Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, has another high-profile client: Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity.
The information was revealed during a federal court hearing in New York City a short while ago, according to the Wall Street Journal.
This is per Cohen's lawyer, who just announced it in court. https://t.co/WoRylWPGxk
— erica orden (@eorden) April 16, 2018
They’re in court, of course, because Cohen and his attorneys are attempting to block the FBI from reviewing the documents, electronic records, and other evidence that were seized last week from Cohen’s office, home, and hotel room.
Cohen’s attorneys sought to protect this evidence by claiming a broad attorney-client privilege over all of them, but as my colleague Patterico has pointed out, merely being an attorney is not enough to claim the protection of the privilege.
Cohen has further troubles because he has claimed publicly that the $130,000 payoff to Stormy Daniels, reportedly to obtain her silence regarding an alleged affair with Trump, was done without Trump’s knowledge.
There can be no attorney-client privilege if the claimed “client” was unaware of the attorney’s activity. Cohen and Trump, by their own public comments, have made it far more difficult to claim this protection over records related to the president.
Cohen’s attorneys also sought to protect the evidence by claiming he represented a mysterious third client, who had not made any comments publicly and therefore should be protected. This person was a “publicly prominent individual,” said Cohen’s attorney, and they argued they should not have to disclose the name.
Without getting too far into the legal weeds here, there was some arguing back and forth from the federal prosecutors, Cohen’s attorneys, and Robert Balin, an attorney representing the interests of several media outlets. Long story short, there is a public right to know certain information (see Vignelli v. U.S. for some discussion) and that outweighed an individual’s right to privacy.
That attorney's name is Robert Balin, who reads a citation indicating that a client's fear of guilt by association is not enough to prevent disclosure.
The reason this is so, Balin says, is, "So that We the People, and the press, can monitor our institutions."
— Adam Klasfeld (@KlasfeldReports) April 16, 2018
“I understand that he doesn’t want his name out there, but that’s not enough under the law,” ruled Judge Kimba Wood.
“The client’s name is Sean Hannity,” stated Cohen’s attorney.
We learned just a few days ago that Cohen had also served as the attorney for Elliot Broidy, who resigned from his position as the deputy finance chair for the Republican National Committee after it was reported that Broidy had paid a $1.6 million settlement to a Playboy model with whom he had an extramarital affair. The woman became pregnant and had an abortion. Cohen negotiated the settlement agreement and payment.
Questions are obviously being raised now about what Cohen’s relationship with Hannity entailed — especially since Hannity has been such a vocal defender of Trump and critic of the FBI and prosecutors in this matter.
I’m incredibly surprised that the man who pushed the Seth Rich conspiracy theory would conceal material facts from his audience /sarc.
— David French (@DavidAFrench) April 16, 2018
Then there’s this, just reported by CNN’s Gloria Borger, claiming that Hannity “did not get billed” and “there was no formal attorney client relationship.”
From CNN's @GloriaBorger: From source familiar with legal relationship between Cohen and Hannity – Hannity did not get billed, there was no formal attorney client relationship, called from time to time and got input from Cohen on legal issues.
— Kyung Lah (@KyungLahCNN) April 16, 2018
You know what else voids an attorney-client privilege? When the client himself discloses the information. If Hannity had anything that he discussed with Cohen that he wants to hide, he may find that he has caused himself similar problems as Trump and Cohen.
Loose lips sink ships, American propaganda posters warned our troops during WWII. Will loose lips sink a White House, or a Fox News host? We shall see.
UPDATE: On his radio show today, Hannity acknowledged he had occasionally called Cohen to ask legal questions, but did not have a formal retainer agreement.
This is a breaking story and we will update as needed.
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter: @rumpfshaker.