A legal fight over what should happen to records the FBI seized from US President Donald Trump's personal attorney has taken a surprise twist, with Michael Cohen forced to reveal in court that he had also secretly done legal work for Fox News host Sean Hannity.
- Mr Cohen's lawyers did not reveal the type of work he did for Hannity
- Mr Cohen had already been forced to reveal Trump campaign fundraiser Elliot Broidy as a client
- Porn actress Stormy Daniels was swarmed by photographers on her way in, and nearly fell
The disclosure came as Mr 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.
US District Judge Kimba Wood said in hearings last week and again on Monday (local time) that if Mr 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 has worked with since the 2016 election.
One was, of course, Mr Trump himself.
Another was Elliot Broidy, a Trump fundraiser who resigned from the Republican National Committee late last week after it was revealed that he paid $US1.6 million ($2.05 million) to a Playboy Playmate with whom he had an extramarital affair.
The Playmate became pregnant and elected to have an abortion.
With Mr Cohen by their side, lawyers initially resisted revealing the name of the third client for privacy reasons.
But Judge Wood pressed on.
"I understand he doesn't want his name out there, but that's not enough under the law," she said.
Mr Cohen's lawyers did not detail the type of legal work he did for Hannity.
But on his radio show, Hannity said Mr 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. I had brief discussions with him about legal questions where I wanted his input and perspective."
Hannity, an outspoken supporter of Mr Trump, has been a fierce critic of special counsel Robert Mueller, who is looking into Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election.
Monday's hearing in New York began with an appearance by porn actress Stormy Daniels, who was swarmed by photographers and nearly fell as she was hustled into the courthouse, a scene that captured the sensational atmosphere around the case.
The last to enter court, she was among the first to leave. While in court, she smiled several times as she observed the proceedings from a folding chair near the back of the room.
Outside afterward, she said Mr Cohen has acted like he's above the law and that she and her lawyer are committed to making sure everyone learns the truth.
Judge considers who can look at seized documents
The April 9 raid on Mr Cohen sought information on a variety of matters, including a $US130,000 ($167,000) payment made to Daniels, who alleges she had sex with a married Mr Trump in 2006.
At issue is exactly who gets to look at Mr Cohen's seized documents and devices before they are turned over to prosecutors.
Attorneys for Mr Cohen say they want first crack.
Mr Trump's lawyers say they also want some form of prior review.
Another option is to set up a "special master" who will vet the material to determine what is protected and what isn't; that is Mr Cohen's team's second choice.
Prosecutors, who say they raided Mr 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 Mr Trump's longtime fixer and image protector.
People familiar with the probe said that agents were seeking bank records, records on Mr Cohen's dealing in the taxi industry, Mr Cohen's communications with the Trump campaign and information on payments made in 2016 to two women who say they had affairs with Mr Trump, former Playboy model Karen McDougal and the porn star Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford.
Lawyers for Mr Cohen filed papers saying investigators "took everything" during the raids, including more than a dozen electronic devices.
They said that prosecutors had already intercepted emails from Mr Cohen and executed the search warrants only after discovering that there were no emails between Mr Trump and Mr Cohen.
One of Mr Trump's lawyers, Joanna Hendon, asked the judge to block prosecutors from studying material seized in the raid until Mr Cohen and the President have both had a chance to review those materials and argue which are subject to the "sacred" attorney-client privilege.
"The seized materials relating to the President must be reviewed by the only person who is truly motivated to ensure that the privilege is properly invoked and applied: the privilege-holder himself, the President," Ms Hendon wrote in court papers filed on Sunday.
But Judge Wood denied a request by Ms Hendon that the President and Mr Cohen get the first crack at designating which documents should be off-limits to investigators.
As a first step, the judge said the Government should put the documents in a searchable database to determine which should come under review.
Mr Trump, who was in Florida on Monday (local time), said all lawyers are now "deflated and concerned" by the FBI raid on Mr Cohen.
"Attorney Client privilege is now a thing of the past," he tweeted Sunday.
"I have many (too many!) lawyers and they are probably wondering when their offices, and even homes, are going to be raided with everything, including their phones and computers, taken. All lawyers are deflated and concerned!"