Co­hen’s mys­tery client: Fox News star

Orlando Sentinel - - FRONT PAGE - By Joseph Tan­fani

WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s long­time lawyer and fixer, Michael Co­hen, lost an early round in fed­eral court in Man­hat­tan on Mon­day as a judge or­dered him to dis­close the name of a celebrity client he had tried to keep se­cret: Fox News per­son­al­ity Sean Han­nity.

The dis­clo­sure was the lat­est sur­prise in an ex­tra­or­di­nary court case in which the pres­i­dent is fight­ing his own Jus­tice De­part­ment — and los­ing so far.

U.S. District Court Judge Kimba Wood re­jected a re­quest from Trump’s lawyer to is­sue a re­strain­ing or­der in the case. But she de­layed her rul­ing on the big­ger ques­tion on whether lawyers for Co­hen and Trump could quash at least some of the ev­i­dence that FBI agents seized from Co­hen last week de­spite what Trump’s at­tor­ney called “the highly politi­cized, even fevered, at­mos­phere that en­velops this mat­ter.”

Co­hen’s lawyer, Stephen Ryan, told the court that Co­hen had only three clients — Trump; El­liot Broidy, a prominent Los An­ge­les­based Repub­li­can fundraiser; and a third whom he de­clined to

name.

Ryan said the mys­tery client had asked to keep his name out of the case and to file a le­gal ap­peal if nec­es­sary to keep his iden­tity se­cret. The lawyer at one point of­fered to dis­close the name in a sealed en­ve­lope or se­cret fil­ing to the court, but Wood or­dered the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion made in open court.

“I rule it must be dis­closed now,” she said.

“The client’s name is Sean Han­nity,” Ryan said.

That prompted a loud gasp in the crowded court­room, given Han­nity’s close ties to Trump — and be­cause he had not dis­closed his as­so­ci­a­tion with Co­hen in mul­ti­ple on-air com­men­taries about the case, even when Co­hen ap­peared as his guest. The lawyers did not say what le­gal work Co­hen had per­formed for Han­nity.

Han­nity later re­leased a state­ment say­ing Co­hen had “never rep­re­sented me in any mat­ter,” al­though they “oc­ca­sion­ally had brief dis­cus­sions” on le­gal ques­tions.

“I as­sumed those con­ver­sa­tions were con­fi­den­tial, but to be ab­so­lutely clear they never in­volved any mat­ter be­tween me and a third party,” he said. Han­nity said Co­hen never sent him a bill for le­gal ser­vices, and he never paid Co­hen.

That left un­clear why Co­hen’s lawyers had said in a writ­ten sub­mis­sion to the court that he was Co­hen’s client and that their com­mu­ni­ca­tions should be con­sid­ered cov­ered by at­tor­ney-client priv­i­lege.

Han­nity, one of Trump’s fiercest de­fend­ers, has harshly crit­i­cized the Jus­tice De­part­ment on his Fox News show for send­ing FBI agents to seize ev­i­dence from Co­hen’s New York apart­ment, ho­tel room, of­fice and safety de­posit box April 9.

A fed­eral mag­is­trate had ap­proved the search war­rants as part of a months-long crim­i­nal in­ves­ti­ga­tion into whether Co­hen vi­o­lated bank­ing and cam­paign fi­nance laws. The case stemmed from a re­fer­ral from the spe­cial coun­sel, Robert Mueller, but is un­der the pub­lic in­tegrity sec­tion of the of­fice of the U.S. at­tor­ney for South­ern District of New York.

Co­hen has ar­ranged two hush­money pay­ments to women who claimed they had sex­ual af­fairs with Trump. He gave $130,000 to Stormy Daniels, a porn ac­tress, who at­tended the court hear­ing Mon­day, lis­ten­ing to the ar­gu­ments with­out ex­pres­sion.

“De­pend­ing on what is con­tained within those doc­u­ments, I think there is sig­nif­i­cant dan­ger to the pres­i­dent,” her lawyer, Michael Ave­natti, told re­porters af­ter the hear­ing.

For Broidy, Co­hen helped bro­ker a $1.6 mil­lion pay­ment to a former Play­boy model with whom he had a sex­ual re­la­tion­ship. The woman be­came preg­nant and sub­se­quently had an abor­tion, Broidy said in a state­ment last week af­ter the Wall Street Jour­nal first re­ported Co­hen’s role.

Most of the hear­ing fo­cused on ef­forts by lawyers for Trump and Co­hen to stop fed­eral pros­e­cu­tors from sift­ing through tax records, busi­ness doc­u­ments, emails and other ma­te­rial that FBI agents seized in the raids last week. They ar­gued that the ev­i­dence should be pro­tected by at­tor­ney-client priv­i­lege.

“We have a sit­u­a­tion un­prece­dented in the his­tory of the U.S.,” Ryan said.

But pros­e­cu­tors said Trump has no more rights un­der the law than any­one else if his lawyer com­mit­ted a crime.

“No one has given any rea­son why Pres­i­dent Trump’s as­ser­tion of priv­i­lege is dif­fer­ent from that of any other cit­i­zen of the U.S.,” said Thomas McKay, an as­sis­tant U.S. at­tor­ney.

CRAIG RUTTLE/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Michael Co­hen, the pres­i­dent’s per­sonal at­tor­ney, leaves court.

RICK SCUTERI/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS FILE

Fox News Chan­nel’s Sean Han­nity was dis­closed as a client of Michael Co­hen, who is Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s per­sonal lawyer. Han­nity said later Mon­day Co­hen had “never rep­re­sented me in any mat­ter.”

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