Sean Hannity named as lawyer Michael Cohen's third, mystery client

Clark Mindock

Fox News personality Sean Hannity has been named as the third, previously secret client of Michael Cohen, President Donald Trump's personal attorney at the centre of a swirling controversy over a 2016 payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels.

The revelation was made during a hearing Monday at a federal court in New York City, where Mr Cohen and his lawyers won a small victory to stop the FBI and federal prosecutors from being able to immediately review dozens of electronic devices and documents that were seized last week during a raid on Mr Cohen's office, home, and hotel room.

Aside from Mr Trump and Hannity, court documents show that Mr Cohen has represented former Republican National Committee deputy finance chair Elliott Broidy, who stepped down from that post last week after it was reported that Mr Cohen had facilitated a $1.6 million payment to a pregnant, former Playboy playmate in 2017. Mr Broidy acknowledge that he had a "consensual relationship" with the playmate in a statement, but said she made the decision to end her pregnancy on her own, and that he offered to help her fund the procedure.

While Judge Kimba Wood decided to slow the pace of federal investigators and their ability to gain access to Mr Cohen's documents, Daniels' lawyer Michael Avenatti said outside of the courthouse Monday that the disclosure of Hannity's connection to Mr Cohen showed that anyone who has been in contact with the lawyer should be worried.

"I said last Friday and this weekend that Michael Cohen was radioactive, and anybody who has been associated with him in the past 20 years should be very concerned ... about what secrets of theirs are in these documents," Mr Avenatti said. "The president has trusted Mr Cohen as his fixer for years."

The president has a well known affection for Hannity, who often gives him positive coverage during his eponymous prime time television show.

Hannity, following the court revelations, tweeted that he had "brief discussions" with Mr Cohen before, but that the lawyer had never represented him as an attorney.

"Michael Cohen has never represented me in any matter. I never retained him, received an invoice, or paid legal fees," Hannity wrote on the social media platform. "I have occasionally had brief discussions with him about legal questions about which I wanted his input and perspective."

"I assumed those conversations were confidential, but to be absolutely clear they never involved any matter between me and a third-party," he wrote in another tweet.

The main question before the court Monday regarding the FBI's raid on Mr Cohen's various properties could prove pivotal for the president, who lashed out last week after the raids accusing the FBI of disregarding attorney-client privilege.

Mr Trump and his relationship with Mr Cohen has been the subject of scrutiny since it was discovered that Mr Cohen had paid Daniels $130,000 just before the 2016 election. Ms Wood's decision Monday means that Mr Cohen's lawyers will have the chance to argue that the documents fall under attorney-client privilege before investigators will have the chance to look at them.

Mr Trump and Mr Cohen have denied that the president had anything to do with that payment, and the president has denied the affair Daniels says she had with Mr Trump in 2006 just months after the then-future president's new wife, Melania, gave birth to their son Barron.

The FBI and federal prosecutors have argued that there is no need to be concerned about the violation of attorney-client privilege, because they have have set up a so-called filter team of unrelated investigators to review the electronic devices and documents before turning them over to the main teams working the case.

The raids last week were widely seen as a major development for the president and his ongoing legal concerns, though the actions were reportedly not conducted as a part of special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russia's meddling in the 2016 election. Information leading to the raids was, however, reportedly provided by Mr Mueller's team.

The seized documents reportedly include recordings between Mr Cohen and the lawyer representing Daniels and another woman who has recently come forward with an alleged affair with Mr Trump.

The warrant signed before the raids indicate federal prosecutors were seeking information related to the Daniels payment, as well as correspondence related to any efforts by Mr Cohen to suppress the disclosure of the alleged affair between Mr Trump and Playboy model Karen McDougal.

The warrant also indicated that Mr Cohen is being investigated for bank fraud, wire fraud, and campaign finance issues.