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Hannity: Michael Cohen Never Represented Me in Any Legal Matter; White House and Comey Face Off Over Tell-All Book. Aired 6- 6:30a ET

Aired April 17, 2018 - 06:00   ET



SEAN HANNITY, FOX NEWS HOST: I did have occasional, brief conversations with Michael Cohen.

[05:59:43] UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The U.S. attorney is now going to hand over all of those seized documents to Michael Cohen.

STORMY DANIELS, ALLEGES AFFAIR WITH DONALD TRUMP: He has never thought women like me mattered. That ends now.

JAMES COMEY, FORMER FBI DIRECTOR: At least in my experience, he won't criticize Vladimir Putin, and that struck me.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: James Comey is a disgruntled, discredited, disgraced individual.

ABBY PHILLIP, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: It's going to be pretty challenging for them to keep a lid on the president who is overflowing with anger toward Comey.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There was no yelling. There was no aggression. They were sitting there like anybody else.

KEVIN JOHNSON, CEO, STARBUCKS: The circumstances surrounding the incident and the outcome in our store were reprehensible.


ANNOUNCER: This is NEW DAY with Chris Cuomo and Alisyn Camerota.

CHRIS CUOMO, CNN ANCHOR: Welcome to our viewers in the United States and around the world, this is your NEW DAY, Tuesday, April 17, 6 a.m. here in New York. And here's the starting line.

A significant move in the government case against Trump's personal attorney. A federal judge says investigators cannot go through any materials seized until lawyers for the president and Michael Cohen review them, to make a case if any should be excluded because of the attorney-client privilege.

Now, adding to the tabloid-like drama, porn star Stormy Daniels was at the hearing as Cohen's legal team was ordered to reveal the identity of his third unnamed client. Turns out that it is one of the president's staunchest supporters, FOX News host Sean Hannity.

Now, given Hannity's repeated full-throated attacks on Mueller's investigation, should Hannity have disclosed his relationship with Cohen?

ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN ANCHOR: And the fired FBI director, James Comey, continues his book tour blitz today. Comey, who was the nation's top law enforcement official, tells NPR that the president's call to have him jailed is, quote, "not normal." And he fears Americans will become numb to the president's ongoing threats.

As for policy, the Trump administration is reversing course on a new round of sanctions against Russia. The president's ambassador to the U.N., Nikki Haley, announced on Sunday that it would impose sanctions on Russian companies for assisting Syria's chemical weapons program. So what happened?

We have a lot to cover today. Let's begin with Brynn Gingras. She is on the legal showdown over Michael Cohen's records, Brynn. What a day yesterday.

BRYNN GINGRAS, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Really a bombshell day. That's right, Alisyn. An escalating legal showdown over seized records from Michael Cohen's office, his home and hotel room.

And a stunning revelation in court about who his unknown client is. A lot of developments in the criminal investigation into President Trump's personal attorney.


GINGRAS (voice-over): A federal judge rejecting a motion by President Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, to stop investigators from reviewing records seized by the FBI last week when they raided Cohen's home, office and hotel room.

CNN has learned that federal agents took ten boxes of documents and as many as a dozen electronic devices from Cohen. Sources tell CNN they could include records related to the hush-money payment Cohen made to porn star Stormy Daniels to keep quiet about her alleged affair with President Trump.

The judge allowing Cohen's and Trump's legal teams to determine what they believe should be protected under attorney-client privilege before investigators go through it. The judge indicating she may be open to allowing an independent lawyer to review the records.

The legal showdown overshadowed by a bombshell revelation in court. Audible gasps when the judge ordered Cohen's attorney to reveal the identity of his third unnamed client as one of the president's most ardent supporters, FOX News host, Sean Hannity.

Cohen's two other clients, President Trump and Republican fundraiser Elliott Broidy, who acknowledged paying a Playboy model $1.6 million, a deal Cohen arranged. In response to the media frenzy, Hannity denies retaining Cohen as an

attorney but admits that seeking his legal advice about what he says were mostly real-estate matters.

HANNITY: Michael Cohen never represented me in any legal matter. I never retained his services. I never received an invoice. I never paid Michael Cohen for legal fees.

GINGRAS: But earlier on his radio show, the FOX News host suggesting those conversations were protected under attorney-client privilege.

HANNITY: I might have handed him ten bucks. 'I definitely want attorney-client privilege on this,' something like that.

GINGRAS: On a nightly basis, Hannity repeatedly blasts the special counsel's investigation.

HANNITY: We have now entered a dangerous new phase, and there's no turning back from this. Mueller is out to get the president and it appears at any cost. This is now officially an all-hands-on-deck effort to totally malign and, if possible, impeach the president of the United States.

GINGRAS: But Hannity has never disclosed his connection to Cohen. Law professor Alan Dershowitz schooled Hannity last night on his show.

ALAN DERSHOWITZ, LAW PROFESSOR: You could have said just that you would ask him for advice or whatever, but I think it would have been much, much better, had you disclosed that relationship.

GINGRAS: The drama didn't stop there. Stormy Daniels swarmed by the press as she walked into the courthouse. Daniels telling reporters after --

DANIELS: For years Mr. Cohen has acted like he is above the law. That ends now. My attorney and I are committed to making sure that everyone finds out the truth and the facts of what happened, and I give my word that we will not rest until that happens.

[06:05:15] GINGRAS: Her attorney, shocked by the Hannity revelation, now says it's just a matter of time before Cohen turns on the president.

MICHAEL AVENATTI, ATTORNEY FOR STORMY DANIELS: If I had to place a bet right now on the sun coming up tomorrow or Michael Cohen ultimately flipping on the president, I would bet on Michael Cohen flipping on the president.


GINGRAS: Now, the U.S. attorney's office says it's been working on this criminal investigation into Cohen's business dealings for months, but now a bit of slow down as investigators can't look at those seized documents until all parties meet again in court, which could be weeks from now -- Alisyn and Chris.

CUOMO: Brynn, thank you very much.

Let's discuss. We've got great legal minds for you. We have analysts Carrie Cordero and Areva Martin.

So Areva, let's look at what this meant and for whom yesterday, right? Cohen arguably had a pretty good day. He didn't get everything he wanted. He didn't get his temporary restraining order. There's no preliminary injunction, but he did come out of there with a stoppage on any movement and a chance to review materials. That's something.

AREVA MARTIN, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, he got something. He wanted everything. He wanted the court to prevent the FBI, the Department of Justice from reviewing the documents that were seized. He didn't get that, but he does get a chance to review what was taken from his office, which is a little strange since it was taken from his office. You would think, given that he only had three or so clients that we know of now, that he would know what documents that were seized.

I think the biggest thing that happened yesterday was this drama over who that third client was. The lawyer back and forth. We -- if you looked at the transcript, almost 20 minutes, we are told from reporters that were inside that courtroom, that it took before Cohen's lawyer finally said in open court that that third client was Sean Hannity.

And that was remarkable, because the judge seemingly suggested that he could have given it to her on a piece of paper. Perhaps she would have not read it in open court. She may have reviewed it in camera. So at some point the lawyer decided to just blurt out in open court that it was Sean Hannity.

CAMEROTA: And by the way, we don't even know if Sean Hannity is really a client.


CAMEROTA: Since Sean Hannity says, "I never gave him any money. I never gave Michael Cohen any money. I never retained his legal services. Occasionally, I would bounce some ideas off of him. I'd run a couple of legal issues by him. So what does this mean? Is he a client or not? Is he protected by attorney-client privileges or not? Are the documents that were seized going to reveal something about Sean Hannity or not?

CARRIER CORDERO, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Well, so the question with respect to Sean Hannity is what was the legal relationship, if any? And really for the individuals that Michael Cohen is asserting privilege over, were they actually legitimate clients? Because it's the client that owns the privilege, not the lawyer.

CAMEROTA: OK. Then Sean Hannity says that they -- that he wasn't a client.

CORDERO: He did.

CAMEROTA: And no privilege, right? CORDERO: And so if his -- what he tweeted one thing that he tweeted

yesterday was that "Michael Cohen has never represented me in a legal matter."

CUOMO: Concerning a third party.

CORDERO: Well, but he also just said, "He hasn't represented me in a matter."

CUOMO: He also said that "I thought I had a privilege with him."

CORDERO: He said he thought he had a privilege.

CUOMO: "Because I talked to him about certain legal things. I assumed that we had a confidence." We'll see what happens.

CAMEROTA: Is that wrong?

CORDERO: That's not really the way, though, that a lawyer in practice has a relationship with a client. There has to be a normal, legitimate practicing lawyer would have a letter between the client and the lawyer that says, "You are hiring me to represent you in this." These are the things --

CUOMO: Engagement letter.

CORDERO: Yes, an engagement letter or a retention letter. These are the things that I'm going to be representing you.

CAMEROTA: You think from where you're sitting no privilege exists?

CORDERO: It's not -- based on -- if the statements that I saw from Hannity yesterday are accurate statements, I don't think it looks like there's any legal privilege between them. You can't just take somebody to Starbucks and talk about legal stuff, and that does not create a legal client relationship.

CUOMO: The casual nature of the way Sean Hannity is discussing this doesn't suggest that he's worried about what materials there may be exist. He's got a bigger concern. Which is he never told anybody that he had this kind of relationship with Michael Cohen, even though he has been defending Cohen vigorously, and he has been attacking anything to do with any type of investigation of Cohen, should he have disclosed.

MARTIN: Oh, absolutely. And you're right, Chris. There are two things at work here. Sean Hannity is trying to protect his journalistic integrity, to the extent that anyone believes he has any. Because Alan Dershowitz, one of his stark commentators, took him to task for not disclosing that he was the client of Michael Cohen.

CUOMO: Does it matter if he's a journalist?

MARTIN: Well, I think it matters, if he's a journalist. You're a journalist. Your interview, your public, your viewers would want to know if we have an attorney-client relationship. CAMEROTA: These are our rules. We have rules. We have standards and

practices. We have to disclose.

CUOMO: But what if you're not a journalist. It could still happen.

MARTIN: I think that's important.

CAMEROTA: We don't know if he's a journalist. He has both things.

CUOMO: I think it's a red herring. If you are on television and you have an audience, and you represent a news organization, you have a duty to disclose things that could sniff of conflict, right? The conflict bar is very low. It's an appearance of a conflict. It's a semblance of impropriety. You're supposed to say things almost protectively, even if they're not necessary Carrie.

MARTIN: And that's what Sean is trying to protect. Keep in mind what Michael Cohen's lawyer is trying to do is something very different. He needs to show the judge that he is a legitimate lawyer with legitimate clients. And that's a very high bar for him, since we know he calls himself a fixer, and we know that most of the work he probably does for any individual has more to do with business and not legal work that would be protected by the attorney-client privilege.

CUOMO: Is "fixer" a fair word to use?

CAMEROTA: He uses it.

MARTIN: He uses it. It's his definition of what he does for individuals. I'm not going to call them clients, because then you conjure up this image.

CUOMO: Michael Cohen says he's a fixer?

MARTIN: Michael Cohen says himself that he is a fixer. And that's not protected by attorney-client. Fixer relationships.

CORDERO: If Sean Hannity had a legitimate attorney-client relationship, and he was concerned -- and there was something in Michael Cohen's materials that needed to be protected, it would have been Sean Hannity who had a lawyer in the proceeding yesterday who would have been asserting his rights as the client. The fact that he didn't have that, I think again sort of falls into that side.

CUOMO: Yes. He doesn't seem that concerned. Now similarly, the president of the United States had a lawyer there yesterday. They made an application.

CORDERO: Right. Because they were asserting an interest.

CUOMO: And it was interesting because you have a dove tail. You have a very weird situation here legally, where the president's lawyer has separate counsel than the president himself in this actual matter, even though Cohen, his lawyer is trying to protect him as well and will now share information with his lawyer. So it's a little convoluted. Kimba Wood handled it very easily. But the prosecutors had an interesting counter. So Cohen's lawyers, the president's lawyers, say, "We need to look at this. Could be privileged. We have to look at it."

The prosecutor says, "We found no communications between Cohen and the president of the United States or even then as citizen Trump. So there is no issue." That was an interesting twist.

MARTIN: And they even said that the bulk of what they are looking at or plan to look at has to do with Michael Cohen's personal business dealings, not his relationship with Donald Trump or any of his clients. So the prosecutors are making the argument, "Your honor, we don't need to be worried about revealing or disclosing attorney-client information, because this is about Michael Cohen, the businessman.

CUOMO: So what about the argument --

MARTIN: The business relationships that he has.

CUOMO: -- that you need to have a higher bar. You need to have more sensitivity because the president is involved. Technically, is he if they don't have any communications between the two?

CORDERO: Well, so there's two ways that they would determine that. They'd look at the ten boxes of material, which really isn't that much. Agents and investigators can get through that quickly, or the court could -- could get through that. But then there's the electronic stuff. So then they're going to look through and do a search. You know, did they find any communications that would be, like, to or from and from what we know, the president isn't an e-mail sender, so there's probably nothing there.

Questions about whether Michael Cohen had recordings, notes of phone calls, things like that, that would potentially fall into a gray area. But look, this court can't -- it's not like this is the first case that this court has ever handled dealing with the attorney-client privilege. This is something it's not -- it doesn't happen necessarily every day, but it happens from time to time.

And so, the court is going to consider whether or not she's going to appoint a special master and is going to handle this in a way that protects the integrity of the proceeding.

MARTIN: Which Trump attorney says they don't want. They only want the president to review these materials, not a special master.

CUOMO: And that's not going to happen.

MARTIN: That's not going to happen.

CAMEROTA: All right. Areva Martin, Carrie Cordero, thank you very much for all the legal expertise.

So the White House and the RNC are dialing up their attacks on fired FBI director James Comey, but Comey keeps punching back, as his media blitz goes full-throttle today. So CNN's Abby Phillip is live in West Palm Beach, Florida, with more.

What's happening there, Abby?

PHILLIP: Well, good morning, Alisyn. James Comey's book officially is released today, but this war of words between him and the president has been going on for some days.

The president spent the weekend tweeting angrily about Comey's book, and Comey in a series of interviews, has explained why he believes the president is a liar.

But in one of those tweets from President Trump, he actually suggested jail time for the former FBI director. And here is what James Comey said in response to that in a recent NPR interview.

He said, "The president of the United States just tweeted that private citizens should be jailed. And I think the reaction most of us had was, man, it's another one of those things. This is not normal. This is not OK. There's a danger that we become numb to it, and we will stop noticing the threats to our norms."

So Comey is ratcheting up the criticism of the president, even as this book tour really is just starting to kick off.

Meanwhile, the White House has said that James Comey has lost all credibility and that they find it hard to believe that people would take his book at face value.

President Trump here is in -- in Mar-a-Lago at his resort here down the street. He's expected to greet, the Japanese prime minister, Shinzo Abe, today. And they're expected to do a couple of days here of a summit on a series of issues, but at the top of the list here is this upcoming meeting with North Korea's Kim Jong-un.

And the president also says he wants to talk to Shinzo Abe about trade and the Transpacific Partnership, so there are a lot of issues here. But clearly, the White House has the president down here with a full agenda as this Comey media blitz continues, Alisyn and Chris.

CAMEROTA: Thank you, Abby.

CUOMO: All right. So the White House is on the attack, lashing out at the fired FBI director and really their assault is based on one simple principle. The man on your screen cannot be believed. We have much more of what Comey is saying next.


CAMEROTA: The bitter feud between fired FBI Director James Comey and the president who fired him shows no sign of letting up as the Comey media blitz for his new book continues.

In an NPR interview just out, Comey says the FBI would be worse off today if not for his actions.

Let's discuss with Chris Cillizza, CNN Politics reporter and editor at large; and CNN political analyst John Avlon.

So John, we have a lot of excerpts. Do you know what he means by saying that the FBI would be worse off? Because it doesn't seem like the FBI is in good shape today --


[06:20:04] CAMEROTA: -- in terms of the president going after it, in terms of their reputation appearing to possibly be tarnished, all of that stuff.

AVLON: Yes. It appears that he's projecting into the alternate reality where Hillary Clinton is president, and people find out that the FBI hadn't divulged that, for example, Anthony Wiener's computer had been seized and there were classified e-mails on it, calling into question the, you know, validity of her presidency, whether the FBI was somehow colluding with them by suppressing information. And the whole spectre of a Democrat being in power in the White House helping another Democrat.

What we know instead happened, is that President Obama and, apparently, James Comey were exquisitely sensitive about the appearance of favoritism. So much so that, of course, Comey infamously violated a certain degree of procedure under the assumption that Hillary would win, and that information would need to be out there to keep her -- the integrity of the presidency alive.

CUOMO: All right. So Chris, you have his rationale. You also have the stakes. OK? So we have his audio book now. And part of this stakes analysis is what Trump would like to see happen with Comey and Comey's feelings about that.

Let's play an excerpt. Oh, full screen. I thought we had the audio book.

All right. "The president of the United States just tweeted that a private citizen should be jailed." Well, this wouldn't be part of the audio book. I'm an idiot. And then, "I think the reaction of most of us is was, meh, it's another one of those things. This is not normal. This is not OK."

So, James Comey -- there's a danger that we will become numb to it and we will stop noticing the threats to our norm. So Cillizza, Comey is weighing in on something that is an ongoing point of analysis that this is all new. We don't see presidents attack and actively try to undermine the institutions of our democracy, let alone just doing so for personal gain. He doesn't have a legitimate gripe with James Comey when it comes to what the FBI did to him.

Now, if he were Hillary Clinton, this may make more sense. But how does this play to you?

CHRIS CILLIZZA, CNN POLITICS CORRESPONDENT AND EDITOR AT LARGE: Well, first of all, let me use my analytical mind to say you are not an idiot. So that's point one. Point two, look, Donald Trump engages in lots of ad hominum attacks.

This is different than anything we have ever seen before from a president of the United States.

Yes, oftentimes, you would see Barack Obama be annoyed. I remember very distinctly when the grand bargain fell apart earlier this decade, that Obama had a very angry press conference where he denounced John Boehner and basically said that John Boehner, the then speaker of the House, wasn't dealing in good faith.

Boehner had a similar press conference attacking Obama, but it was over policy, and it was with two people who are elected officials. It was never personal. No one called anyone else a slime ball. No one said a liar and a leaker.

And I do think James Comey has a point. I mean, I think the biggest norm that Donald Trump violates is, yes, the name calling is one. But I think the truth telling or lack thereof.

AVLON: Sure.

CILLIZZA: Is the more important one.

AVLON: But I want to actually press this point, because the point Comey is making that I think we are -- there's A danger of normalization. Is the president calling for the jailing of his political opponents. This has been a constant theme since the campaign -- lock her up. It is continued in the presidency, now directed most recently at James Comey. This is not in the universe of normal in American politics.

However, it is something we have seen in other countries at different times. And that's why we need to not normalize it. You're talking about Barack Obama being irritated when the grand bargain fell apart. That was pretty irritating. Now, we've got trillion-dollar deficits. But irritation and debates over policy are something totally different.

Even fun weird fact, at the height of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln never criticized Jefferson Davis in personal terms. He made a point of that. Now the fact that this president calls for the jailing of his political opponents on a routine basis is troubling, and we shouldn't normalize it. And in this case, Comey's right.

CAMEROTA: That's a fun historical fact. You're right.

CUOMO: The Lincoln Douglas debates got pretty nasty, though.

AVLON: Oh, they did. Hit you with a large --

CAMEROTA: Here is James Comey talking to NPR about Rod Rosenstein and whether the deputy attorney general should be fired by the president. Here it is with respect to the deputy attorney general. I think it is very important that he stay. Because I do think he has conducted himself honorably with respect to his appointment of a special counsel and his assertion of that special counsel's work to the rule of law.

And so I really do think it would be an attack on the rule of law for him to be fired or for the special counsel to be fired.

Go ahead, Chris.

CILLIZZA: I mean, not surprising. Though he does also note that he thinks Rod Rosenstein was deeply irresponsible by writing that memo that Trump, at least ostensibly used at the start to justify the firing of -- of Jim Comey. Obviously, he later told Lester Holt that the Russia thing had something to do with it.

Look, I don't think there's any way around the fact that firing Rod Rosenstein is a way at either hamstringing or getting to the point of firing Bob Mueller. It seems to me there's a direct line there.

[06:25:13] I know there's been some reporting by CNN and others saying, "Well, the White House is trying to build a case that Rosenstein deserves to be fired, apart from -- it has nothing to do with the Mueller probe."

CUOMO: That was interesting yesterday.

CILLIZZA: Not possible. You can't make -- that case is not sellable to any independent observer.

CUOMO: How about this case, though? How about the president and his surrogates, namely senior counselor, Kellyanne Conway, coming on and saying, "Hey, do you guys remember how great Rosenstein is and the memo that he wrote about James Comey? Why don't you put back up there what Rosenstein did and help the American people? That Rosenstein, he did the right thing."

When all this talk has been about getting rid of him. But then when we ask Kellyanne, "So I guess Rosenstein's OK. I mean, if he's your big hammer against James Comey, his job must be safe."

She was like, "Christopher."

Anyway, here's a montage of some of the defenses of the president by way of attacking James Comey from Kellyanne yesterday.


KELLYANNE CONWAY, COUNSELOR TO DONALD TRUMP: Well, the president thinks that Jim Comey is engaging in revisionist history. Jim Comey loves to be in the center of power. He loves to divert the spotlight to himself and be in the center of power.

By the way, there are parts of book that haven't been covered where he goes after Condoleezza Rice, Loretta Lynch. What's his problem with powerful women doing their jobs? I wonder.

This guy went from being a public servant to a public relations spin artist. He went from being an investigator to an instigator.


AVLON: You've got to love the projections. It's so good. I mean the problems with powerful women. I mean, he's an instigator. He loves being the center of attention. I mean, there is a sort of inculcation or a projection strategy on the part of this White House. It's amazing.

CILLIZZA: Can I just make one point? Look, I think there's plenty that Jim Comey could have left out of the book. I know in that NPR interview, he says, "I was trying to be writerly. That's why I put in Donald Trump's hair, I put in the size of his hands." But nothing that Comey -- sure, he wants to be the center of attention, but is what he is saying about those conversations accurate or inaccurate? He has contemporaneous notes about them. Those things are what's important at the end of the day, not what he thinks of Donald Trump's hair. And that -- you can't get too distracted from that stuff.

CUOMO: When he says that kind of stuff, which is unnecessary and beneath the dignity of what he's supposed to represent, he makes it easier for President Trump to make this a battle of egos and ugly talk.

CILLIZZA: But it doesn't -- it doesn't --

CUOMO: That is why, whether it's writerly, whether it sells books, I hear you, Chris. But this guy isn't a typical author. He represents something in terms of an institution of our democracy. And now he's playing Trump's game, in a way.

CAMEROTA: OK. We have to end it there. You don't even get a response, Chris Cillizza.

CUOMO: It was such a perfect point.

CAMEROTA: Yes. NO response needed.

CUOMO: Gnashing of teeth.


CAMEROTA: John Avlon, we will hear a lot more from James Comey today. On Thursday, he sits down with Jake Tapper live on the lead at 4 p.m.

CUOMO: I still hear his teeth gnashing.

CAMEROTA: I do, too. And his hands were --

CUOMO: G-N is how that word is spelled. Who knew?

All right. A tough new round of sanctions against Russia was announced by Ambassador Nikki Haley. However, the man on the other part of your screen didn't sit too well with him. So, are the sanctions going to happen or not? Here we go again. Next.