Trump lawyer names Han­nity as client

Fox News host hounded over se­crecy

Bangkok Post - - WORLD -

NEW YORK: A le­gal fight over what should hap­pen to records the FBI seized from US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s per­sonal at­tor­ney took a sur­prise twist on Mon­day when the lawyer, Michael Co­hen, was forced to re­veal a se­cret — that he had also done le­gal work for Fox News host Sean Han­nity.

The dis­clo­sure came as a New York judge dis­ap­pointed a lawyer for Mr Trump by let­ting pros­e­cu­tors pro­ceed with the cat­a­logu­ing of ev­i­dence in­clud­ing mul­ti­ple elec­tronic de­vices that were seized in raids while a sys­tem is set up to en­sure that records pro­tected by at­tor­ney-client priv­i­lege aren’t dis­closed to in­ves­ti­ga­tors.

Lawyers for Mr Co­hen and pros­e­cu­tors both had rea­son to claim suc­cess af­ter three hours of ar­gu­ments be­fore US District Judge Kimba Wood, who said she may ap­point a spe­cial mas­ter, a neu­tral lawyer, to help de­cide which ma­te­ri­als should stay con­fi­den­tial.

Ms Wood de­nied a re­quest by Mr Trump’s lawyer, Joanna Hen­don, that the pres­i­dent and Mr Co­hen get the first crack at des­ig­nat­ing which doc­u­ments should be off-lim­its to in­ves­ti­ga­tors.

Mr Han­nity’s name emerged af­ter the judge pressed Mr Co­hen to di­vulge the names of the clients he has worked with since the 2016 elec­tion, whose priv­i­leged com­mu­ni­ca­tions might be con­tained within his files.

Mr Co­hen’s le­gal team said he had just three clients in 2017 and 2018.

One was Mr Trump. An­other was El­liott Broidy, a Trump fundraiser who re­signed from the Repub­li­can Na­tional Com­mit­tee on Fri­day af­ter it was re­vealed that he paid US$1.6 mil­lion to a Play­boy Play­mate with whom he had an ex­tra­mar­i­tal af­fair. The Play­mate be­came preg­nant and elected to have an abor­tion.

Mr Co­hen’s lawyers re­sisted re­veal­ing the name of the third client, say­ing it would be em­bar­rass­ing and un­nec­es­sary. Plus, the client had specif­i­cally asked for pri­vacy and re­quested that they ap­peal any de­mand to di­vulge his name.

But Ms Wood pressed on. “I un­der­stand he doesn’t want his name out there, but that’s not enough un­der the law,” she said, af­ter hear­ing le­gal ar­gu­ments from Robert Balin, a lawyer for five news or­gan­i­sa­tions.

When the name was an­nounced, there were gasps and some laugh­ter in a court­room packed with jour­nal­ists. A few raced from the court­room.

Mr Co­hen’s lawyers did not de­tail the type of le­gal work he did for Mr Han­nity.

On his ra­dio show, Mr Han­nity said Mr Co­hen was never in­volved in any mat­ter be­tween him and any third party.

“Michael never rep­re­sented me in any mat­ter,” Mr Han­nity said. “I never re­tained him in any tra­di­tional sense. I never re­ceived an in­voice. I never paid a le­gal fee. I had brief dis­cus­sions with him about le­gal ques­tions where I wanted his in­put and per­spec­tive.”

Later he added on Twit­ter the le­gal ad­vice he got from Mr Co­hen was “al­most ex­clu­sively about real es­tate”.

Mr Han­nity ad­dressed the con­tro­versy twice dur­ing his tele­vi­sion show on Mon­day night, brush­ing off crit­i­cism from lawyer Alan Der­showitz who told him, “you should have dis­closed your re­la­tion­ship with Co­hen when you talked about him on the show”.

Mr Han­nity replied that the re­la­tion­ship was min­i­mal and that he had a right to pri­vacy. “It had to do with real es­tate and noth­ing po­lit­i­cal,” Mr Han­nity told Mr Der­showitz.

He gave a length­ier ex­pla­na­tion at the end of his show, say­ing Mr Co­hen “never rep­re­sented me in any le­gal mat­ter.” He called Mr Co­hen a great at­tor­ney, but said none of their dis­cus­sions ever in­cluded a third party and were cen­tred on real es­tate.

Mr Han­nity, an out­spo­ken sup­porter of Mr Trump, has been a fierce critic of spe­cial coun­sel Robert Mueller, who is look­ing into Rus­sian in­ter­fer­ence in the 2016 US pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

Mon­day’s hear­ing be­gan with an ap­pear­ance by porn ac­tress Stormy Daniels, who was swarmed by pho­tog­ra­phers and nearly fell as she was hus­tled into the court­house.

Out­side af­ter­ward, she said Mr Co­hen has acted like he’s above the law and that she and her lawyer are com­mit­ted to mak­ing sure every­one learns the truth.

The April 9 raid on Mr Co­hen sought in­for­ma­tion on a va­ri­ety of mat­ters, in­clud­ing a $130,000 pay­ment made to Ms Daniels, who al­leges she had sex with a mar­ried Mr Trump in 2006.

At stake is an in­ves­ti­ga­tion that could un­cover the in­ner work­ings of Mr Trump’s long­time fixer and im­age pro­tec­tor.

Peo­ple fa­mil­iar with the probe say agents were seek­ing bank records, records on Mr Co­hen’s deal­ing in the taxi in­dus­try, Mr Co­hen’s com­mu­ni­ca­tions with the Trump cam­paign and in­for­ma­tion on pay­ments made in 2016 to two women who say they had af­fairs with Mr Trump.

Those two women are for­mer Play­boy model Karen McDou­gal and the porn star Ms Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford.

REUTERS

Fox News Chan­nel an­chor Sean Han­nity poses for pho­tographs in New York City in this Oc­to­ber 2014 file photo.

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