On his prime-time show last week, Fox News host Sean Hannity repeatedly criticized a federal raid on the office and home of Michael Cohen, the embattled personal attorney for President Trump.
He never mentioned anything to his viewers about his own dealings with Cohen.
Hannity’s name unexpectedly came up in court Monday as a judge hearing a motion brought by Cohen’s legal team to exclude some items seized in the raid pressed them to identify Cohen’s clients.
Cohen, who has identified himself as Trump’s “fixer,” had acknowledged representing the president and former Republican National Committee deputy finance chairman Elliott Broidy, but had initially sought to keep a third name private.
Eventually, though, Cohen attorney Todd Harrison submitted Hannity’s name — a claim Hannity almost immediately denied.
In a statement issued by Fox, he said, “Michael Cohen has never represented me in any matter. I never retained him, received an invoice, or paid legal fees. I have occasionally had brief discussions with him about legal questions about which I wanted his input and perspective. I assumed those conversations were confidential, but to be absolutely clear they never involved any matter between me and a third party.”
Fox had no comment. Neither Hannity nor Harrison spelled out what sort of discussions or legal work Cohen did for the conservative TV host.
On his syndicated radio and Fox TV show, Hannity has torn into special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation of Russian involvement in the 2016 presidential campaign, calling it a “witch hunt” in an echo of Trump’s rhetoric. He has also played down Cohen’s role in facilitating payments to Daniels.
On his program on Thursday, for example, he quoted former Federal Election Commission chairman Bradley Smith, a Republican, who disputed the notion that Cohen should be charged with a crime “in connection to this whole Stormy Daniels payment.”
Said Hannity: “Smith is arguing that Cohen’s payment is a perfectly legitimate business move, and that any attempt to connect it to an in-kind [political] contribution is an extreme stretch. It doesn’t fit.”
On Monday, he said, “Now, keep in mind, Cohen was never part of the Trump administration or the Trump campaign. This is now officially an all-hands-on-deck effort to totally malign and, if possible, impeach the president of the United States. Now, Mueller and Rosenstein have declared what is a legal war on the president.”
During Tuesday’s program, he called the raid “an unprecedented abuse of power. It needs to be countered and countered immediately. The president should add to his team of top-notch lawyers a communications team, top-notch communication skills. . . . The president and his legal team should be preparing to take this all the way to the United States Supreme Court. That’s where we are tonight.”
He didn’t mention any business connection or professional relationship with Cohen.
When he has faced criticism for his advocacy roles, Hannity has said he’s a talk-show host, not a journalist and thus apparently not subject to journalistic ethics such as a proscription on undisclosed financial or business ties with people or organizations they cover or comment about. “I’m not a journalist,” he said on Fox in 2004. “I am an outspoken, compassionate, thoughtful, independent-thinking conservative.”
On the other hand, he’s said the opposite, too. “I’m a journalist,” he told the New York Times last year. “But I’m an advocacy journalist or an opinion journalist.”
Investigators are examining Cohen’s role in paying $130,000 to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels in 2016 for her silence about an affair she alleges she had with Trump in 2006. Cohen also negotiated a $1.6 million payment last year from Broidy to a Playboy model who said Broidy impregnated her, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Attorneys for Cohen and Trump are seeking to block prosecutors from examining items seized in the raids, arguing that at least some of the material is protected by attorney-client privilege.
Cohen’s attorney argued that it would be “embarrassing” for Cohen’s other clients to be named publicly and had sought to keep their names out of the public record, given the intense media coverage of Cohen’s legal troubles.
As news broke of the court revelation on Monday, Hannity remarked on his radio program that he learned of the court news by seeing it on Fox. “It’s very strange to have my own television network have my name up on the lower third,” he said.