President Donald Trump’s longtime personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, arrived at the federal court in Manhattan on Monday afternoon for a hearing relating to materials seized from his home, office, and hotel room.
The hearing quickly veered into a dramatic courtroom showdown over the identity of Cohen’s unnamed third client, in addition to President Trump and a former top GOP official. Cohen’s lawyers wanted to only tell the judge, because the client wanted privacy.
But US District Judge Kimba Wood ordered right then and there to release the client’s name. It is Fox News host Sean Hannity, one of Trump’s most vocal defenders who also has private audiences with the president.
“We have been friends a long time. I have sought legal advice from Michael,” Hannity told the Wall Street Journal. BuzzFeed News has reached out to Fox News for comment.
The identity of the client was important, the judge ruled, because Cohen’s lawyers were arguing that some material in 10 boxes of records and electronics seized by the FBI fell under attorney-client privilege.
This is the second day of hearings in the case. On Friday, Wood demanded Cohen appear on Monday — creating a frenzy of reporters outside the courthouse in lower Manhattan. Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for Stormy Daniels, who is suing Cohen in a separate case, also came to court.
“It’s a Stormy day,” he told reporters before going inside.
Daniels is also in attendance.
Cohen is asking Wood for an order allowing his lawyers or a special master appointed by the court to first review the materials before anyone from the US Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York — which executed the warrant — does so.
The US Attorney’s Office has proposed to use a so-called “taint team” to conduct the initial review — lawyers from the office who are not involved in the Cohen investigation — to determine what, if any material, should be shielded from the investigators because it is protected by attorney-client or another privilege.
Cohen’s lawyers from McDermott Will and Emery, however, argue that appointing a special master would “avoid even a hint of impropriety here in the review of Mr. Cohen’s data and documents.”
Trump has also brought in his own lawyers from Spears and Imes to protect his interests as one of Cohen’s clients. They, in a filing on Sunday night, made clear that they believe Cohen and Trump’s lawyers should receive copies of the seized materials to make their own assessment of which documents are privileged.
Although the issue of who gets the initial review of the seized materials is the primary focus of the hearing, Wood at the first set of hearings on Cohen’s request this past Friday made it clear that she wanted to a list of Cohen’s claimed clients. That request came as a result of Cohen’s lawyer at the hearing, Todd Harrison, claiming that “thousands” of documents involved would be protected by attorney-client privilege. Wood pushed back against the claim, asking for information about his clients.
In a Monday morning filing, Cohen claimed only three legal clients since leaving his job at the Trump Organization in January 2017 and operating as a solo practitioner: Trump; GOP fundraiser Elliott Broidy; and a third, unnamed individual.
Although Cohen’s lawyers fought in court to keep the name secret, Wood ruled against them, leading to Hannity’s disclosure.