A cryptic email Michael Cohen took as an offer of a pardon was just mangled lyrics from a 1990 country hit single, according to a bizarre excuse by an ally of Trump's legal team

Michael Cohen congressional testimony

AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's former personal lawyer, reads an opening statement as he testifies before the House Oversight and Reform Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019.

  • Bob Costello, a lawyer with ties to President Donald Trump's legal team, claims Michael Cohen misread country song lyrics as the offer of a pardon.
  • Costello, a longtime friend of Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, emailed Cohen in 2018 to say he could "sleep well tonight" because he had "friends in high places."
  • Cohen claims that the email was a reference to a potential pardon from Trump, given its timing just as Cohen was under pressure from investigators.
  • 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 country star Garth Brooks.
  • Cohen and Trump's legal team have been engaged in a long-running dispute over Cohen's truthfulness, and dispute whether he was offered a pardon to stay quiet.

Events just took another strange turn in the unfolding battle between President Donald Trump's legal team and Michael Cohen, centering on whether a cryptic email was an offer of a pardon - or just some lyrics from 1990 by country music star Garth Brooks.

On Wednesday CNN obtained a 2018 email to Cohen from attorney Bob Costello, a longtime associate of Trump's current personal attorney Rudy Giuliani.

The message seemingly hinted that Trump was prepared to use his pardoning power to let Cohen off the hook, at a time when investigators were probing his role in 2016 hush money payouts made to women who claimed to have had affairs with Trump.

Costello wrote to Cohen that he could "sleep well tonight" because he had "friends in high places." CNN said Cohen submitted the email to lawmakers as proof for his claim that Trumps lawyers were "dangling" the promise of a pardon before him, a move congressional Democrats say could constitute an obstruction of justice.

When quizzed about the email by the Daily Beast, Costello had an unorthodox explanation.

He claimed that he wasn't hinting at the prospect of a presidential pardon, quoting country music megastar Garth Brooks in a bid to reassure a "suicidal" Cohen.

garth brooks


Garth Brooks performs during The Dream Concert to Benefit the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Memorial on September 18, 2007 in New York City.

In an email, 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 he was referencing is "Friends in Low Places". It 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 okay."

Cohen's attorney, Lanny Davis, did not immediately return a request for comment. Costello also did not immediately return a request for further comment.

Since Cohen's bombshell testimony to Congress earlier in February in which he branded his former boss a "racist" and "conman," Cohen has been attacked by Republicans and the president as a liar for claiming in the testimony that he did not seek a presidential pardon.

Davis has maintained that the prospect of a pardon was "dangled" before his client by Trump's attorneys to buy his silence.

In a separate statement to CNN last night, Costello - who claimed he was exploring the possibility of representing Cohen at the time of the exchange - disputed Cohen's account.

"Does dangled mean that he [Cohen] raised it and I mentioned it to Giuliani, and Giuliani said the President is not going to discuss pardons with anybody? If that's dangling it, that's dangling it for about 15 seconds," said Costello.

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