Fox News host Sean Hannity, who has become known as perhaps the most ardent defender of Donald Trump in the major media, was revealed in a federal court on Monday as the previously mysterious “third client” of Trump’s personal lawyer and fixer Michael Cohen, according to multiple media reports. While the reasons why Hannity would have hired Cohen remain unclear, a little-known connection between Hannity and an international media consultant may link the Cohen-Hannity relationship back to the Russia collusion investigation.
Hannity issued a statement on Monday in which he appeared to deny that he was a client of Cohen, even after Cohen’s lawyers had revealed his name to a federal judge.
“Michael Cohen has never represented me in any matter. I never retained him, received an invoice, or paid legal fees. I have occasionally had brief discussions with him about legal questions about which I wanted his input and perspective,” Hannity said on his Twitter account. “I assumed those conversations were confidential, but to be absolutely clear they never involved any matter between me and a third-party.”
The link between Russia and Hannity was exposed by independent journalist Scott Stedman, who reported that one of Hannity’s former directors, Jack Hanick — who also claims to have been “on (the) start-up team for the Fox News Channel,” and that he was “Staff Director for the original look and feel of Fox News Channel” — left Fox to join with a top Russian oligarch in creating a right-wing, ultra-nationalist Russian TV network that has become known as “The Fox News of Russia.”
Hanick was a founding producer of Tsargrad TV, which went on the air in April of 2015, with Russian billionaire Konstantin Malofeev, who was described by The Financial Times as “one of (Russian President Vladimir) Putin’s loudest ideological supporters.” In fact, the 43-year-old Malofeev has been under United States sanctions since 2014, for financing pro-Russian separatist rebels in Crimea.
Tsargrad TV has featured pro-Trump conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, of the site InfoWars, and according to Stedman was the only Russian TV network to cover the 2016 visit to Russia by Trump’s then-adviser on foreign policy Carter Page — who has been named as a key figure in the Trump-Russia collusion scandal.
Page gave a controversial speech in Moscow, in which he spoke of the United States in sharply critical terms while praising the Russian government, a speech sponsored by the right-wing think-tank Katehon. Malofeev is the president of the Katehon organization.
“One of the founders of Fox News, Jack Hanick, moved to Moscow in 2012 and started a bizarre TV station with a terrorist financier, Konstantin Malofeev,” Stedman wrote, summarizing the Fox-Hannity-Russia link. “The TV station coincided with Trump’s run and featured Russian government officials. [Fox News Channel] won’t comment about Hanick.”
In 2016, Hanick converted along with his entire family, to Orthodox Christianity which is the predominant religion in Russia. Malofeev is a devout Orthodox Christian and the chief funder of the St. Basil the Great Charitable Foundation, Russia’s largest Orthodox Christian religious charity.
Hanick is also reportedly linked to another top Putin ally, Konstantin Rykov, a former member of Russia’s parliament in Putin’s United Russia Party, who bragged about Russia’s use of “two hacker groups” to help Donald Trump win the 2016 election. Rykov made the boast in a Facebook post just days after the election. Rykov invited Hanick to his election-night party in Moscow, celebrating Trump’s victory, and Hanick can be seen in a video of the event.
Hannity has never revealed his relationship to Cohen, even as he has repeatedly and forcefully defended Cohen on his Fox News TV show, and attacking the federal raids on Cohen, condemning Russia investigation Special Counsel Robert Mueller — who was not involved in the raids — as having “declared war” on Trump, and calling Mueller “corrupt,” all without informing his audience that he, himself, had sought legal counsel from Cohen.