Sean Hannity claimed he only had a ‘minimal’ relationship with Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen during his first television appearance after he was outed as a secret client on Monday.
The Fox News host’s name was released on the order of U.S. district court Judge Kimba Wood, despite Cohen’s claims it would cause the broadcaster ’embarrassment’ or ‘harm’.
Hannity has since admitted he was getting legal advice from Cohen – the president’s lawyer who paid Stormy Daniels $135,000 to silence her claims of sex with Donald Trump.
But on his Monday show, he tried to downplay his relationship with the lawyer, saying he’d only ever asked him for legal advice on real estate and insisting he had a ‘right to privacy’.
Sean Hannity claimed he only had a ‘minimal’ relationship with Trump’s lawyer Michael Cohen during his first television appearance after he was outed as a secret client on Monday
On his Monday show (left and right) he tried to downplay his relationship with the lawyer, saying he’d only ever asked him for legal advice on real estate
‘Here’s the truth,’ he announced at the very end of his show, ‘Michael Cohen never represented me in any legal matter, I never retained his services, I never received an invoice, I never paid Michael Cohen for legal fees.
‘I did have occasional, brief conversations with Michel about legal questions I had where I was looking for input and perspective. My discussion with Michael Cohen never rose to any level that I needed to tell anyone that I was asking him questions.’
However, the Fox host did not escape entirely unchallenged. One of his guests, Yale University Professor Alan Dershowitz, had been invited on the show to discuss former FBI head James Comey.
But he interrupted the segment to challenge Hannity on why he’s failed to reveal his relationship with the lawyer.
‘I do want to say, I really think that should have disclosed your relationship with Cohen when you talked about him on this show,’ he told the host.
‘You could have said just you had asked him for advice or whatever. But I think it would have been much much better if you had disclosed that relationship.’
Losing day: Michael Cohen left federal court in Manhattan after losing first his attempt to keep Sean Hannity’s name secret and then his application for a temporary restraining order to keep the FBI and federal prosecutors from looking at the evidence seized in raids on him last week
Named: Sean Hannity is secretly represented by Michael Cohen. Cohen claimed in legal papers that Hannity wanted his name kept secret but federal Judge Kimba Wood ordered him to disclose it. Hannity posed for a selfie with (left) Michael Avenatti, who is Stormy Daniels’s attorney, and Don Lemon, of CNN
Hannity butted in, telling the professor that if he had ‘understood the nature’ of the relationship, he’d see ‘it was minimal.’
‘You should have said that and that would have been fair to say, that it was minimal,’ Dershowitz fired back.
‘You were in a tough position because you had to talk about Cohen and you didn’t want the fact that you had spoken to him revealed, and you have the right by the way not to reveal that.’
‘I have the right to privacy, I do,’ Hannity responded. ‘It was such a minor relationship, it was to do with real estate, nothing political.’
‘They never involved… a third party, a third group, at all. My questions were exclusively focused on real estate. I hate the stock market, I prefer real estate, Micheal knows real estate. I never asked Michael Cohen to bring this proceeding on my behalf. I have no personal interests in this legal matter, that’s all there is nothing more.’
Making a case: Assistant U.S. attorney Tom McKay (standing) told Judge Kimba Wood that Hannity should be named. He was watched behind him by Michael Cohen (second from right) and Cohen’s personal attorneys Todd Harrison (right) and Stephen Ryan (to Cohen’s left) while Stormy Daniels sat much further back (rear)
Hannity found an ally in fellow Fox host Tucker Carlson on Monday, who accused liberals of trying to sacrifice attorney-client if it meant hurting Trump.
‘Sean Hannity is a talk show host, he’s not under investigation by anyone for anything,’ said Carlson. ‘Who he hires as a lawyer and why is nobody’s business. No judge has a right to violate his privacy or anybody else’s.’
‘The point of the Russia investigation is not to find collusion. There was no collusion. Everybody knows that and everyone’s always known that. The point is and was to hurt Trump and anybody close to Trump. By the way, it’s working. Now maybe you hate Trump and you’re happy about that, but what are the rest of us losing in this process? Attorney-client privilege no longer means anything. Neither does privacy or public reputation or fairness.’
In an earlier statement on Monday, Hannity conceded he ‘may have given (Cohen) ten bucks’ and that he wanted his name kept secret after a judge ordered Cohen’s own attorneys to say who all his legal clients were.
But he denied Cohen performed the services he offered to Trump or his other known client, the disgraced Republican fundraiser who he helped pay $1.6 million to the Playboy model lover who aborted their child.
At a court hearing watched by Daniels herself, Cohen had tried to keep one of his three clients’ names secret, claiming that it would cause the broadcaster ’embarrassment’ or ‘harm’ for their association to be made public.
But in Manhattan, U.S. district court Judge Kimba Wood ended that bid and ordered Hannity’s name released.
‘I understand he doesn’t want his name out there. That’s not enough under the law,’ she said, ordering Cohen’s attorney to make it public – prompting laughter in court as he said: ‘Sean Hannity.’
Shortly after his name was disclosed, Hannity said on his radio show ‘we have been friends a long time’ and that he ‘may have given him ten bucks’. ‘Michael never represented me in any matter, I never retained him in the traditional sense,’ he said.
He added on Twitter that he ‘had brief discussions’ which he called ‘de minimis’ – trivial – and ‘almost exclusively about real estate’.
Witness: Stormy Daniels, with her attorney Michael Avenatti beside her, was in court for the revelation that Michael Cohen’s secret client was Sean Hannity
Star turn: Stormy Daniels – real name Stephanie Clifford – arrives at federal court in southern Manhattan where Michael Cohen and other lawyers for president Trump are trying to stop prosecutors and the FBI looking at material they seized in a raid last week
She’s here: Stormy Daniels had two bodyguards to escort her into court in New York
At the hearing, Trump’s attorney Cohen was trying to stop the FBI looking at the huge amount of evidence seized in the raid because it is subject to attorney-client privilege.
Lawyers for Cohen said that as well as material which was covered by attorney-client privilege with Trump, material relating to other clients was seized.
Cohen made a lengthy legal submission to Judge Wood before the hearing which revealed that he had just three legal clients in the last year, the main one being Trump.
He said the other named client was Elliott Broidy, who was deputy finance chair of the Republican National Committee until he quit last Friday, when it was revealed Cohen had helped arrange a $1.6 million payment to a Playboy Playmate with whom he had a two-year relationship and who he paid to abort their baby.
He also disclosed that seven other clients had received non-legal ‘strategy advice’ from him and did not name them. None of their names were requested by the judge in court Monday.
In court, Cohen’s attorney Stephen Ryan said that the ‘third client’ was a ‘publicly prominent individual’ who had asked that his name not be disclosed because he did not want to be associated with the criminal proceedings. Ryan asked that the name be put under seal with assurances from the prosecutor’s office that it not be released.
Harrison also suggested that the release of the third client’s name ‘will affect people’s willingness to consult an attorney’ – a comment which was met by a ripple of laughter in the courtroom.
Michael Cohen’s clients
Allegation: Cohen paid Stormy Daniels $135,000 to silence her claims that she had sex with President Donald Trump.
Daniels has said that she had sex once with Trump in 2006 and was paid to keep quiet about it.
A former Playboy model, Karen McDougal, has described having a 10-month affair with Trump, which the White House has said Trump denies.
McDougal said her lawyer at the time secretly negotiated with Cohen on a deal with American Media Inc, publisher of the National Enquirer, which paid her $150,000 in 2016 to keep quiet.
Broidy is former deputy finance chair of the Republican National Committee
Cohen helped arrange a $1.6 million payment to an unidentified Playboy Playmate with whom he had a two-year relationship and who he paid to abort their baby.
Broidy acknowledged on Friday that he had a relationship with a Playboy Playmate and offered to help her financially after she told him she was pregnant.
‘She alone decided that she did not want to continue with the pregnancy and I offered to help her financially during this difficult period. We have not spoken since that time,’ Broidy said in the statement.
Broidy said Cohen reached out to him after being contacted by the woman’s attorney, Keith Davidson. Broidy said he retained Cohen because Cohen had a prior relationship with Davidson.
Hannity says that he had ‘had brief discussions with him about legal questions about which I wanted his input and perspective’.
‘Michael Cohen has never represented me in any matter. I never retained him, received an invoice, or paid legal fees… to be absolutely clear they never involved any matter between me and a third party.’
Assistant U.S. attorney Thomas McKay complained about the lack of names saying ‘Mr Cohen has more attorneys than he has clients’ and saying that the clients could not ‘hide behind over-broad claims of privilege’.
‘The only thing that makes this case unusual is one of his [Cohen’s] clients is the President,’ McKay said. ‘In order for the public to see that fairness is upheld, Trump and Cohen should not be given any special treatment.’
A lawyer for media outlets including CNN, the New York Times and the Associated Press also told the judge that there was ‘intense public interest’ in the name emerging.
Daniels’ attorney Michael Avenatti was in court and conferred with other lawyers but did not address the judge.
Judge Wood then told Cohen’s attorney Stephen Ryan that the name had to emerge, prompting him to say ‘Sean Hannity.’ Cohen did not move his head or show any apparent emotion.
In a statement issued via Fox News, Hannity did not address why he had wanted his name kept secret in his statement which said: ‘Michael Cohen has never represented me in any matter. I never retained him, received an invoice, or paid legal fees.
‘I have occasionally had brief discussions with him about legal questions about which I wanted his input and perspective. I assumed those conversations were confidential, but to be absolutely clear they never involved any matter between me and a third party.’
On his radio show, which was broadcasting at the same time as the hearing, Hannity added: ‘I have eight attorneys that I use for varying things in my life, and in this particular case I like to have people I can run questions by.’
During his live radio show, he seemed flustered that he was getting a steady stream of phone and email messages about it.
‘I don’t think this is such a big deal,’ he said. ‘Why do you think the media is going crazy on this?’
The dramatic twist came in a court hearing which revolves around whether the material is subject to attorney-client privilege and whether Cohen – and Trump – can stop completely or restrict the FBI and federal prosecutors from looking at it.
Cohen and Trump both lost the first round when the judge refused to issue a temporary restraining order stopping the federal authorities from looking at the material.
Todd Harrison, who is also representing Cohen, described the FBI search and seizure of materials from Cohen as an ‘unprecedented raid on the office and home of the personal attorney of a sitting president of the United States’.
Harrison said he was ‘not accusing the government of anything improper’ but said that the FBI had swept up a ‘ton of documents’ in the Cohen raid that were not related to their warrant.
He also called it an ‘extraordinary case’, saying it was subject to ‘partisan attacks’ and also attacked Trump’s personal life.
The defense counsel told the judge that ‘it was important to show the public we are doing this fairly’.
And Trump’s new attorney, Joanna Hendon, argued that her client should be allowed to maintain his attorney-client privilege over communications with Cohen, and that the president himself should be afforded the opportunity to review those documents.
‘The client of the lawyer is best placed to protect his privilege,’ Hendon said, referring to Trump. She said that the U.S. Attorney wanting permission to review these documents would ‘usurp’ Trump of his rights and was ‘government overreach’.
But McKay said: ‘Just because he [Cohen] has a powerful client, doesn’t mean he is entitled to special treatment.’
He said that the ‘filter team’ that they have suggested be established to protect the attorney-client privilege ‘will conduct itself with integrity’.
And he hit back at the president himself, telling the judge that no one from the U.S. Attorney’s Office had made comment about the trial publicly unlike the ‘inflammatory statements’ made by President Trump and Cohen.
Escort: Stormy Daniels had assistance not just from her attorney Michael Avenatti but from private security guards
Dramatic day: Stormy Daniels was in court throughout the hearing as Sean Hannity’s name was disclosed as one of Michael Cohen’s three ‘clients’ – although the Fox News host claimed he had not hired Cohen ‘in the traditional sense’
Speaking out: Michael Avenatti did not address Judge Kimba Wood but did speak to reporters with his client Stormy Daniels after the hearing
No escaping Trump: Stormy Daniels was escorted by her security detail past a member of the public wearing a Trump hat as she left court
Huge interest: Stormy Daniels – real name Stephanie Clifford – was helped from the hearing to her waiting car by private security guards
Departure: Michael Avenatti attracted a crowd as he left the federal court after speaking to the media
Interest: Stormy Daniels’s presence in court was the subject of intense interest
On her way: Stormy Daniels leaves the federal courthouse in Manhattan
Legal teams: Todd Harrison is representing Michael Cohen while Joanna Hendon is representing Donald Trump
What are they doing here? Carter Page, the former Trump campaign adviser who has been investigated by the CIA over links to Russia was at the federal court. So too was disgraced New York governor Elliot Spitzer – who himself had been a secret client, in his case of a prostitution ring
Judge Wood declined to give Trump and Cohen the restraining order they wanted which would have stopped the FBI and federal prosecutors processing what they found.
‘You’ve miscited the law,’ she told Cohen’s attorneys.
Currently all the material is with the ‘taint team’, a group of prosecutors not involved in the case who will review the seized evidence to see what is subject to attorney client privilege and what can be looked at by investigators.
The volume of evidence is so large so far that it has still to be uploaded and the ‘taint team’ have not started their work, the court heard.
The entire hearing was watched by Daniels. The porn star was sitting in the public benches in the 21st floor courtroom among dozens of reporters.
She had arrived with Avenatti just before 2pm and sat at the back.
After the hearing she and Avenatti appeared briefly in front of reporters.
‘My attorney and I are committed to making sure that everyone finds out the truth and the facts of what happened and I give my word that we will not rest until that happens,’ she said.
‘For years, Mr Cohen has acted like he is above the law. He has considered himself and openly referred to himself as Mr Trump’s fixer.
‘He has played by a different set of rules or should we say no rules at all. He has never thought that the little man, or especially women, and even more women like me mattered. That ends now.’
Trump faced reports over the weekend that he and those close to him are more worried by the seizure of Cohen’s files than by any other development in the Muller probe.
Cohen’s lawyers deployed Trump’s claims that the FBI and Department of Justice are biased against him to bolster their own case, writing that ‘there is a growing public debate about whether criminal and congressional investigations by the government are being undertaken impartially, free of any political bias or partisan motivation’.
Trump now has another attorney representing him in court, Joanna Hendon, who in papers submitted before the hearing argued that Trump or his legal team should be able to review all the seized material and remove privileged elements of it before the FBI can use it.
She wrote in her own submission that the federal government could not be trusted to be fair to the president.
Watching the proceedings was Daniels, whose attendance was announced by her attorney Michael Avenatti and who arrived escorted by two security guards to be greeted by a media scrum.
Avenatti had told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday: ‘I think Monday afternoon could prove to be very interesting.’
When asked whether Daniels’ attendance at the hearing is intended to provoke or ‘get into the head’ of Cohen, Avenatti said: ‘No, not at all. It’s intended to send the message that this is a very, very serious matter for her, and she wants to make sure that the American people know that she’s behind efforts to bring to light as much information and documents as possible. She also wants to ensure that she is heard and that she is represented at the hearing.’
He added: ‘It has nothing to do with getting in his head at all.’
Client number two: Cohen in court papers said that Elliott Broidy, who cheated on his wife Robin with a Playboy model and paid the Playmate $1.6 million to abort their baby, was represented by him
Dramatic arrival: Former porn star Storm Daniels was dressed demurely for the court hearing in Manhattan
Legal assistance: Stormy Daniels was accompanied by Michael Avenatti, her high-profile attorney
Scrum: There was huge media interest in Stormy Daniels’ arrival at court. The hearing itself is not televised, in line with virtually all federal cases
Police interest: Uniformed US Marshals were stationed outside the court as Stormy Daniels arrived
Take them off: Stormy Daniels removed her shoes as she passed through security screening at the federal court in Manhattan
Decision time: Federal judge Kimba Wood, a Reagan appointee, is hearing the case in which Trump and his personal attorney are both trying to block federal authorities looking at material seized from Michael Cohen. Trump is now represented by a new attorney. Joanna Hendon
TRUMP’S NEW LAWYER
Trump’s new attorney is a hard-charging Yale-educated former prosecutor.
Joanna Hendon, 52, was educated first at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver and then at Yale Law School, graduating in 1991.
From 1995 to 2001 she was an assistant district attorney in Manhattan specializing in white collar crime.
Then she went into private practice and is now a partner at Spear & Imes.
She has defended alleged white collar criminals and also been involved in civil litigation over alleged complex fraud.
Hendon is married to Harvard-educated lawyer Reynolds Holding, 62, and the couple live on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.
She was a registered Republican until election day 2016, when she changed her registration to Democrat – giving some suggestion that she might not be a Trump supporter.
The central issue in the case is whether Cohen and Trump have attorney-client privilege on all the material seized and can stop it being examined by the FBI.
Trump’s attorney Hendon has suggested that he and his legal team could pick through the material and decide what was ‘responsive’ to the FBI and not covered by privilege.
Cohen’s lawyers have suggested that a judge, known as a ‘special master’ would examine all the material and decide what is not covered by privilege.
Prosecutors who seek to continue their review of seized contents have argued that Cohen barely practiced law so most of the documents aren’t off limits.
A brief they filed in response to Cohen’s court action revealed that he’d been under investigation for months and that the FBI had searched multiple email accounts.
The prosecutors’ filing said none of those emails was exchanged with Trump.
Trump, who in the last month has escalated his attacks on Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, said it was a ‘disgrace’ that the FBI ‘broke into’ his lawyer’s office.
He called Mueller’s investigation ‘an attack on our country.’
The prosecutors’ brief in this case, brought by Cohen to stop the review of seized documents, stated that the criminal probe that led FBI agents to raid Cohen’s offices is focused on his ‘personal business dealings.’
Prosecutors blacked out a section in the document describing what crime they believe Trump attorney Michael Cohen has committed.
People familiar with the federal investigation that provided the factual basis for the search warrant which resulted in the raid on Cohen told The Associated Press that part of what the search warrant sought to uncover included information on payments made to Daniels.
Cohen previously admitted paying Daniels $130,000, which she said was in exchange for an agreement not to discuss an affair she claims to have had with the president; Daniels is seen here with Donald Trump, before he was elected president
Judge hearing Michael Cohen’s case once trained to be a Playboy Bunny
US Federal Judge Kimba Wood is presiding over Michael Cohen’s case, but long before passing the bar, Wood trained to be a bunny at the London Playboy Club.
While strapped for cash as she studied for her Master’s degree at the London School of Economics in 1966, she trained at the Playboy club for five days.
A friend later said that Wood’s brief stint at a bunny was just ‘a way to earn money’.
‘She was doing it for a joke and then decided it was stupid,’ the friend said.
After finishing her degree at LSE, Wood received her degree from Harvard Law School in 1969, where there were fewer than 20 women in her class.
In 1987, President Ronald Reagan nominated Wood for a seat on the US District Court for the Southern District of New York.
President Bill Clinton later considered nominating her for US Attorney General in 1993, but she stepped out of the race after it was revealed that she had hired an illegal immigrant as a nanny.
Since then, Wood has presided over a number of cases, including the US case against ten Russians involved in the ‘Illegals Program’, a network of Russian sleeper agents under non-official cover. She also presided over Arista Records LLC v Lime Group LLC, which saw the music downloading site LimeWire be forcibly shut down.
Wood has been married to Wall Street financier Frank E Richardson III since 1999 – her third marriage since 1970.
In Richardson’s 1995 divorce battle with his socialite wife Nancy, Wood had been named as ‘the other woman’.
Cohen previously admitted paying Daniels $130,000, which she said was payment in exchange for an agreement not to discuss an affair she claims to have had with the president.
When news first broke that it was suspected Daniels and Trump had an affair around the time of the bitrh of his youngst son Barron, Daniels denied the sexual relationship.
However, after Cohen spoke about paying Daniels $130,000, she claimed the agreement had been breached, setting her free to tell her story about her alleged physical encounters with the president.
Trump has denied that he had an affair with Daniels, and also claims she made that he had her threatened to remain quiet about their alleged romantic relationship.
But in an interview with Anderson Cooper for CBS’s 60 Minutes that aired on March 25, Daniels recounted the experience.
She said in the interview that she had one encounter of consensual sex with the future president.
‘He knows I’m telling the truth,’ she said.
Hendon, an attorney for the president, also appeared on Friday and told Judge Wood that Trump has ‘an acute interest in this matter.’
The hearing on Cohen’s petition asking the court seeking to block prosecutor’s the review of the seized information was first announced late on Thursday.
His team has asked to review the documents and devices first, before prosecutors may examine them, to protect information covered under attorney-client privilege and specify items they believe aren’t relevant to the investigation.
HOW TRUMP’S BID TO BLOCK ACCESS TO EVIDENCE IS ABOUT CRUCIAL DOCTRINE OF ATTORNEY-CLIENT PRIVILEGE
What is attorney-client privilege?
Attorney-client privilege is a long-standing doctrine of U.S. law that allows the subject of a lawsuit or criminal case to shield their communications with legal counsel.
Lawyers can invoke the privilege to avoid testifying about conversations with clients or turning over emails or other correspondence. The related work-product privilege covers documents produced in the course of a legal representation.
The traditional justification for attorney-client privilege is that the legal system operates more fairly when people are able to speak candidly with lawyers, said Jens David Ohlin, a professor of criminal law at Cornell Law School.
‘If clients feel like whatever they disclose to attorneys will be turned over to authorities, they won’t feel free to talk openly,’ Ohlin said.
Does that mean all communications with a lawyer are protected?
No, the privilege only covers communications relating to legal advice, said Lisa Kern Griffin, a former federal prosecutor and a professor at Duke University School of Law. It does not protect a person’s discussion of business, personal, or financial matters with a lawyer if they are unrelated to a legal representation.
Crucially, attorney-client privilege also does not apply to communications by a lawyer in furtherance of a crime or fraud.
Does privilege make it harder to get a warrant to search a lawyer’s office?
Yes. The U.S. Department of Justice has a policy of only raiding law offices if less intrusive approaches, like issuing a request for documents known as a subpoena, could compromise the investigation or result in the destruction of evidence.
Under department policy, the raid of Cohen’s offices required multiple levels of authorization by high-level officials.
‘It is very unusual to take such an action,’ said Griffin. ‘It suggests there is deep criminality at issue and real concern that just asking for the documents won’t be enough to ensure they are turned over.’
The application would then need to be approved by a federal judge tasked with determining whether there is probable cause to believe the search would produce evidence of a particular crime.
How can prosecutors make sure they have not improperly obtained privileged information?
Griffin said the search warrant authorizing the raid would have described with specificity the items FBI agents could seize.
Moreover, U.S. courts have said prosecutors must set up a review process to ensure that attorney-client communications are not being improperly used as evidence.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan, which is handling the investigation, will likely have ‘set up a team of lawyers whose only job and only connection to the case is to determine whether material is privileged or not,’ said Ohlin.
This team ‘would ensure that prosecutors looking into criminality are not exposed to privileged information that could taint their investigation,’ said Griffin.
Assessments made by the so-called ‘dirty team’ or ‘taint team’ could be challenged in court by Cohen if he is charged with a crime, Ohlin said.
What if agents find evidence of a crime that is not specifically covered by a warrant?
A narrow warrant does not mean prosecutors must disregard evidence of potential crimes they were not initially investigating, said Andrew Wright, former associate counsel in the Obama White House and a professor at Savannah Law School.
‘If police have a warrant to search for a gun and go into a person’s house and find drugs, they can use that evidence,’ Wright said. ‘It is the same thing with business records.’