The Slatest

How Hannity Railed Against the Cohen Raid on Fox News

Hannity characterized the Cohen raid as Mueller declaring "a legal war on the President."
Hannity characterized the Cohen raid as Mueller declaring “a legal war on the President.”
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

Attorneys for Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen revealed on Monday that one of Cohen’s clients is Fox News commentator Sean Hannity. After this news became public, Hannity did what he could to downplay the connection. On his radio show, the host said the following:

Michael never represented me in any matter. I never retained him in the traditional sense as retaining a lawyer. I never received an invoice from Michael. I never paid legal fees to Michael. But, I have occasionally had brief discussions with him about legal questions, about which I wanted his input and perspective. And I assume those conversations were attorney-client confidential. 

Whatever specific form the relationship took, the revelation suggests that Hannity had a conflict of interest in discussing Cohen on his eponymous show, especially since the conservative pundit never disclosed that Cohen was one of his lawyers or that Cohen had ever given him legal advice.

Hannity has repeatedly blasted special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation on air for issuing a referral that led the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York to conduct a raid on Cohen’s office and hotel room on April 9. The news was a springboard for Hannity to further attack some of his usual targets, such as Hillary Clinton, the “fake news” media, and the deep state.

On the day of the raid, Hannity spent much of his opening monologue characterizing the Southern District office’s actions as a sign that “Mueller’s witch hunt investigation is now a runaway train.” Even though Mueller’s team technically did not order the search, Hannity nevertheless accused the special counsel of inappropriately expanding its purview beyond the question of Russian collusion.

Hannity portrayed Cohen then as a hapless victim of the deep state’s unruly plot to oust Trump at any cost. He told his viewers: “Cohen was never part of the Trump administration or the Trump campaign. This is officially an all-hands-on-deck effort to totally malign, and if possible, impeach the president of the United States.”

Later in the program, he complained of a double standard, asking why authorities hadn’t raided the offices of Hillary Clinton’s attorneys:

The Fox News host repeated these talking points in following days, discussing the Cohen raid for three days straight after the initial news broke. “Mueller basically backdoored his way into every single Trump business deal,” Hannity said on April 10, continually making the point that targeting Cohen was evidence that Mueller is on a mission to bring down the president any way he can.

To bolster his point, Hannity invited the likes of Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz onto the show to argue that the raid of Cohen’s domiciles was unconstitutional, and also former U.S. Attorney Joe diGenova, who asserted that the raid was grounds for Jeff Sessions to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

He was perhaps at his most extreme on April 10, when discussing the media’s coverage of Cohen and speculating that Mueller’s team had leaked information to reporters. Hannity said this: “Could it be that Mueller’s team is actually coordinating with the liberal media? These outlets to turn public opinion against President Trump? That helps their case. Maybe Mueller’s office and their emails, maybe they’ll get raided in pre-dawn hours, maybe we’ll see that happen.”

These are only a few examples of the many instances in which Hannity railed against the investigation into Cohen on the show without disclosing his potential personal interest in protecting his attorney as a self-identified “client.” Even if Hannity’s use of Cohen’s services was innocuous and “dealt almost exclusively about real estate,” as he claimed on Twitter, one has to wonder if Fox News will abide a nightly host regularly commenting on legal matters in which he is now personally—and very publicly—embroiled.

Aaron Mak writes about technology for Slate.