December 11, 2020
By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK (Reuters) – Steve Bannon, the former adviser to U.S. President Donald Trump, has hired a lawyer who also represents the president’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani to defend him against criminal fraud charges.
Bannon’s hiring of Robert Costello came five weeks after his prior lawyer, William Burck, withdrew following Bannon’s Nov. 5 online suggestion that the government infectious disease specialist Anthony Fauci and FBI Director Christopher Wray be beheaded for being disloyal to Trump.
Costello, a former federal prosecutor whose clients have also included the late New York Yankees baseball team owner George Steinbrenner and late businesswoman Leona Helmsley, disclosed his hiring in a filing in Manhattan federal court.
He did not immediately respond to a request for additional comment. Burck has not disclosed why he withdrew.
Giuliani is helping lead Trump’s effort to overturn his loss to President-elect Joe Biden in last month’s election.
Bannon and three co-defendants were charged in August with defrauding donors in a crowdfunding campaign to build the president’s signature wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
Prosecutors said Bannon and Brian Kolfage, a leader of the campaign, illegally used hundreds of thousands of dollars to cover personal expenses.
The defendants have pleaded not guilty. A court conference is scheduled for Dec. 17.
Bannon was a top adviser to Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and later White House chief strategist, who championed the “America First” right-wing populism and opposition to immigration that have been hallmarks of Trump’s presidency.
Costello’s name appeared several times in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, where he was described as having a “close relationship” with Giuliani.
The case is USA v. Kolfage, U.S. District Court Southern District of New York, 1:20-cr-00412.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Cynthia Osterman)
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