Sean Hannity Is Michael Cohen’s Mystery Client, But That Shouldn’t Matter

Sean Hannity was Michael Cohen's "secret client," but it's not clear that should matter to anyone.

Yesterday’s hearing resulting from the search of the office, home, and hotel room of longtime Donald Trump lawyer and so-called “fixer” Michael Cohen ended on a somewhat inconclusive note. The Judge presiding in the case, Judge Kimba Wood, did not grant the relief that Cohen and Trump’s lawyers were requesting, she did enter an order providing that those attorneys would be allowed to have access to the documents after the F.B.I.’s so-called “taint team” is done reviewing them and that she would then review whatever claims they may put forward with respect to attorney/client privilege claims. Judge Wood, a Reagan judicial appointee who Bill Clinton’s second nominee for Attorney General in 1993 but was forced to withdraw her name after it was revealed she had hired an undocumented immigrant as a nanny, also hinted that she could turn the matter over to a Special Master who would be charged with preparing a report evaluating the privilege claims.

The big news, though, came when Judge Wood ordered one of Cohen’s attorneys to reveal the identity of a client that Cohen was seeking to be held a secret. That client turns out to be none other than radio and Fox News Channel host Sean Hannity, who has been a booster of President Trump’s for the better part of the past three years:

From his Fox News pulpit, Sean Hannity has been one of the most ardent supporters of President Trump, cheering his agenda and excoriating his enemies.

He has gone from giving advice on messaging and strategy to Mr. Trump and his advisers during the 2016 campaign to dining with him at the White House and Mar-a-Lago.

Now, Mr. Hannity finds himself aligned even more closely with the president.

During a hearing at a packed courtroom in Lower Manhattan on Monday, he was named as a client of Mr. Trump’s longtime personal lawyer and fixer, Michael D. Cohen.

That revelation nudged the conservative commentator into the orbit of those who have lately come under legal scrutiny related to the investigations of Mr. Trump and his associates by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, and the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan. Both inquiries have provided fodder for Mr. Hannity’s prime-time cable show and nationally syndicated radio program.

The host’s closeness with the president may not sit well with media watchdogs, but the cozy relationship has been good for the Hannity business: “Hannity” is the most-watched cable news program, averaging 3.2 million viewers in the first quarter of 2018, up from 1.8 million in the early months of 2016.

The courtroom disclosure about Mr. Hannity occurred during the expanding criminal investigation into Mr. Cohen by the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan. F.B.I. agents raided Mr. Cohen’s home, office and hotel room on the morning of April 9, a move that Mr. Trump called an “attack on our country.”

In a legal filing before the hearing on Monday, Mr. Cohen said that, since 2017, he had worked as a lawyer for 10 clients, seven of whom he served by providing “strategic advice and business consulting.” The other three comprised Mr. Trump, the Republican fund-raiser Elliott Broidy and a third person who went unnamed.

The mystery was solved when Kimba M. Wood, a judge for the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York, ordered that Mr. Cohen’s lawyer, Stephen Ryan, disclose the name of the client in question — who turned out to be Mr. Hannity.

Mr. Hannity denied on Monday that he was a client of Mr. Cohen’s, saying that he had never paid him for his services and that his discussions with him were brief and centered on real estate.

The surprise naming of Mr. Hannity took place after several minutes of back and forth among government representatives, members of Mr. Cohen’s legal team and Judge Wood.

Before the name was revealed, Mr. Ryan argued that the mystery client was a “prominent person” who wanted to keep his identity a secret because he would be “embarrassed” to be identified as having sought Mr. Cohen’s counsel.

Robert D. Balin, a lawyer for various media outlets, including The New York Times, CNN and others, interrupted the hearing to argue that embarrassment was not a sufficient cause to withhold a client’s name, and Judge Wood agreed.

After Mr. Hannity was named, there were audible gasps from the spectators.

On Fox News, the anchor Shepard Smith reported that his colleague had been named as a client of Mr. Cohen’s, saying that it was time for him to address “the elephant in the room.”

At roughly the same time, Mr. Hannity, on his radio show, said it was strange to see his name appearing on Fox News and wondered aloud if he should release a statement.

Just before 4 p.m., he 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.”

In a follow-up tweet, Mr. Hannity added, “I assumed those conversations were confidential, but to be absolutely clear they never involved any matter between me and a third-party.”

The reference to a third party seemed to be an allusion to one of Mr. Cohen’s specialties: drawing up confidential settlements. The lawyer has acknowledged paying $130,000 to Stephanie Clifford, an adult-film actress known as Stormy Daniels, as part of a nondisclosure agreement to secure her silence soon before Election Day in 2016.

Last week, it came to light that Mr. Cohen had arranged for Mr. Broidy to pay $1.6 million to a former Playboy model, Shera Bechard, who became pregnant during an affair with Mr. Broidy. After the confidential deal became public, Mr. Broidy resigned from his post as a deputy finance chairman of the Republican Party.

Fox News declined to comment beyond Mr. Hannity’s statements. On his prime-time show on Monday night, Mr. Hannity seemed to suggest that he had not disclosed his link to Mr. Cohen to his network, saying, “My discussions with Michael Cohen never rose to any level that I needed to tell anyone that I was asking him questions.”

(…)

On “Hannity” on Monday night, the Fox host offered a welcome “to all you liberals in the media and across America” who do not normally tune into his show, and went on to denounce the media speculation over his link to Mr. Cohen as “absolutely insane.”

To demonstrate this, Mr. Hannity aired a montage, culled from Monday’s television coverage of cable news hosts saying his name over and over again. It lasted for 46 seconds.

Mr. Hannity did face an unexpected challenge from one of his guests, the lawyer Alan Dershowitz, who unexpectedly told the host that it would have been “much, much better” to disclose that he was a Cohen client.

Not surprisingly, the incident led to much discussion on the cable news networks (well, except for Fox News Channel) and on social media, with many people wonder how and why Wood could require that Cohen’s attorney reveal who is clients were. The short answer to that question is that, under the binding precedent of the Second Circuit, which Wood’s Court is a part of, the identity of a client is generally not considered to be subject to the attorney/client privilege. Even outside the Second Circuit, though, the general rule has long been that an attorney can be required to reveal the identity of a client unless doing so would somehow violate the attorney/client communication privilege or there were some other extraordinary reasons why a particular client’s identity should be kept confidential. For the purposes of the hearing that Judge Wood was presiding over yesterday as well as the motions the hearing was based on, the identity of Cohen’s clients is crucial to evaluating whether or not certain documents were considered privileged. For example, email exchanged between Hannity and Cohen would probably be considered privileged unless it dealt with subjects falling outside of the attorney/client relationship. Additionally, if Cohen had prepared a memorandum for his files memorializing an oral communication he had with Hannity (or any other client) regarding something covered by that relationship, it too would be considered privileged. In summary, though, the identity of Cohen’s “secret” client was relevant because it would be difficult if not impossible to properly evaluate any privilege claim Cohen’s attorneys may make regarding the documents seized by Federal investigators.

Beyond the legal issues, though, the revelation that Cohen was representing Hannity even on a limited basis has raised questions of journalistic ethics and the question of whether or not Hannity should have disclosed to his listeners, viewers, and employers on the radio and on television, that he was a present or former client of Cohen at the same time he was attacking the legitimacy of the search warrant that led to the search last Monday. Some observers have argued that Hannity was not under a duty to disclose anything due to the fact that he had said that he did not believe he was a client of Cohen’s. As others have observed, though, the fact that Hannity may not have believed that there was an attorney/client relationship between himself and Cohen does not necessarily mean that one did not exist. In any case, these pundits argued, Hannity was under an obligation to disclose the relationship because of his vociferous condemnation of the raid itself.

One good example of the former argument is made by Washington Post media critic Erik Wemple, who argues that it is time for Fox News to investigate Hannity:

As important as Hannity’s explanations may be, the word of his employer matters far more. Fox News, after all, is supposed to be supervising Hannity. Though there are few apparent standards governing an opinion host on Fox News, there have to be at least one or two, right? In the past, Hannity’s obeisance to Trump and his cronies has embarrassed the network, like the time that he appeared in a promotional video for Trump-the-presidential-candidate. That bit of line-crossing surprised the Fox News brass: “We had no knowledge that Sean Hannity was participating in this, and he will not be doing anything along these lines for the remainder of the election,” said a Fox News spokesperson at the time.

o: Did this tight legal relationship with the president’s personal attorney surprise Fox News? Did Hannity apprise his bosses of things? Does Fox News believe there’s an issue here? Is it concerned about Hannity’s independence? Has the brass at Fox News discussed this matter with Hannity since the news broke? We’ve placed those questions before Fox News and are awaiting a reply.

At some point soon — and we’re willing to be patient — Fox News needs to speak up. Does this behavior accord with standards, or would it be okay for Laura Ingraham, Steve Doocy, Bret Baier, Shepard Smith and Harris Faulkner to dial up Cohen for advice? And we’ll endeavor right here to head off a likely argument before it pops up: No — conflict-of-interest requirements for opinion-side hosts shouldn’t be any less stringent than they are for straight-news personnel. Whether you’re offering opinions or just the facts, it’s best not to have entanglements and private loyalties to newsmakers.

This particular Hannity scandal will bump along for a few days. It’s safe to say he will stay defiant, lashing out at critics and questioning their political motivations — essentially the formula that has made him a multimillionaire. Fox News may or may not maintain its silence.

But it needs to do its own internal probe of Sean Hannity. With what other Trump figures does he have formal or informal relationships? Has he given money to any charities or causes associated with Trump and his friends? Has he pulled a George Stephanopoulos? What else should viewers know?

Fox News wouldn’t likely share the results of any such investigation, though the Erik Wemple Blog would welcome any leaks. But how many times must Hannity embarrass his employer before it shows some spine?

Wemple’s arguments are well-taken, but it occurs to me that his argument that the standard ought to be the same for actual journalists and people who are quite obviously offering opinion/entertainment programming in the prime-time spotlight that Fox News, and MSNBC, typically give to those kinds of shows. Has anybody really believed, for example, that Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, or Tucker Carlson are journalists in the same way that Fox News colleagues such as Bret Baier Ed Henry, Chris Wallace hold themselves out to be? I would venture to guess that not even the most naive Fox News Channel viewer believes this, or believes that what Hannity, Ingraham, and Carlson engage in is “reporting” in the sense that the latter three individuals do on a daily or, in the case of Wallace, weekly basis. Indeed, it is precisely for their opinions, as well as the sheer entertainment value, at least for them, that many of the viewers tune in on a regular basis to see. Given that, I’m not sure that they should be held to the same standards as someone who sits in the White House Briefing Room trying to get answers out of White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders.

In the end, whether or not Fox News investigates Hannity’s conduct in regard to the Cohen matter, or requires him to disclose similar relationships should they arise in connection to other matters he opines on is, in the end, up to them. Much like Taylor Millard at Hot Air, whatever the network decides to do, I don’t think Fox should necessarily end its relationship with Hannity over this, although that too would be up to them and the terms of the network’s contract with Hannity. Beyond that, if they want to require him to disclose in the future that would probably be for the best, but as far as this particular incident is concerned I don’t think that failure to disclose his relationship with Cohen was as serious an offense as some are making it out to be. None of this is to condone Hannity’s actions, of course, or his previous behavior with regard to other issues such as his insistence on pushing the debunked conspiracy theories regarding the death of a DNC staffer, but it is to say that given the nature of what he does he shouldn’t necessarily be held to the same standards as an actual journalist. Because he clearly isn’t one.

Update: The Huffington Post is reporting that Fox News says Hannity has the networks full support, but also reported that Hannity has had a relationship with two other attorneys who have frequently appeared on Hannity’s program:

Fox News is standing by Sean Hannity after it was revealed Monday that he was once represented by Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer.

Cohen’s own counsel identified Hannity as one of Cohen’s clients during a court hearing Monday, after a judge rejected his request to withhold Hannity’s name.

“While FOX News was unaware of Sean Hannity’s informal relationship with Michael Cohen and was surprised by the announcement in court yesterday, we have reviewed the matter and spoken to Sean and he continues to have our full support,” a spokeswoman for Fox News told HuffPost in a statement Tuesday.

(…)

The Atlantic reported Tuesday that Hannity had previously sought legal counsel from two other Trump-connected lawyers. Victoria Toensing and Jay Alan Sekulow signed a cease-and-desist letter to an Oklahoma radio station in 2017, identifying themselves as “counsel for Sean Hannity,” according to The Atlantic.

Sekulow, a personal attorney for Trump assigned to deal with special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe, announced in March that Toensing would be joining Trump’s legal team. But days later, Sekulow said ”conflicts” prevented her from doing so. Both lawyers have been guests on Hannity’s show.

A representative for Fox News did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Hannity’s reported relationships with Toensing and Sekulow.

Most likely, Fox will dismiss this report as well.

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, Law and the Courts, Media, Politicians, US Politics, , ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Gustopher says:

    Aside from the likelihood that Hannity has paid off a playboy bunny or a porn star (two out of three of Cohen’s clients are known to avail themselves of that service), and the fact that Hannity has no journalistic integrity (known, for ages, based on his employer), I don’t see the big deal.

    Except that Cohen doesn’t seem to be a lawyer so much as he seems to be a barely competent fixer (two out of three of his clients have had their confidentiality agreements with “professional” woman make headlines, which seems to be the exact opposite effect one hopes for when hiring a fixer).




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  2. Liberal Capitalist says:

    In the end, whether or not Fox News investigates Hannity’s conduct in regard to the Cohen matter, or requires him to disclose similar relationships should they arise in connection to other matters he opines on is, in the end, up to them.

    Who knows… maybe it will be time to take a “previously planned vacation”, totally unrelated to this, in any way.

    I think we all know that there was preferential bias… but we are talking about Fox News, so to try to make a point on Hannity’s bias in this is redundant.




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  3. Kathy says:

    Hannity sure likes his doublethink: He doesn’t have to disclose a relationship with Cohen because he’s not Cohen’s client, and any communications with Cohen fall under attorney-client privilege.

    I keep telling people George Orwell wrote his book as a warning, not as a manual.




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  4. KM says:

    This matters because he’s going balls to the wall, foaming at the mouth attack mode about Cohen. Even other conservatives who agree with his overall stance are taking him to task because it’s shredding what little credibility they have. Sure, its his opinion but it’s not clearly labeled as such and FOX does it’s damnedest to blur the lines for its viewership to the point they don’t know or care that he’s not a “real journalist”.

    Scummy is as scummy does. Most people understand and value disclosure, especially if they’ve been burned by somebody unethical. This is one of those things that will get a tribalism pass but still merit the evil eye. They don’t want their viewers wonder what *else* you might be lying about…..




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  5. James Joyner says:

    I think two things about this story.

    1. We should not know that Hannity is a Cohen client pursuant to this filing. There’s no reason in the world that a subpoena WRT Trump should reveal information about Cohen’s other clients.

    2. Hannity committed journalistic malpractice by ranting about the Cohen search without disclosing his relationship. I know that Hannity isn’t a reporter but it’s incumbent on even an opinion journalist to disclose such obvious conflicts. Hell, I’ve always done that even as a blogger and, when possible, even within the space constraints of Twitter.




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  6. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    Sorry, Doug you are wrong. And you are wrong because Hannity wants to have it both ways; he wants to be considered a journalist when it is convenient, and not a journalist when it isn’t.

    “I’m a journalist,” he told me. “But I’m an advocacy journalist, or an opinion journalist.”

    https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/28/magazine/how-far-will-sean-hannity-go.html
    Even if you are just giving an opinion…the viewer has a right to know if that opinion is colored by the fact that you are receiving free legal advice from that person.
    In the end it doesn’t matter. No one that watches Hannity gives a damn. No Dennison supporter gives a damn.
    I guess I wonder what Shep Smith and Chris Wallace think?




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  7. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @James Joyner:

    Hell, I’ve always done that even as a blogger and, when possible,

    Hell, I’ve done it as a comment-er when opining about Quinnipiac Polls (the University is one of our best clients).
    I’ve seen people on Morning Joe do it all the time.
    It’s pretty basic ethics. For FOX to come out and say they don’t have a problem with it tells you all you need to know.




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  8. CSK says:

    Well, Stephen Ryan, Michael Cohen’s attorney, says that Hannity is Cohen’s third client, whose identity Ryan did not wish to reveal. Hannity said he was never Cohen’s client.

    Who’s lying?




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  9. Greg says:

    Has anybody really believed, for example, that Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, or Tucker Carlson are journalists in the same way that Fox News colleagues such as Bret Baier Ed Henry, Chris Wallace hold themselves out to be?

    Yes, millions of Fox viewers think this. This, in my opinion, is why we are where we are.. divided.




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  10. @James Joyner:

    We should not know that Hannity is a Cohen client pursuant to this filing. There’s no reason in the world that a subpoena WRT Trump should reveal information about Cohen’s other clients

    I tend to disagree simply because, as I stated, the identity of Cohen’s clients is relevant to the issue of whether or not certain documents or other items seized pursuant to the search warrant are covered by the attorney/client privilege. It would be impossible for a Judge, or Special Master, to determine if the privilege applies if they don’t know who the attorney’s clients are whose communications may be covered by the privlege in one or more of the seized items. Judge Wood determined that it was necessary that the answer to this question be part of the record in the case and, since the hearing was open to the public, the members of the public and press who were there to observe the proceeding learned Hannity’s identity at the same time the Judge did. Outside of a sealed court proceeding, which is generally frowned upon, there was no way to avoid this becoming public.

    Hannity committed journalistic malpractice by ranting about the Cohen search without disclosing his relationship. I know that Hannity isn’t a reporter but it’s incumbent on even an opinion journalist to disclose such obvious conflicts. Hell, I’ve always done that even as a blogger and, when possible, even within the space constraints of Twitter.

    This is a fair point, and Fox is certainly free to set whatever standards it wishes. I’m merely suggesting that there perhaps ought to be different standards for someone like Hannity and someone like Ed Henry, who is FNC’s Chief White House Correspondent.




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  11. @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:

    And I would submit that there really isn’t any such thing as an “opinion journalist” in the modern sense of what a “journalist” is understood to be.




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  12. teve tory says:

    @CSK: both of them. 😛




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  13. de stijl says:

    Doug’s tagline:

    Sean Hannity was Michael Cohen’s “secret client,” but it’s not clear that should matter to anyone.

    It doesn’t really matter, except that it is absurd and hilarious.




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  14. Kathy says:

    @James Joyner:

    1. Information entropy: Divulged information cannot be recalled.




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  15. Bill says:

    Hannity should have made his connection to Cohen known. He makes his living interpreting news on a news channel.

    I used to blog, including two times here at OTB plus being the largest contributor to OTB sports, and whenever I blogged on somebody or something I had some relationship to, I admitted it. These included Former Congressman Mark Foley (I have met his parents. My wife knew them very well), H & R Block who I used to work for during tax season, Harness Race Hall of Famers Bruce Nickells and Catello Manzi because the first was my father’s former business partner and who I regularly met when I was young and the second was my cousin. Just a few examples but if journalist/blogger/news commentator has a connection to some topic they were working or writing on they are obligated to reveal it.




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  16. SenyorDave says:

    @Bill: In the 80’s and 90’s I owned pieces of some pacers, and we raced them regularly at Freehold. Cat Manzi was probably the top driver at Freehold for much of that span, he had amazing hands!




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  17. MarkedMan says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Just to add to what Doug said, the proceedings of a court are a matter of public record. As far as I know the court is under no obligation to help someone keep things secret. The poor certainly know this to be true.




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  18. Bill says:

    @SenyorDave:

    In the 80’s and 90’s I owned pieces of some pacers, and we raced them regularly at Freehold. Cat Manzi was probably the top driver at Freehold for much of that span, he had amazing hands!

    Cat (Nicknamed Catman) I have only met a couple of times. Dad never had horses with him that I can recall.

    Freehold Raceway I have been to many times between 1971 and 1975. My father had some horses with Bill Pocza then and I used to hang out with his son Jay. When in Freehold overnight we usually stayed at the American Hotel.

    I first went to a harness race in the late 60’s. New York state tracks didn’t let anyone to attend races who wasn’t 18 but NJ, DE, OH, and IL didn’t have such rules so I got to see lots of races at Freehold, Brandywine in Delaware, Scioto Downs in OH, and Sportsman’s at Chicago.

    My father along with Bruce Nickells owned Fast Clip




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  19. Pylon says:

    @James Joyner:

    The subpoena wasn’t WRT Trump though, was it? It was WRT Cohen. So they seize all the documents in his office, he says “some of those are privileged communications with clients” and that leads to the necessary inquiry as to who are his clients and what are the communications (not every communication involving a client is privileged).




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  20. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @Kathy:

    George Orwell wrote his book as a warning, not as a manual.

    That’s what Bud Schulberg thought about his book What Makes Sammy Run, too. He found out he was wrong when students at Wharton in the 1980s asked him to come to speak to them in thanks for writing a book that gave them so much “how-to” information.




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  21. Franklin says:

    One thing Hannity said while defending himself was that he asked Cohen about real estate because Sean likes to invest in real estate, and that he doesn’t like the stock market. Which is interesting only because Trump and his worshippers used to think so highly of the stock market.




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  22. Andre Kenji de Sousa says:

    I think that even for a opinion host is a little shady to have the same lawyer than Trump has. Opinion host should not be free o journalistic standards, Fox News has “News” on their name.




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  23. John SF says:

    Sean Hannity as a client is certainly interesting, not to mention amusing. But I wonder if Elliott Broidy rather than Hannity might not be the more significant.

    Maybe I’m over-connecting, and it’s certainly speculative BUT: were the dealings with Broidy just about a model?
    Because if there’s more than that, Broidy links to a whole chain of connections: George Nader, the Seychelles meeting, Erik Prince, Mohammed bin Zayed, Kirill Dmitriev etc.
    That might just be “So what? Just a coincidence!” but I’m beginning to get very twitchy about “coincidences” in this whole rats nest. Particularly when names like Rosneft and Cambridge Analytica (and the poss. Brit connections which pique my interest) turn up a few steps further down the chain.

    Speaking of CA and/or Rosneft, I remarked in a earlier thread that Cohen’s sharing office space at Squire Patton Boggs was interesting re. other clients. And now this in the New York Law Journal (paywall):

    Michael Cohen, Donald Trump’s embattled personal attorney, said Monday morning in a letter filed in a Manhattan federal court that documents seized by FBI agents last week may include information from Morgan, Lewis & Bockius and Squire Patton Boggs.

    Hmm.

    BTW and OT(ish): has there been any news about the financing for the Kushner buyout of Vornado re. 666 5th Ave. ?




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  24. TM01 says:

    I don’t care much about the busses, relationships, etc. of ANY of the opinion spewing talking heads, left or right. I KNOW they’re biased. It’s what they do.

    What I dislike is the so-called unbiased Reporters (sic) who refuse to admit that they are just as biased, be it what they report, what questions they ask or don’t ask, etc.

    There is no unbiased news source.

    If everyone would just admit that, we’d probably all get along a lot better. Or at least a little.

    Or I suppose we could spend the rest of the year looking at EVERYONE on EVERY news network and figure out all the conflicts and connections they ALL have.

    I’d like to see all the members of Journolist for example start each broadcast saying which stories were coordinated via that group. Or CNN could start the morning telling us which debate questions they provided to which candidates. Or if anyone coordinated stories with the DNC maybe.

    You know. Just the little things.




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  25. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @TM01:

    What I dislike is the so-called unbiased Reporters (sic) who refuse to admit that they are just as biased

    The problem for you radical right-wing extremists is that if someone doesn’t agree with you, you just claim they are biased. That’s the whole point of “fake news” right? It’s not actually fake…in fact way more often than not it is absolutely true…it just doesn’t agree with your perverted view of the world.
    If you (and the rest of the Republicanists) had the balls to just admit that, we’d probably all get along a lot better. Or at least a little.




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  26. James Joyner says:

    @Pylon:

    The subpoena wasn’t WRT Trump though, was it? It was WRT Cohen. So they seize all the documents in his office, he says “some of those are privileged communications with clients” and that leads to the necessary inquiry as to who are his clients and what are the communications (not every communication involving a client is privileged).

    The subpoena was about Cohen’s relationship with Trump, stemming from the Trump investigation. The very fact of an attorney-client relationship ought to be privileged so, in my mind as a layman, I think it behooved the judge to handle this in private so as to reveal as little priviledged information as possible.




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  27. @James Joyner:

    The subpoena was about Cohen’s relationship with Trump, stemming from the Trump investigation.

    I’m not certain this is the case. I’d have to go back and look through the reports at the time (and since), but my understanding is that the reports were that the search warrant, which has not been made public yet, was about more than just Trump and the payment to Daniels. If that’s the case, then the identity of Cohen’s clients becomes relevant due to the need to determine what is and isn’t privileged.

    I can understand the argument that a client’s identity should be privileged, but the current state of the law in both the Second Circuit and more generally says something else on the matter. That’s why this ended up being something that came out in open court rather than in a sealed or closed proceeding.




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  28. Pylon says:

    @James Joyner:

    I believe that the subpoena dealt with potentially criminal behaviour of Cohen, both regarding Trump and otherwise (eg taxi licences).

    When I appear in court I tell the court who I act for. It’s not privileged. The only time it’s privileged is when the identity of my client is given to me confidentially and is instructed to be kept that way (perhaps in a transaction where my client is a silent partner).

    BTW, even though Trump and Hannity were both clients there’s a possibility that there are tapes or emails amongst all three that aren’t privileged, unless there’s common interest privilege in the precise matter.




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  29. inhumans99 says:

    Reports are popping up at NPR and other sites that Hannity has ties to other President Trump attorneys. Fox cable news division needs to cut bait with this dude, he is tossing Fox Cable News’ reputation (what little of it there is) as an outlet of serious news into an industrial shredder and the powers that be are I am sure aware of this fact.

    Let President Trump now have to rely on getting his marching orders from Fox & Friends like Steve Doocy, a show that even hardcore President Trump fans know is more analogous to something like The View than a serious news hour like 60 Minutes.




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  30. MarkedMan says:

    @James Joyner:

    The very fact of an attorney-client relationship ought to be privileged so, in my mind as a layman, I think it behooved the judge to handle this in private so as to reveal as little priviledged information as possible.

    This would imply a constitutional right to privacy in dealing with the justice system. But the reality is exactly the opposite and with good reason: In the US the justice system is inherently public in order to have a transparent and open system. You can go down to the courthouse and watch trials all day long if you desire. Closed courtrooms with some or all of the evidence concealed is used only in cases that involve national security.

    I know that sometimes the judge will agree to seal the records in the case of minors, or of divorce cases, but I’m not sure that happens in federal courts. (Resident lawyers, what say you?) In any case, it has always struck me as unfair. Rich people that can afford lawyers to file such motions can get such protections, but poor people have their ass hung out for all the world to see.




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  31. al-Ameda says:

    @TM01:

    What I dislike is the so-called unbiased Reporters (sic) who refuse to admit that they are just as biased, be it what they report, what questions they ask or don’t ask, etc.

    No, they’re (reporters and journalists) not all equal, they’re not all equally biased. That attitude is what leads many on the Right to label all journalism emanating from non-approved Main Stream Media sources as “fake news.”




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