Robert Costello Reveals He Was Working for Steve Bannon a Year before He Was Publicly Hired

After belatedly joining Steve Bannon’s defense team as DOJ was collecting evidence about whether his claims matched the available evidence, Robert Costello is now asking to withdraw, citing a concern — one DOJ raised in a phone call on December 2, the same day he filed his notice of appearance — that he might have to serve as a witness.

The decision to withdraw just days before trial is interesting in any case.

All the more so given Costello’s claim that he has represented Bannon for the past three years.

Maybe he has … maybe he has!

Curiously, though, that conflicts with the known timeline of how his relationship with Bannon came about. You’ll recall that until November 6, 2020, Bannon was ably represented — through a serially evolving story in the Mueller investigation — by Bill Burck. But then, on November 5, 2020, Bannon threatened to behead the FBI Director and the COVID Czar.

So Burck essentially fired Bannon. According to Burck’s court filing, Bannon was, at that point, hiring new counsel.

A month later, on December 11, 2020, at a time when according to public reports, Trump was offering pardons to those, like Bannon, implicated in the Build the Wall fraud, in exchange to those who helped his coup attempt, Costello filed his notice of appearance for Bannon — at least by context, he was the new counsel.

Maybe my math is off, but December 11, 2020 is less than three years ago — less than two, even!!

All that said, Costello — who was implicated in the Mueller investigation for attempting to broker a pardon to keep Michael Cohen silent — was being hired by someone roughly three years ago, though it wasn’t Bannon. It was this guy, Rudy Giuliani, the guy through whom Costello had previously attempted to broker a pardon.

The legal representation of Trumpsters is always so incestuous it’s hard to tell where representation for one person begins and the other ends (as a reminder, Bannon’s other two lawyers either used to — David Schoen — or reportedly still do — Evan Corcoran — also represent Trump). But at least according to Costello’s filing, he’s been representing both Bannon and Rudy all this time.

63 replies
  1. Rugger9 says:

    I don’t think there is a smoking gun yet that Costello fibbed to the court. The key phrase is “on a number of different matters” which means that Bannon used him for other litigation / negotiations. If it were litigation, most courts will list attorneys as well as defendants and that means Costello’s name is searchable. Unfortunately you may need to go county-by-county but if Costello was really Bannon’s ‘fixer’ of sorts there has to be a court record somewhere about something with Costello’s name on it given Bannon’s demeanor.

    • Rugger9 says:

      IANAL, but I am aware of the crime / fraud exception to attorney-client privilege. However, it sure seems to me that Costello’s post-dating exercise here is intended to lay the foundation for claiming A-C privilege for discussions with Bannon during a period of high interest for the J6SC. My question is this: does the privilege cover only items relevant to a particular case or is it more broad? For example, if Bannon was suing a neighbor for the neighbor’s cat pooping in Bannon’s yard using Costello as his lawyer, does that mean A-C privilege exists regarding any discussion with Costello as a lawyer, perhaps including the Kolfage Build the Wall case?

      • vvv says:

        You can be sure they will argue atty-client privilege for all discussions re whatever during the period of representation.

        Absent crime/fraud exception or client waiver, I believe “more broad” will likely be sustained.

        Do let me add that, “the neighbor’s cat pooping in Bannon’s yard using Costello as his lawyer” makes me wonder if they (the cat) would pay Costello in Friskies and extra litter.

    • Alan Charbonneau says:

      Nothing recent, but has an article from 3 years ago in which Costello claimed Cohen smeared him. (dot).com/newyorklawjournal/2019/05/03/michael-cohen-smeared-me-and-still-owes-43k-his-former-lawyer-says/

  2. Rugger9 says:

    OT but related to the idea of working in the shadows… The Guardian is reporting that a RW-leaning documentary film crew (Paul Escandon and James Rink) tailed Roger Stone like Holder did with the WH and captured a lot of stuff with Ali Alexander as well. Perhaps the J6SC has this footage but if not, they should get it. The article notes that these two already declined an invitation to come clean which would force a subpoena, so far unannounced. It’s something that apparently came out of Alex Holder’s testimony, which FWIW is one reason why I still think the hearings are a good idea. Details like this get tossed into the public sphere for investigation and comment which wouldn’t happen otherwise.

    • Alan Charbonneau says:

      Other than having not one, but two documentary film crews documenting their crimes, the Jan 6 people have had great OpSec. 😁

    • grennan says:

      The Washington Post reported Mar. 4 about a Danish filmmaker’s documentary team following Stone. during Jan. 6 and before and after. “A Storm Foretold”.

      But…in a sidebar it noted:

      “[Christopher] Guldbrandsen told The Washington Post he had learned that Stone had secretly agreed to sell the exclusive rights to his story to a rival production company in the United States. Guldbrandsen and Stone had been working without such a contract, and Guldbrandsen said he — having remortgaged his home and raided retirement savings to help finance the film — was in no position to pay.”

      The main story goes into great detail about the 20 hrs of Stone-centric footage about Jan. 6 and Stone’s brouhaha with Ali Alexander. The movie shows Stone in such a hurry to leave town that night, observing that “Merrick Garland is not a friend”, he stuffed those fancy suits into trash bags.

  3. TimB says:

    Whoa, this is very interesting, thanks as always.

    The link to Mr. Costello’s request to withdraw points to your PC, Marcie.

    • emptywheel says:

      I don’t think so. But according to WaPo’s Mar-a-Lago stenographer, Trump is going to issue a letter he can use to fool journalists into reporting that he has changed his stance on Bannon’s testimony and will waive the Executive Privilege that’s not his to waive and that he didn’t invoke before, so as to give Bannon an excuse to show up and plead the Fifth.

  4. joel fisher says:

    How complicated can the facts be that a new lawyer couldn’t pick it up pretty quickly?
    Was he served with the subpoena? Did he show up? The whole was-the-subpoena-valid issue wouldn’t seem to be the kind of thing that juries decide.
    He’s stalling.

  5. punaise says:

    Somewhat OT, but huh:

    Rhodes will testify to Jan. 6 committee under oath if they meet his terms

    On Friday, Oath Keeper ringleader Elmer Stewart Rhodes—now facing charges for seditious conspiracy—extended an offer to testify under oath before the Jan. 6 committee investigating the U.S. Capitol attack and former President Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 election.

    Rhodes wants his testimony in an “open forum,” Bright said. The remarks must be taken publicly in front of committee members “face-to-face and subject to cross-examination and under oath with counsel present.”

    “He will be willing to testify regarding the history of the Oath Keepers, the manner in which they were founded, their membership, their involvement in the election in terms of support of Trump or not, the things that they were doing at various rallies in the months leading up to the election and as well as what became of January 6,” Bright said.

    Bright added that Rhodes would also be willing to testify about what the Oath Keepers and himself specifically were doing on Jan. 6.

    • Doctor My Eyes says:

      It seems he wants air time so he can explain some things to America. It’s a terrible idea, and I doubt the J6 committee will bite.

      • YancyFaith says:

        Telethon/Infomercil/Recruitment/Propaganda video for Rhodes & Oath Keepers? To hoo-doo public and thus nullify juror(s) in DOJ trial?

    • civil says:

      The DOJ just filed a motion in the Oath Keepers case giving “notice of its intent to introduce certain evidence at trial including: First, evidence that certain co-conspirators traveled to Washington, D.C., in November 2020 and, like for January 6, 2021, organized an armed Quick Reaction Force (“QRF”). Second, evidence that co-conspirator Jeremy Brown transported explosives to the Washington, D.C., area on January 6, 2021. Third, evidence that certain co-conspirators including Stewart Rhodes, Kelly Meggs, and Jessica Watkins discussed and prepared for violent conflict with government actors after January 6 and before January 20, demonstrating the co-conspirators’ plan to oppose the lawful transfer of power before Inauguration Day. Fourth, evidence that co-conspirator Jessica Watkins possessed bomb-making instructions during the charged conspiracy as evidence of Watkin’s preparation to use force against the government. And fifth, evidence that co-conspirator Thomas Caldwell possessed a “death list” with the names of Georgia election officials and, later, attempted to have someone build him firearms before January 20, showing Caldwell’s intent to oppose government actors by force to stop the transfer of presidential power.”

    • Spencer Dawkins says:

      I know you didn’t write these words, but does “face-to-face ***and subject to cross-examination*** and under oath with counsel present” mean that Rhodes thinks Rhodes would be subject to cross-examination, or the Rhodes thinks Rhodes might be able to cross-examine committee members?

      I can guess, but I’m guessing, and I’m having to explain to people far too often that the committee hearings are not criminal proceedings, so complaining that “no one is cross-examining the witnesses” is kind of a tell that they haven’t been paying attention …

  6. punaise says:

    Seen elseweb, to the tune of That’s Amore:

    “When your coup takes a fall
    And there’s ketchup on the wall
    That’s a moron”

    • TooLoose LeTruck says:

      “When the Proud Boys go home
      And you’re left alone
      That’s a moron…”

      • punaise says:

        When the [prison] bars make you drool like an Oaf Creeper’s tool
        That’s a moron
        When you prance down the street with these clowns at your feet
        You’re in trouble
        When you work up a scheme ‘cuz you know you’re not winning (sin: yours, eh?)
        Recuse me, but you see, back in old DC
        That’s a moron

        (there may be an alternative version for bmaz based on “That’s a RICO”)

      • Alan Charbonneau says:

        “You know that Powell’s a tool and
        Eastman’s a fool,
        that’s a moron”

        “When your son’s always high
        and Rudy’s your guy
        that’s a moron”

  7. Jenny says:

    Let’s go down memory lane with Bannon quotes:

    “I’m a Leninist. Lenin wanted to destroy the state, and that’s my goal, too.”

    “An elite is someone who’s for themselves and not for the country.”

    “Birth control makes women unattractive and crazy.”

    “I’ve got a cure for mental health issue. Spank your children more.”

    “Would you rather your child had feminism or cancer?”

    • Tom says:

      That last comment … What a jerk! What a schmuck! As if there aren’t parents out there whose children are actually suffering from cancer. Just because Bannon’s belly has its own time zone he thinks he’s important.

    • grennan says:

      When the stuff came out about meeting with the Russians in the summer of 2016 (Don Jr’s ‘If that’s what you say I love it), Bannon was quoted (prob. NY Times) as saying that such a meeting was “arguably treason” and if you went ahead anyway, you do it at a Courtyard Inn in New Hampshire.

      Not sure if it was the same interview or another after he got fired, but he was very catty about Ivanka Trump, saying she had whined about not being a staffer but “first daughter” and he had to explain to her that “first daughter” was not an official title. He called her the “Princess Royal” which showed orders of magnitude more historical knowledge than any of the Trumps (the title being awarded only by the UK monarch and only to eldest daughter, but not automatically).

  8. christopher rocco says:

    Not totally off topic, re: Bannon testimony. Word on the street is that tfg might waive exec privilege for rumpledstiltskin to testify before J6C. Seems like, along with Elmo, there’s an outbreak of truthiness.

    • Ginevra diBenci says:

      Why would Trump pave the way for Bannon to reveal anything along the lines of “truthiness”?

      • Doctor My Eyes says:

        Because the Bannon “testimony” proposal is a set-up. The conspirators are desperate for propaganda time and are feeling the heat of the hearings. They want a little propaganda time of their own. Bannon thinks he can make the Dems interviewing him look stupid or Marxist or out of touch. This is not a serious proposal for serious testimony. This is Bannon seeking air time.

        • Tom says:

          He’s just hoping to get on the cover of Men’s Health magazine. Maybe even a centrefold spread.

        • pcpablo says:

          Yes, having Bannon testify in open hearings would be a stupid, stupid move. Have him behind closed doors and release only his Fifth Amendment clips, and any relevant things that may slip out.
          He learned from Stone, who learned from Roy Cohn, masters of their domains.

          [Hola – could you do us a favor and stick with “pcpablo” and omit your URL when commenting? You were “pcpablo” from 2008-2018 (though infrequent), changed to “pablo” and added your URL sporadically, then reverted to “pcpablo” again recently. It’s confusing to the algorithm and moderators alike and may slow down clearance of your comments. Thanks. /~Rayne]

        • Rayne says:

          LOL I wonder, though, with the right production elements, if having Bannon testify in front of the committee in a public hearing would work against him. Committee could counter with insisting only one company produce the live feed so that every stream gets the same content — and Bannon will look nowhere as honest and forthright as Hutchinson. He always looks like a hobo and with the right single producer streaming his testimony, the public will see Bannon ungarnished, unfiltered, like the malignant tumor on American politics he is.

    • grennan says:

      But not enough truthiness to recognize that a) there’s only one US president at a time and b) executive privilege is up to current pres, not former.

      And, of course, Bannon stopped being an employee in 2017 so executive privilege after that point is probably moot anyway.

      But hey, if anybody wants junky legal theories talk to tfg and his enthusiasts.

    • emptywheel says:

      That’s a propaganda stunt to lead people to believe that the reason Bannon didn’t testify in the first place was bc Trump had invoked Executive Privilege that wasn’t his to invoke.

      • Ginevra diBenci says:

        That’s what I thought–that Trump had no EP to invoke with Bannon re: J6. If he had, DOJ might have held off on indicting. And Bannon would have to testify under oath, making him look like just as much of an asshat as Flynn if he took the Fifth over and over. He would not be able to make Trump’s case without perjuring himself, given the likely questions he would be asked and the evidence the committee could produce. So what you wrote, Dr. W, makes sense. I wish I was surprised the Post fell for it, with those three anonymous sources and all.

  9. Ewan says:

    It’s three years as in 2020,2021,2022. Just like in the Passion it’s three days, Friday, Saturday, Sunday. If you can swear on a Bible in a court, and it says there that Friday late afternoon, Saturday, Sunday early morning is three days, well, that’s three years here too if he says so.

  10. Nick Caraway says:

    Excuse the OT, but, unemployment came in at 3.6% with 372,000 jobs created. When do Biden/ Democrats get any credit? And how does anyone remotely speculate that the US economy is in recession when it records numbers like that?

    Better numbers than tfg ever had, but somehow the media foster a climate where voters trust the Republicans more than Democrats on the economy. It’s batsh*t crazy.

  11. person1597 says:

    Bannon… Beware of the pool… “Hey, you’re living in your own private Idaho
    Where do I go from here
    To a better state than this?
    Well, don’t be blind to the big surprise
    Swimming round and round like the deadly hand
    Of a radium clock
    At the bottom of the pool”

  12. Jenny says:

    Remember Build the Wall case where Bannon got a presidential pardoned while his fellow associates pleaded guilty to wire fraud and money-laundering for the boarder wall scam.

    “Some of the most poisonous people come disguised as friends.”

  13. christopher rocco says:

    Reuters reporting earlier today that Costello will no longer represent Bannon. Imagine that. Marcy called it all along.

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