President Donald Trump’s longtime personal attorney and confidant Michael Cohen revealed in a New York City court hearing on Monday that Fox News host Sean Hannity was one of his clients.
Cohen was in court as his lawyers sought an emergency action to stop prosecutors from reviewing devices and documents seized during an FBI raid last week of Cohen’s office, home and hotel room as part of an ongoing criminal investigation.
Cohen’s lawyers only named Hannity after pressure from federal Judge Kimba Wood. “I understand if he doesn’t want his name out there, but that’s not enough under the law,” Wood declared after Cohen tried to protect the identity of his client, who Cohen said asked not to be named publicly, according to the BBC. Hannity has denied that he ever retained Cohen as a lawyer.
Hannity, who’s known for his vocal support of Trump on his Fox News show, first admitted in a statement to The Wall Street Journal: “We have been friends a long time. I have sought legal advice from Michael.”
Hannity’s radio show started with dead air Monday afternoon just minutes after his connection to Cohen was revealed in court, according to Newsweek and Think Progress’ Zack Ford. Hannity finally broke the silence by saying, “I think it’s pretty funny,” before pivoting to discuss former FBI Director James Comey’s wide-ranging ABC interview from Sunday.
Hannity later backtracked and denied he was ever Cohen’s client.
“Michael Cohen has never represented me in any matter. I never retained him, received an invoice, or paid legal fees,” Hannity said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE. “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 also made the same statement on Twitter and added that he “did not ask Michael Cohen to bring this proceeding on my behalf.”
The FBI raided Cohen’s office, home and hotel room last Monday, seizing records related to the $130,000 payment he admitted making to porn star Stormy Daniels in October 2016, which she said was used to silence her claims of an affair with Trump. The White House has denied the affair ever happened.
Also last week, The Wall Street Journal reported that Cohen had arranged a $1.6 million payment to a former Playboy model, allegedly to silence her about a sexual relationship with a major Republican fundraiser, Elliott Broidy. Broidy responded by resigning as deputy finance chair of the Republican National Committee and admitting that he “had a consensual relationship with a Playboy Playmate.”
“At the end of our relationship, this woman shared with me that she was pregnant,” he said in a statement to the Journal. “She alone decided that she did not want to continue with the pregnancy and I offered to help her financially during this difficult period.”
Michael Cohen (left), Donald Trump and Stormy Daniels
Daniels also attended Monday’s court hearing with her lawyer, Michael Avenatti, and turned heads as she took a seat in the galley, the New York Post reported.
Daniels is suing Cohen for defamation and has claimed the nondisclosure agreement she signed is invalid because the president never signed it.
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CNN’s Jake Tapper addressed the Hannity revelation as he opened his Monday newscast, saying: “Stormy Daniels comes face to face with President Trump’s so-called fixer as the fixer’s lawyers, Michael Cohen’s lawyers, drop a name that rocks the courtroom, a client’s name — Fox News’s Sean Hannity.”
“So, Tapper asked, “what did Hannity do that needed fixing?”