Michael Cohen

AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

Hearing Over Michael Cohen FBI Raid Reveals Trump Lawyer Also Represented Sean Hannity

April 16, 2018 - 2:55 pm
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NEW YORK (WCBS 880/AP) -- President Donald Trump's personal attorney has been forced to reveal that another of his clients is Fox News host Sean Hannity.
 
Lawyers for Michael Cohen argued in court on Monday that they could not identify Hannity because he asked that his name not be disclosed in connection with an FBI seizure of Cohen's files. But U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood made one of the lawyers identify him in open court.

The disclosure came as attorneys for Cohen and Trump tried to persuade Wood to delay prosecutors from examining records and electronic devices seized in the raids on the grounds that many of them are protected by attorney-client privilege.

Wood said in hearings Friday and Monday that if Cohen wanted the court to declare that some of his files were protected because of attorney confidentiality rules, he would have to divulge the names of the clients he's worked with since the 2016 election.

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

With Cohen by their side on Monday, lawyers initially resisted revealing the name of the third client for privacy reasons, saying it would be embarrassing for the client.

But Wood pressed on.

"I understand he doesn't want his name out there, but that's not enough under the law," she said.

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

Cohen's lawyers did not detail the type of legal work he did for Hannity. Cohen, in a light blue tie and dark suit, spent most of the hearing looking forward, his hands folded.

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

"Michael never represented me in any matter," 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."

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

CBS News Legal Analyst Rikki Klieman told WCBS 880’s Steve Scott and Michael Wallace that the Hannity revelation was of “doubtful” relevance to the Cohen case, but there may be an issue of conflict of interest on Hannity’s part.

“We don’t know if there’s anything significant or not, except for the fact that Sean Hannity should have disclosed it on Fox News instead of covering a case and representing where he’s talking about a lawyer’s representation happens to be his lawyer,” Klieman said.

The hearing in the Daniel Patrick Moynihan United States Courthouse stemmed from a surprise raid this month on Cohen's home and office. 
 
The search sought information on a variety of matters, including a $130,000 payment made to porn star Stormy Daniels, who alleges she had sex with a married Trump in 2006. Daniels was in the courtroom on Monday for the arguments. Daniels, wearing a pink skirt and black heels, stumbled and almost fell on the wet sidewalk as she arrived for the hearing, WCBS 880's Mack Rosenberg reported.

Inside, the porn star could be seen taking her heels off to get through security.

Daniels did speak outside court after the hearing.

“For years, Mr. Cohen has acted like he is above the law. He has considered himself and openly referred to himself as Mr. Trump’s fixer. He has played by a different set of rules – or shall we say, no rules at all,” Daniels said. “He has never thought that the little man, or especially women – even more, women like me – mattered. That ends now. My attorney and I are committed to making sure that everyone finds out the truth and facts of what happened and I give my word that we will not rest until that happens.”

Earlier, reporters heard from Daniels’ attorney, Michael Avenatti. He was asked if his client had a message for Cohen.

“I think her message has been consistent, and that is she wants everybody to tell the truth and stop lying to the American people,” Avenatti said.

Avenatti earlier said he and Daniels were not trying to provoke Cohen by showing up. He said the message they are sending is that what is happening in court is a serious matter to his client.

Cohen is under criminal investigation for personal business dealings and was ordered to appear in court to help answer questions about his law practice. He has denied wrongdoing.

The names of Cohen's clients are at issue because the lawyer has argued that materials seized in an FBI raid on his home and office are subject to attorney-client privilege.

Cohen's lawyers say investigators "took everything'' during the last week's raids, which they called "completely unprecedented.'' In a court filing Monday, attorneys Todd Harrison and Stephen Ryan said investigators seized more than a dozen electronic devices and other items including documents and data unrelated to the probable cause upon which the search warrants were based.


 
The letter demanded Trump and Cohen's lawyers be allowed to decide which items seized are protected by attorney-client privilege before criminal prosecutors see them.

Joanna Hendon, a Trump lawyer, argued in papers filed Sunday that any materials involving the president should be flagged by Cohen and turned over to the president to be reviewed for any attorney-client privilege issues.

"Fairness and justice — as well as the appearance of fairness and justice — require that, before they are turned over to the Investigative Team, the seized materials relating to the President must be reviewed by the only person who is truly motivated to ensure that the privilege is properly invoked and applied: the privilege-holder himself, the President," Hendon wrote.

This is unusual in part because prosecutors effectively work for the president, WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell reported.

Klieman said Cohen’s argument for keeping the FBI from viewing documents that might be privileged is not likely to work.

“Taint teams, which are groups of agents and lawyers from the Southern District of New York – this is not an uncommon practice, that they would review the documents to look at what is privileged and what is not before turning anything over to an investigator. This has happened since time immemorial, and Michael Cohen’s case is no different,” she said.

Klieman said the government believes that the seizure of Cohen’s documents “should proceed as any seizure of a lawyer’s work product – attorney-client privileged materials and unprivileged materials – would proceed.”

She said if the judge rules against Cohen’s request to keep the documents private, a taint team is likely to review the documents, and “eventually, we’re going to learn if there’s going to be criminal charges of bank fraud or campaign violations or other against Michael Cohen or not.”

The raid carried out last Monday at Cohen's apartment, hotel room, office and safety deposit box sought bank records, records on Cohen's dealing in the taxi industry, Cohen's communications with the Trump campaign and information on payments he made in 2016 to former Playboy model Karen McDougal and to Daniels, people familiar with the investigation told The Associated Press.

On Friday, lawyers for Cohen appeared in federal court in New York asking that they, not the Department of Justice, be given a first crack at reviewing the seized evidence to see if it was relevant to the investigation or could be forwarded to criminal investigators without jeopardizing attorney-client privilege.

Prosecutors want a different system, in which a special team of Justice Department lawyers not directly involved in the probe would review the material and determine what was off-limits to investigators because of attorney-client privilege.

Hendon proposed yet another level of protections, in which Cohen's lawyers, after finishing their initial review, then be required to "identify to the president all seized materials that relate to him in any way and provide a copy of those materials to him and his counsel."

Trump, or his lawyers, would then get to say what he believed to be off-limits to investigators.

Trump said Sunday that all lawyers are now "deflated and concerned" by the FBI raid on Cohen.

"Attorney Client privilege is now a thing of the past," he tweeted. "I have many (too many!) lawyers and they are probably wondering when their offices, and even homes, are going to be raided with everything, including their phones and computers, taken. All lawyers are deflated and concerned!"

Wood adjourned the hearing Monday, rejecting Hendon's request for a temporary restraining order on the grounds that it was too early for such an objection. As a first step, the judge said the government should put the documents in a searchable database to determine which should come under review. Prosecutors said they expected they could determine by midweek how fast they can accomplish that.

(Copyright 2018 WCBS 880. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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