Competent legal advice is incredibly valuable — there’s a reason experienced attorneys can charge hundreds of dollars per hour. For Fox News Channel’s Sean Hannity, however, he may be getting a lesson in “you get what you pay for,” as his name became a trending topic after it was disclosed in a federal court hearing that President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, represented Hannity as well. Hannity’s attempts to explain the situation are confusing, if not outright contradictory, and do not seem likely to make this story die down.
As RedState reported earlier today, Cohen was in court trying to protect evidence seized during last week’s FBI raid on his home, office, and hotel room, by claiming a broad attorney-client privilege.
Because Cohen’s own comments have made it tough to plausibly argue an attorney-client privilege related to the president — like when he publicly claimed that Trump was unaware of the alleged payoff to Stormy Daniels — Cohen’s attorneys tried other angles, like claiming Cohen had an additional third client who deserved the protection of the privilege. However, they did not want to disclose the identity of that mysterious third client. The judge rejected that argument and demanded the name — and it was revealed to be Sean Hannity.
On his Twitter account, Hannity sought to offer an explanation.
He also made similar comments on his radio program today, with the added detail that he sometimes “handed him 10 bucks” as a legal fee because he wanted to invoke the attorney-client privilege.
OK. There’s a lot to unpack here. First of all, Hannity really should have consulted with a lawyer — someone who didn’t get his law degree from literally the “worst law school in the country” — before he started running his mouth on his radio show or Twitter.
He should consult with a lawyer. No, not that lawyer. https://t.co/ZGAnO9UzmA
— Gabriel Malor (@gabrielmalor) April 16, 2018
Hannity is claiming that Cohen “never represented him” and he “never retained him,” but he also wants to claim the attorney-client privilege over their conversations.
He is claiming that he never “received an invoice, or paid legal fees,” but he also says he “might have handed him 10 bucks.” (For the record, it is possible for an attorney-client privilege to exist even without the payment of legal fees. Otherwise, an attorney could not represent anyone pro bono and still have the privilege protect their communications.)
He is claiming that their conversations “never involved any matter between me and a third-party,” but “dealt almost exclusively about real estate.”
I’m not sure how you can discuss real estate transactions without third parties being involved — whether you’re a buyer or seller, trying to develop a piece of property or get new or additional financing, there are always third parties involved. If nothing else, there are government entities involved in property taxes, permitting, zoning, etc.
It doesn’t make much sense to have sought out Cohen for “real estate” advice either. If Hannity is lying, well, that’s an entirely different matter. Maybe this is the kind of advice you get for “10 bucks”?
Why would you go to Michael Cohen for real estate advice? https://t.co/Vr33oN7gah
— Gabriel Malor (@gabrielmalor) April 16, 2018
At minimum, the fact that Hannity had some sort of legal representation relationship with Cohen was relevant, and should have been disclosed to his Fox News Channel audience. No one is deluded enough to believe Hannity is impartial on any matter relating to Trump, but it is an entirely separate issue indeed for him to be so vocal in his defense of Cohen but not disclose his own connection to him.
It would not have restricted his ability to voice his opinion, or required any disclosure of confidential information. He could have simply said something along the lines of, “I know Michael Cohen, and, in fact, I’ve gotten legal advice from him before.” If anything, Hannity’s audience — many of whom share his pro-Trump stance — would have been fine with that, if not trusting his defense of Cohen more after hearing that Hannity knew him and had sought advice from him too.
The real punchline here is that Hannity’s comments knock the legs out from under the efforts by Cohen’s attorneys to protect the evidence the FBI seized. If, as Hannity says, they just had minor, occasional conversations, unrelated to “any third party” (presumably meaning Trump), then there are unlikely to be any documents or evidence related to Hannity included in the FBI’s seized materials. Moreover, Cohen’s attorneys cannot claim an attorney-client privilege on behalf of Hannity to protect all that evidence that has nothing to do with him.
To recap: we have a lawyer, Michael Cohen, who wants to claim an attorney-client privilege over communications with Trump, but claimed Trump was unaware of the negotiations and payment to Stormy Daniels, and tried to claim an attorney-client privilege on behalf of another client, Hannity, who just publicly said he had nothing to do with this whole mess.
I’ve said it before about Cohen, and it seems to apply to the attorneys Cohen has retained to represent him as well — weaponized ineptitude. Trump, Hannity, et al. all have substantial financial resources and connections to powerful people. Why have they put so much trust in Cohen? Bizarre doesn’t begin to cover it.
Hannity, if you’re reading this: shut up and call a real lawyer before you say or tweet one more word.
Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter: @rumpfshaker.