Something isn’t adding up in the case of Michael Cohen and Sean Hannity.
For now Hannity’s employer, Fox News, isn’t commenting on the issue, but even some fellow Fox hosts are raising questions.
There were audible gasps in court on Monday when it was revealed that Hannity was the mystery third client that Cohen was trying to keep secret. Stormy Daniels’ attorney Michael Avenatti, who was in the room, said it was like “a bomb went off.”
Hannity scrambled to respond — first on his radio show, then with tweets, then on his TV show. On Monday evening, Hannity downplayed the legal relationship, saying, “Cohen never represented me in any legal matter.”
He said the two men chatted occasionally, and his questions “focused almost exclusively” on real estate.
Hannity said “I never retained his services, I never received an invoice. I never paid Michael Cohen for legal fees.”
But if that’s true, why did Cohen’s lawyer identify Hannity as a client in federal court?
Some of Hannity’s own explanations are also head-scratching. On the radio earlier in the day, Hannity said “I might have handed him ten bucks” and told Cohen “I definitely want attorney-client privilege on this” at times.
He said on Twitter that he assumed his conversations with Cohen “were confidential.”
Now it’s an open question whether those conversations are in the hands of federal investigators.
Last week’s Cohen raid reportedly swooped up sensitive documents and recordings.
Monday’s court proceeding was primarily about how the evidence would be reviewed and used by the government. Experts say Cohen and his longtime client President Trump could be in legal jeopardy.
The Hannity story is just a sidebar — but a confusing one for sure.
It’s a headache for Fox News, where Hannity is the highest-rated host and chief defender of Trump. His show is an important part of Fox’s profit engine, but is also a constant source of controversy.
Fox News has yet to comment on questions regarding Hannity’s relationship with Cohen.
Hannity said on Fox Monday night that his conversations with Cohen “never rose to any level that I needed to tell anyone that I was asking him questions.”
This implies that he did not disclose his Cohen connection to management, possibly running afoul of Fox policy.
The disclosure question came up repeatedly on Monday — even on the Fox talk show “The Five.”
“The question for me is why Sean didn’t disclose this earlier?” co-host Juan Williams said.
Later in the day, the network’s 8 p.m. host Tucker Carlson strongly defended Hannity.
“Sean Hannity is a talk show host. He’s not under investigation by anyone for anything. Who he hires as a lawyer, and why, is nobody’s business,” Carlson said. No judge has a right to violate his privacy or anybody else’s. Those used to be the rules — but the rules have changed.”
Carlson then pivoted to say that the point of special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe “is not to find collusion,” the point is “to hurt Trump and anybody close to Trump.”
Anti-Mueller and anti-FBI themes are a daily feature of Fox’s pro-Trump talk shows.
Hannity was trying to host one of those segments on Monday night when guest Alan Dershowitz brought up the Cohen predicament.
“I really think that you should have disclosed your relationship with Cohen when you talked about him on this show,” Dershowitz said.
Hannity responded by saying it was a “minimal” relationship.
Dershowitz said “you had the right, by the way, not to have your identity be revealed,” and Hannity agreed: “I have the right to privacy. I do.”
CNNMoney (New York) First published April 17, 2018: 7:49 AM ET