Fox News anchor Sean Hannity has been revealed to be Michael Cohen’s client. (Reuters: Mike Segar)
Sean Hannity was typically bellicose.
Framed by a portrait of Robert Mueller with the words “Mueller off the rails” behind him, the top-rated US cable news star raved on air about the Russia probe consuming President Donald Trump.
The Fox News anchor is a close friend of the President, and you could almost sense his personal outrage as he gathered steam for the trademark tirade that’s made him a broadcast force.
As he hit overdrive, a new picture emerged on screen with the word “Special” crossed out and the screen reading “Stormy Counsel Mueller”.
But it was an FBI raid on President Trump’s personal lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, that Hannity drove home as new evidence of the Mueller investigation’s shocking overreach.
Now, after revelations in a New York courtroom overnight, we know there was one thing missing from Hannity’s editorial — Mr Cohen is his lawyer too.
Michael Cohen is the attorney for Donald Trump and Sean Hannity. (Reuters: Stephanie Keith, file)
As if his friendship with the President didn’t colour his analysis already, Hannity had actually sought legal advice from Mr Cohen — the person he said was the victim of an unfair raid.
That the President and Hannity are very close — often dining together and in constant contact — is well known.
Hannity gets scoops and the President gets access to one of the most influential broadcasters in the country, a man who is now the biggest star at the highest-rating cable network in the country.
According to the New York Times, the pair share a common trait of only sleeping about four hours a night.
But those present in the packed courtroom say there were audible gasps when it was revealed Hannity and Mr Trump also share Mr Cohen as their lawyer.
The hearing came after an FBI raid on Mr Cohen a week ago, in which documents relating to a clandestine payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels were reportedly seized.
Both the President and his lawyer say the documents were protected under attorney-client privilege.
As well as being a personal protector of President Trump, Mr Cohen acted for a Republican official who paid $1.6 million to a Playboy playmate who became pregnant after an affair.
Throughout the hearings the court heard about a mystery third client beyond Mr Trump and the Republican official.
Mr Cohen’s lawyers argued to keep this client’s identity a secret, arguing this was a “prominent person” who would be “embarrassed” if they were identified.
The fact it was Hannity is a significant development — he’s one of the biggest names in news and connects with President Trump’s base, often leading the assault on the President’s enemies.
But having a personal connection to the story could strike a blow to his credibility — especially his attempts to cast the FBI’s pursuit of Mr Cohen as unjust.
Now the secret is out, Hannity says his interactions with Mr Cohen were trivial by comparison and related to informal verbal legal advice about real estate.
Hannity’s defence is that his involvement with Mr Cohen was so trifling it amounted to only $10.
He says he never formally retained Mr Cohen or received a bill from him.
Critics on Twitter are already compiling clips of the numerous times Hannity has defended Mr Cohen on the air — delivered without the disclaimer of personal interest considered ethical in journalism.
Mr Cohen thought it worthy of a declaration to the court, and the fact Hannity thought his viewers didn’t deserve the same courtesy goes to the heart of his problem.