Shortly after 3 p.m. on Monday, Michael Cohen’s lawyer outed Fox News host Sean Hannity as Cohen’s third, previously undisclosed client.
The news broke during Shephard Smith’s program. Smith is more critical of President Trump than perhaps any other Fox News personality, and as a result recently come under attack from Hannity, who is a stanch Trump loyalist.
While Shep is a friend with political views I do not share, and great at breaking news, he is clueless about what we do every day. Hannity breaks news daily-Warrant on a Trump assoc, the unmasking scandal, leaking intel, Fisa abuse, HRC lawbreaking, dossier and more REAL NEWS! 9p https://t.co/zJpnnyFTtP
— Sean Hannity (@seanhannity) March 16, 2018
Since Hannity is arguably Fox News’ best-known staffer, the story is an awkward one for Trump’s favorite cable network to handle. That awkwardness was apparent in Fox News’ initial report about Monday’s big reveal.
“One of Cohen’s attorneys was asked by the judge to specifically name the other name because they said it wouldn’t fall under attorney-client privilege to withhold that name, and he stood up, and named him as Sean Hannity,” reporter Laura Ingle told Smith.
She then immediately changed the topic.
“So moving on the rest of what is happening today…”
Watch for yourself:
A short minutes later, Smith circled back to the topic.
“Of course, for sure the elephant in the room is that Sean Hannity is said to have been a third client of Michael Cohen,” Smith said. “There’s a statement at the Hollywood Reporter that says, you know, ‘we’ve been friends a long time, he did some legal work for me.’ Hannity’s producers are working to contact him, since it’s now part of the story, we’ll report on it when we know the rest of it. A lot of people here know his number.”
Hannity addressed the news a short time later on his radio show, suggesting that whatever legal work Cohen did for him didn’t amount to much.
“I’ve known Michael a long, long time,” Hannity said. “Let me be very clear to the media: Michael never represented me in any matter. I never retained him in any sense. I never received an invoice from Michael. I never paid legal fees to Michael. I’ve had occasional conversations with him on which I wanted his legal perspective. I assume those had attorney-client privilege. Not one issue ever involved a matter between me and any third party.”
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.
— Sean Hannity (@seanhannity) April 16, 2018
I assumed those conversations were confidential, but to be absolutely clear they never involved any matter between me and a third-party.
— Sean Hannity (@seanhannity) April 16, 2018
Regardless of what work Cohen did for him, the fact remains that Hannity did not disclose his relationship with Cohen when he covered the FBI’s raid of Cohen’s office.
Here's what Hannity said about FBI raid of Cohen a week ago: "Mueller has ostensibly tonight declared war against the president. Clearly his objective is to remove him from office… Mueller's team is corrupt, starting with him, and it has been from the beginning." pic.twitter.com/1jGZrzmihq
— Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) April 16, 2018
As Newsweek details, Hannity defended Cohen on his radio show after the raid, and recently said a conversation the two had corroborates Cohen’s implausible story about how he made a $130,000 hush payment to Story Daniels, a woman who says she had an affair with Trump, without Trump being looped in.
“I do remember Michael saying it publicly and saying to me at the time that in fact he never told the president about this, that it was something that he had pretty wide discretion on his own to handle matters without bringing it to his attention,” Hannity said a week ago. “And it might seem unusual to most people but if you’re a billionaire I guess it’s not.”
— Andrew Lawrence (@ndrew_lawrence) April 16, 2018
While Cohen’s work for Trump and RNC deputy chair Elliot Broidy involved negotiating hush payments to women they allegedly had affairs with, Hannity’s remark about how Cohen’s work for him never “involved a matter between me and any third party” is meant to suggest that Trump’s longtime “fixer” didn’t anything of that sort for him.
Hannity was accused of sexual harassment last year by a right-wing blogger who was a guest on his show. He characterized the allegations as “100 percent false.”