
Citing people familiar with Cohen’s congressional testimony, CNN reported that Cohen submitted the email to lawmakers as evidence that Trump’s lawyers were dangling the promise of a pardon before him, a move congressional Democrats say could constitute obstruction of justice.
When The Daily Beast asked about the email, Costello gave an unorthodox explanation.
He said that he wasn’t hinting at the prospect of a presidential pardon but referring to Brooks’ song in a bid to reassure Cohen.
In an email to the publication, 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.”
The 1990 single “Friends in Low Places” contains the lines “‘Cause I’ve got friends in low places / Where the whiskey drowns / And the beer chases my blues away / And I’ll be OK.”
In response to the reference, the office of Cohen’s attorney, Lanny Davis, said, “I refer you to the Queen song ‘Liar.'”
The song, from 1974, contains the lyrics “I have sinned, dear father / Father, I have sinned / Try and help me, father / Won’t you let me in? / Liar / Nobody believes me / Liar.”
Costello did not immediately return a request for further comment.
Since his bombshell testimony to Congress in February, in which he described his former boss as a “racist” and a “con man,” Cohen has been characterised by Republicans and the president as a liar for saying he did not seek a presidential pardon.
Davis has maintained that Trump’s attorneys dangled the prospect of a pardon to buy his client’s silence.
Costello, who CNN said was exploring the possibility of representing Cohen at the time of the email exchange, disputed Cohen’s account.
“Does dangled mean that [Cohen] raised it and I mentioned it to Giuliani, and Giuliani said the president is not going to discuss pardons with anybody?” Costello told CNN. “If that’s dangling it, that’s dangling it for about 15 seconds.”
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