NEW YORK -- A federal judge Monday rejected a request to delay Manhattan prosecutors from examining records and electronic devices seized last week from President Donald Trump's personal attorney.
But in arguing for attorney confidentiality rules, lawyer Michael Cohen was forced to reveal that he had done legal work for Fox News host Sean Hannity.
Attorneys for Trump and Cohen had said thousands or millions of Cohen's files were protected because of attorney-client privilege, arguing that the documents could have included files on Cohen's hundreds of clients between 1996 and 2006. From 2007 to 2017, Cohen worked as counsel for Trump and his private company, the Trump Organization.
Cohen's lawyer, Todd Harrison, wrote in a letter filed with the court that after Cohen left that post, he had "at least 10 clients" -- three legal clients and seven others to whom he only provided "strategic advice and business consulting." Attorneys for Trump and Cohen sought to review the records on the legal clients before they are turned over to prosecutors.
But U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood said in hearings Friday and Monday that if Cohen wanted to cite those rules, he would have to divulge the names of the legal clients.
Two of those clients were previously known: Trump and Elliot Broidy, a Trump fundraiser. Cohen's lawyers initially resisted naming the third client, saying he was a "prominent person" and the revelation would be embarrassing for him.
Wood replied, "I understand he doesn't want his name out there, but that's not enough under the law."
When Hannity's name was announced, there were gasps in the courtroom, which was packed with journalists. A few of them raced out.
Although Wood denied a request by Trump's lawyer, Joanna Hendon, that the president and Cohen get the first crack at designating which documents should be off-limits to investigators, she signaled that she was considering allowing the Cohen team's second choice -- appointing a "special master" to review the material to determine what is and isn't protected by attorney-client privilege.
Prosecutors say they raided Cohen's office, home and hotel room in an investigation related to his personal business dealings. They prefer the ordinary procedure of reviewing the documents with a panel of prosecutors unrelated to the investigation.
Wood allowed prosecutors to proceed with the cataloguing of evidence, including multiple electronic devices, that was seized in raids while a system is set up to ensure that records protected by attorney-client privilege aren't disclosed to investigators. She said the government should put the documents in a searchable database to help with the review, and prosecutors said they expected they could determine by midweek how rapidly they can accomplish that.
DENIES HE'S A CLIENT
Just before 3 p.m. Monday, while hosting his nationally syndicated radio show, Hannity posted a message on Twitter: "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."
The tweets came after Hannity saw his name on Fox News.
Fox News anchor Shepard Smith broke the story on the network, reporting that his colleague's name had been mentioned as a third client of Cohen's in open court. He did so after other news outlets had broken the story, saying that it was time for him to address "the elephant in the room."
"Hannity's producers are working to contact him," Smith said. "Since it's now a part of the story, we'll report on it when we know the rest of it. A lot of people here know his number, so we'll get on that in just a second."
Cohen's lawyers did not detail the type of legal work he did for Hannity.
Hannity first addressed the issue on Monday night's Hannity when lawyer Alan Dershowitz told him, "You should have disclosed your relationship with Cohen when you talked about him on the show."
Hannity had been fiercely critical of the special counsel, Robert Mueller, and the FBI while describing the raid against Cohen during the April 9 broadcast of Hannity on Fox News.
"Now, what that means is Mueller's witch-hunt investigation is now a runaway train that is clearly careening off the tracks," Hannity said then.
On Monday, Hannity told Dershowitz that his relationship with Cohen was minimal and that he had a right to privacy. "It had to do with real estate and nothing political," he said.
He gave a lengthier explanation at the end of his TV show, saying that Cohen was a great attorney, but that none of their discussions ever included a third party and were centered on real estate.
However, Hannity has previously described Cohen as a friend. In January 2017, shortly before the inaugural, Cohen was a guest on Hannity's radio show. The host described him as Trump's lawyer and then added, "Also, full disclosure: a personal friend of mine, long before this election ever started."
Cohen joked, "Well, there goes my reputation now, Sean."
DANIELS WANTS TRUTH
Monday's hearing began with an appearance by adult-film actress Stephanie Clifford, better known as Stormy Daniels.
The last to enter court, she was among the first to leave. While in court, she smiled several times as she observed the proceedings from a folding chair near the back of the room. Outside afterward, she said 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 Cohen sought information on a variety of matters, including a $130,000 payment made to Daniels, who alleges she had sex with a married Trump in 2006.
People familiar with the probe told The Associated Press that agents were seeking bank records, records on Cohen's dealing in the taxi industry, Cohen's communications with the Trump campaign and information on payments made in 2016 to two women who say they had affairs with Trump, former Playboy model Karen McDougal and Daniels.
Last week, it came to light that Cohen had arranged for Broidy to pay $1.6 million to a former Playboy model, Shera Bechard, who became pregnant during an affair with Broidy. The payment, to be made in installments over two years, was intended to keep her silent about their relationship. After the confidential deal became public Friday, Broidy resigned from his post as deputy finance chairman of the Republican Party and offered a public apology to his wife and family.
The contract in the confidential settlement between Broidy and Bechard included the same aliases -- "David Dennison" and "Peggy Peterson" -- that were used in a 2016 contract between Trump and Daniels, according to a person familiar with the deal.
People familiar with the Cohen investigation have said he is being investigated for possible bank and wire fraud. Prosecutors are examining whether crimes were committed as part of any pattern or strategy of trying to buy the silence of people who could offer accounts that could have damaged Trump's candidacy in 2016.
In addition, the FBI is also looking into whether any fraud was committed in connection with Cohen's ownership of taxi medallions, or licenses to operate taxis. However, the value of those assets has plummeted in recent years, in part because of ride-hailing services.
Information for this article was contributed by Tom Hays, Larry Neumeister and David Bauder of The Associated Press; by Alan Feuer, Michael M. Grynbaum and John Koblin of The New York Times; and by Philip Bump, Devlin Barrett and Beth Reinhard of The Washington Post.
Stephanie Clifford, also known as Stormy Daniels, arrives at federal court Monday in New York.
A Section on 04/17/2018
Print Headline: Cohen reveals Fox News' Hannity as his third client