By Frank Bowman
Just when you thought the Trump saga couldn’t get weirder, Michael Cohen, Trump’s longtime consigliere, was forced to reveal that his entire list of human clients consists of Donald Trump, Elliott Broidy (a rich Republican fundraiser for whom Cohen arranged a $1.6 million payoff to a former mistress), and … tah-dah … Sean Hannity.
This revelation has occasioned tut-tutting from media watchdogs who note that Hannity has been screaming daily on his TV and radio shows about the illegitimacy of the Cohen search, while conspicuously omitting to mention that he was among Cohen’s clients. Fair and balanced indeed! And of course, Hannity’s discomfiture has drawn howls of laughter and hoots of derision from pretty much everyone, left and right, who has not yet been submerged into the Borg of Fox News Land.
Along with the outrage and hilarity, there has also been speculation about what sort of thing Hannity could possibly have wanted the legal advice of Michael Cohen, a guy who isn’t so much a lawyer as muscle with a law degree. The obvious salacious speculation has centered on the fact that Cohen’s only two other human clients are guys for whom he arranged payoffs to inconvenient ex-girlfriends. Does Hannity have his own #MeToo problem?
Hannity has hastened to deny that he might need such services, insisting that the matters as to which he consulted Cohen did not involve any “third party.” Moreover, says Hannity, Cohen was, perhaps, kind of his lawyer, but not really (“we just chatted, he never sent me a bill, I never paid fees… well, ok, maybe I slipped him a ten-spot once”). And, insists Hannity, he only talked to Cohen about real estate matters. Probably. Mostly.
It’s been a perverse pleasure to watch Hannity try to walk the tightrope between denying any real connection with Cohen, while at the same time trying to claim just enough of a connection to be able to invoke attorney-client privilege. There has been plenty of skepticism about Hannity’s story, particularly the claim that anyone, especially a gazillionaire like Hannity with the means to hire the best specialists in America, would go to Michael Cohen to get legal advice about real estate matters.
But so far, the delighted commentariat has missed one other telling point: If Hannity is telling the truth and the only time he used Michael Cohen as a lawyer was for occasional verbal chats about real estate, then there would be nothing for FBI searchers to find in Cohen’s office or the other spots subject to the warrant that would reveal either the Hannity-Cohen attorney-client relationship or its subject matter. Yet Cohen apparently believes there is such material because otherwise he would not have listed Hannity among his clients. And Hannity apparently agrees, because otherwise he would not have requested Cohen’s lawyers (as he apparently did) to keep his identity secret.
In short, if there’s nothing — no document, no e-mail, no tape, no phone message, no nothing — anywhere in Cohen’s domain that would identify and cause difficulties for Sean Hannity, then neither Cohen nor Hannity would have tried to protect it by identifying Hannity as Cohen’s client.
Unless I miss my guess, Mr. Hannity is sweating with reason.