NEW YORK — A legal fight over what should happen to records the FBI seized from President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Michael Cohen, took a surprise twist Monday Cohen was forced to reveal in court that he had also secretly done legal work for Fox News host Sean Hannity.
The disclosure came as Cohen’s attorneys tried to persuade a federal judge in New York to delay prosecutors from examining records and electronic devices seized in the raids on the grounds that many of them are protected by attorney-client privilege.
U.S. District Judge Kimba Wood said in hearings Friday and again Monday that if Cohen wanted the court to declare that the some of his files were protected because of attorney confidentiality rules, he would have to divulge the names of the clients he’s worked with since 2016 election.
One was, of course, Trump himself. Another was Elliot Broidy, a Trump fundraiser who resigned from the Republican National Committee on Friday after it was revealed that he paid $1.6 million to a Playboy playmate with whom he had an extramarital affair. The playmate became pregnant and elected to have an abortion.
With Cohen by their side Monday, lawyers initially resisted revealing the name of the third client for privacy reasons. Cohen’s lawyers did not detail the type of legal work he did for Hannity.
But on his radio show, Hannity said Cohen was never involved in any matter between him and any third party. "Michael never represented me in any matter," Hannity said. "I never retained him in any traditional sense. I never received an invoice. I never paid a legal fee."
Hannity, an outspoken supporter of Trump, has been a fierce critic of special counsel Robert Mueller, who is looking into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
The April 9 raid on Cohen sought information on several matters, including a $130,000 payment made to porn actor Stormy Daniels, who alleges she had sex with a married Trump in 2006.
At issue is exactly who gets to look at Cohen’s seized documents and devices before they are turned over to prosecutors. Attorneys for Cohen say they want first crack. Trump’s lawyers say they also want some form of prior review.
Prosecutors, who say they raided Cohen’s office, home and hotel room as part of an undisclosed crime related to his personal business dealings, prefer the ordinary procedure of reviewing the documents with a panel of prosecutors unrelated to the investigation — a so-called "taint team."
At stake is an investigation that could uncover the inner workings of Trump’s longtime fixer and image protector.
Wood adjourned the hearing Monday without making a ruling. As a first step, the judge said the government should put the documents in a searchable database to determine which should come under review.