The mystery client that President Donald Trump’s longtime lawyer, Michael Cohen, fought in court to keep secret is Fox News host Sean Hannity, Cohen’s lawyer divulged on Monday.
Cohen’s lawyers had acknowledged that Cohen had three legal clients since 2017 in a filing in federal court related to legal issues surrounding documents the FBI obtained by raiding his office, home, and hotel room last week. Two clients -- Trump and GOP fundraiser Elliott Broidy -- were publicly known. Attorneys for Cohen had argued that the identity of the third should remain secret. But Judge Kimba Wood rejected that argument, forcing Cohen’s lawyer to reveal his work for Hannity.
Vanity Fair’s Gabriel Sherman reported on MSNBC soon after that Hannity hired Cohen “to help defend him against left-wing groups that were calling for boycotts,” an apparent reference to Media Matters’ well-publicized campaign to get advertisers to stop supporting Hannity’s program. Sherman added that Hannity may have hired “other lawyers and/or private investigators” as part of the effort.
On his show last Monday, for example, Hannity devoted his opening monologue (and much of the rest of the show) to arguing that the Cohen raid points to an “all-hands-on-deck effort to totally malign and, if possible, impeach the president of the United States” and the declaration of “a legal war on the president.” The next night, he said the raid was “an unprecedented abuse of power.”
Cohen is at least the third lawyer tied to Trump whom Hannity has recently employed. In April last year, after a far-right troll suggested that the CIA had targeted Hannity for surveillance, Hannity claimed that he had hired lawyers Jay Sekulow and Joseph diGenova to investigate and pursue a civil action. Trump would later hire Sekulow as a personal lawyer with regard to special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe. In March, Sekulow announced that diGenova had been added to that team, only to state a few days later that “conflicts prevent” that from occuring.
UPDATE: Hannity has responded on Twitter, claiming that Cohen provided him with legal advice for free:
He also said on his radio show that he might have given Cohen $10 in order to ensure the conversation was covered by attorney-client privilege. As Business Insider's Josh Barro points out, this arrangement raises additional ethical questions for Hannity and Fox: