Sean Hannity, the Fox News host who has been waging war on the air against special counsel Robert Mueller and is an outspoken advocate for President Donald Trump, was revealed Monday as one of only three clients that Michael Cohen, the president’s personal attorney, had during 2017 and 2018.
In a court filing earlier in the day, Cohen had sought to shield Hannity’s name from becoming public. Cohen said he had three clients: Trump; Elliott Broidy, the former deputy finance chairman of the Republican National Committee, who impregnated and then paid a woman with whom he had an affair; and a third party that Cohen said did not want to be identified.
During Monday’s proceedings, U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood ordered Cohen’s attorney to disclose the client’s identity. The client is Hannity, Cohen’s lawyer said.
It is not known why Cohen was representing Hannity.
Hannity addressed the news on his AM radio show, claiming that while he never retained Cohen in the “traditional” sense, they still had attorney-client privilege.
“Michael never represented me in any matter, I never retained him in the traditional sense as retaining a lawyer, I never received an invoice from Michael, I never paid legal fees to Michael,” Hannity said, before adding, “We definitely had attorney client privilege because I asked him for that but, you know, he never sent me a bill or an invoice or did I actually officially retain him.”
Hannity also said that he “might have handed him 10 bucks.”
Later Monday afternoon, Hannity tweeted that he “assumed” his conversations with Cohen “were confidential, but to be absolutely clear they never involved any matter between me and a third-party.” He said the discussions were “almost exclusively about real estate.”
The TV host has been a consistent backer of Trump, both on-air and off, and has repeatedly blasted Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. He has also frequently defended Cohen in the days since the FBI raided Cohen’s home and office.
“As I have been warning, Mueller is out to get the president and it appears at any cost,” Hannity said last Monday on his Fox News program, hours after news of the raid broke.
“Now keep in mind, Cohen was never part of the Trump administration, or the Trump campaign,” he said then. “This is now officially an all-hand-on-deck effort to malign, and if possible, impeach the president of the United States.”
On the next evening’s show, he slammed the FBI’s raid as “an unprecedented abuse of power.” The next day, he called it “highly questionable.”
Until now, Hannity had not disclosed that he had a relationship with Cohen during his radio show or television program.
Ethics experts immediately questioned why he, or Fox News, hadn’t previously revealed the tie.
“Why doesn’t @FoxNews have a conflict of interest policy requiring Hannity to disclose his personal interest in the Cohen search when commenting on it?” tweeted Walter Shaub, the former director of the independent Office of Government Ethics.
A spokesperson for Fox News did not immediately respond to questions from NBC News about the relationship between Hannity and Cohen.
Monday’s legal proceedings stemmed from a motion for a temporary restraining order under which Cohen had sought to stop federal investigators from reviewing materials seized in a search warrant last week.
Wood denied that motion during Monday’s hearing.
She also did not rule out the possibility of using a “privilege team,” also known as a “taint team,” which would review which of the seized materials are considered privileged through attorney-client privilege, and which materials can be turned over to the potential trial prosecutors and federal agents.