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Steve Bannon’s New Lawyer Was Rudy Giuliani’s ‘Backchannel’ to Keep Michael Cohen from Flipping on Trump

WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 08: Former White House senior counselor to President Donald Trump Steve Bannon speaks to members of the media as he leaves the E. Barrett Prettyman United States Courthouse after he testified at the Roger Stone trial November 8, 2019 in Washington, DC. Stone has been charged with lying to Congress and witness tampering. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Steve Bannon is seen in a November 2019 file photo.

Outgoing President Donald Trump’s indicted associate Steve Bannon appears to have a new lawyer who registered a federal court appearance on Friday: attorney Robert Costello, who was identified in former special counsel Robert Mueller’s report as the “backchannel” between Rudy Giuliani and Michael Cohen.

Costello, who did not immediately respond to an email requesting comment, was a key figure in an alleged pardon-dangling episode shortly after the FBI raided Cohen’s home on April 10, 2018.

A week later, Cohen reportedly started speaking with Costello.

“Costello told Cohen that he had a ‘back channel of communication’ to Giuliani, and that Giuliani had said the ‘channel’ was ‘crucial’ and ‘must be maintained,'” according to the Mueller report’s second volume, which focuses on obstruction.

On April 20, 2018, as Trump tweeted his hope that Cohen would not “flip,” Costello told Cohen in an email that he had spoken to Giuliani and emphasized: “You are ‘loved’ … they are in our corner.”

“Sleep well tonight[], you have friends in high places,” Costello told Cohen, according to the Mueller report.

Costello initially played off the remark as a reference to country music star Garth Brooks’s song “Friends in Low Places,” but he later confirmed that he was actually referring to Trump. Cohen, who cooperated with Mueller, New York prosecutors and Congress, never did get a pardon from Trump—or any other help.

“If you have friends in low places, one day, all of them will meet at the bottom,” Cohen told Law&Crime in a text message. “In fact, Bannon and Costello are two low life, peas in a pod. Personally, I am ecstatic they found one another. Rest assured, Costello can and will do for Bannon absolutely NOTHING!“

As Trump’s lame duck session draws to a close, Bannon needs friends in high places. The two counts of his indictment add up to a maximum 40-year sentence for conspiring to commit wire fraud and money laundering. That maximum will not occur, but it’s worth noting the kind of potential legal jeopardy involved in this matter. Bannon’s former attorneys asked to withdraw from the case after Bannon’s rant demanding Dr. Anthony Fauci and FBI Director Christopher Wray’s “heads on pikes” during Trump’s imaginary second term in office.

We Build the Wall promised that “100%” of $25 million that it crowdfunded would construct a barrier along the U.S. southern border, but Bannon took at least $1 million from the charity, prosecutors say.

Costello’s notice of appearance is below:

[Image via Alex Wong/Getty Images]

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Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on NewsNation, NBC, MSNBC, CBS's "Inside Edition," BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks. His reporting on the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell was featured on the Starz and Channel 4 documentary "Who Is Ghislaine Maxwell?" He is the host of Law&Crime podcast "Objections: with Adam Klasfeld."