The day after Fox News personality and fervent Donald Trump supporter Sean Hannity was named in a court as a client of Trump’s personal attorney and “fixer” Michael Cohen, a major news publication has connected Hannity to two more lawyers closely linked to Trump — including the lawyer who currently serves as Trump’s only legal representative in the Russia collusion investigation.
Tuesday’s stunning revelation comes on the same day that Fox News publicly stated its “full support” for Hannity, though he never disclosed that he was Cohen’s client even as he repeatedly defended Cohen on his nightly cable news broadcast, including after the April 9 FBI raids on offices and other properties occupied by Cohen.
“While Fox News was unaware of Sean Hannity’s informal relationship with Michael Cohen and was surprised by the announcement in court yesterday, we have reviewed the matter and spoken to Sean and he continues to have our full support,” the cable network’s statement issued Tuesday read.
The revelation of Hannity’s attorney-client relationship to Cohen came in a federal courtroom Monday by Cohen’s attorney, Stephen Ryan, during a hearing at which Cohen asked a judge to block federal prosecutors from reading documents seized in the April 9 raids. But Judge Kimba Wood denied the request and ordered Ryan to reveal the names of Cohen’s clients.
On Tuesday, the Atlantic report, which may be read online at this link, revealed that Hannity has been represented by Trump’s Russia lawyer Jay Sekulow and another lawyer who Trump attempted to hire for the Russia collusion investigation, Victoria Toensing.
According to the Atlantic report, both Sekulow and Toensing signed a cease-and-desist letter sent to an Oklahoma radio station last year, after the station aired accusations by conservative pundit Debbie Schlussel who accused Hannity on the air of behaving in a “creepy” manner toward her and attempting to lure her to his hotel room. Schlussel later issued a clarification saying that although Hannity acted “creepy,” he stopped short of sexually harassing her.
On May 25 of 2017, the station received the letter from Toensing and Sekulow, calling Schlussel’s statements about Hannity “false and defamatory” and demanding that the station never air them again, according to The Atlantic.
Sekulow has built his reputation largely as a conservative media pundit, hosting his own radio program and appearing as a frequent guest on Fox News and other news outlets. He is primarily known as an outspoken advocate for conservative evangelical Christian groups and causes. Though Sekulow is Jewish, he describes himself, according to The Washington Post, as a “Messianic Jew,” that is, a member of a sect that, though nominally Jewish, accepts the Christian belief in Jesus Christ as the literal messiah.
Despite his lack of experience in white collar — or any — criminal cases, however, Trump hired him to join his team of Russia investigation defense lawyers in the summer of last year — after Sekulow sent the cease-and-desist letter. After a string of high-profile departures, Sekulow is now the only attorney representing Trump personally in the Russia probe. Another lawyer, Ty Cobb, is also working on the Russia case, but though he reports to Trump, Cobb officially represents the administration rather than acting as a personal lawyer for Trump.
Toensing, along with her husband Joseph diGenova, was announced last month as the latest addition to Trump’s Russia legal team. But after about a week, he changed his mind and declined to hire the couple after all, citing legal conflicts. However, Trump said that he expected Toensing and diGenova to continue “working with” him nonetheless.
Both Toensing and Sekulow were identified in the radio station cease-and-desist letter as “Counsel for Sean Hannity,” according to The Atlantic. Both have been frequent guests on Hannity’s weeknight Fox News program. When The Atlantic asked a Fox News spokesperson for an example of Hannity disclosing his legal relationship to Toensing and Sekulow on the air, the spokesperson noted that on May 23, 2017 — two days before the date of the cease-and-desist letter — Hannity said on-air that Sekulow had “done legal work for me in the past.”
Toensing confirmed to the magazine that she represented Hannity in 2017, but declined to comment when asked if she continued to represent the prominent Fox News personality today.