It’s Not Hannity’s Pee Tape that Matters

Late afternoon on Sunday, Margaret Sullivan wrote a column arguing that Donald Trump might survive his own Saturday Night Massacre of firing Rod Rosenstein or Robert Mueller. The reason Trump might survive where Nixon didn’t, she argues, is Sean Hannity.

Nixon didn’t have Fox News in his corner.

President Trump does — and that might make all the difference if he were to fire Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein or even special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

The pro-Trump media, led by Fox, would give cover, and huge swaths of Americans would be encouraged to believe that the action was not only justified but absolutely necessary.

You can see it coming.

Night after night — for many months — Trump’s sycophant-in-chief, Sean Hannity, has been softening the ground. And his message is sinking in.

In a recent Reuters/Ipsos poll, three of four Republicans said they believed the Justice Department and the FBI are actively working to undermine Trump.

“Hannity has been poisoning the well for Mueller’s ‘deeply corrupt’ investigation and laying the groundwork to support the president if he seeks an authoritarian recourse,” wrote Matthew Gertz, of the progressive watchdog group Media Matters for America. That was back in October.

Six months, five convictions and more than a dozen indictments later, that poison has done its job.

Less than 24 hours later, Michael Cohen’s lawyer revealed the name of the third client to whom Cohen claimed to have provided legal advice he wanted to protect under attorney-client privilege, a person who — Cohen had claimed in a brief Sunday, hadn’t wanted his name disclosed. “The client’s name that is involved is Sean Hannity.

In response to the ensuing uproar over learning he was the hidden Client 3, Hannity offered a series of contradictory statements, presumably designed to tamp down any speculation that Cohen had negotiated a hush payment for the star, but which only served to make Cohen’s legal claims more specious.

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.

I assumed those conversations were confidential, but to be absolutely clear they never involved any matter between me and a third-party.

In response to some wild speculation, let me make clear that I did not ask Michael Cohen to bring this proceeding on my behalf, I have no personal interest in this proceeding, and, in fact, asked that my de minimis discussions with Michael Cohen, which dealt almost exclusively about real estate, not be made a part of this proceeding.

As I joked, Hannity said he had eight lawyers. I wonder which three different lawyers wrote these statements, and whether one of them was the other lawyer he shares with Donald Trump, Jay Sekulow.

So Cohen advised Hannity “almost exclusively about real estate,” which in this crowd sometimes means money laundering, and not about buying off Playboy bunnies.

But what are the other conversations about?

Hannity has played even more of a role in protecting Trump than Sullivan makes out. It’s not just that he fed the uproar over Trump’s lawyer being raided. But he did an interview with Julian Assange in January 2017 that helped seed the narrative that Russia didn’t hand the DNC files to Wikileaks. More grotesquely, Hannity fed the conspiracy theories about Seth Rich (I hope the multiple entities that are suing Hannity over that will demand discovery on any claimed privileged conversations about the topic with Trump’s lawyer).

Sure, the matters on which Cohen purportedly gave legal advice to Hannity might be about buying a condo.

But given the effort Cohen made to protect those conversations from the eyes of the FBI, they also might involve coordination on some of the more insidious pushback on the Russian story.

114 replies
  1. James Hester says:

    Just follow the Ukrainian connection from late 1990s. Cohen and his brother’s Ukrainian wives/rich in laws, buying real estates in NYC, also in T-Towers, etc, etc… Follow the money (money laundering and influence peddling). The rest, Russia gate, Hannity escapades let it be sex or political, is a side show/ distraction. Keeping the media in constant organismic state. If the Southern District court is as independent as it is claimed then we may have some truth out. Fingers crossed.

    • matt says:

      “The rest, Russia gate, Hannity escapades- let it be sex or political- is a side show/ distraction. Keeping the media in constant organismic state.”

      Exactly.  What if, as everybody already knows, Trump is buried deep financial crimes and sex scandals… but it turns out, no collusion.  What if the Russian Hackers were contracted by CA/Mercer.  I mean, seriously… no body has answered (or even asked) how the Russian trolls got the CA data to run the election ads on FB.

      Even more interesting from the Emma Briant articles @Trip posted yesterday what if Black Cube was involved in the DNC email hack? Looks like a CA connected firm has played that game before:

      “The data analytics firm that worked on the Donald Trump election campaign was offered material from Israeli hackers who had accessed the private emails of two politicians who are now heads of state, witnesses have told the Guardian.”


        • matt says:

          Thanks, that article was above my head.  Zuckerburg said that he could not rule out CA hiring Internet Research Agency.  CA/IAQ made the algorithms/ stole the data… but IRA/GRU used that data to buy the FB ads- right?  And, what are you thoughts on the Black Cube Israeli Hackers as sub-contractors for CA?

        • JD12 says:

          I had that page bookmarked but didn’t read it yet.

          Was it just bad opsec or is it possible they left those files unsecured in case they needed to deny working with IRA? Weren’t they found by Vickery after the channel 4 expose was already out?

        • matt says:

          OK, I get it now.  I apologize if this was already obvious.  I do appreciate the incredible knowledge of folks at EW.

          Security firm UpGuard claims that it found a large code repository from AggregateIQ (AIQ), a Canadian political data firm also active in the 2016 US presidential race, left publicly downloadable online.

          So, any rouge hacking group Black Cube, IRA, Nigerians…  could have used the data, and CA has plausible deniability.

  2. Rapier says:

    Cohen talks to a lot of people. Why are only the other two and Hannity proclaimed to be clients in court? I mean that as a serious question about the exact meaning of the word client under the law. I’ll presume there is something in the seized records that made it necessary to call Hannity a client. in court. If it isn’t a bill or an invoice what could it be? Again somebody fill us in. Is some signed document needed? 100 hours of taped conversations or a directory with 100’s of emails still would not necessarily mean “client” would it? It must be something beyond just sloppiness. As I said, Cohen talks to a lot of people.

    • KM says:

      I’ll presume there is something in the seized records that made it necessary to call Hannity a client, in court.

      Of course.  Which is a completely different criterion for calling someone your “client” from this:

      the exact meaning of the word client under the law.


        • KM says:

          My point was just that I doubt Cohen has any particular concern with what the exact meaning of the word “client” under the law is, or that this is what’s motivating his designation of the Big 3 as his “clients”.  Plus, his whole “practice” is so (deliberately) loosey-goosey and blurs so many lines in so many ways that I’d assume establishing a genuine fact of the matter will be genuinely difficult.  This is a feature, not a bug.

          I imagine his real reason is precisely what you said:  “there is something in the seized records that made it necessary to call Hannity a client”.  But not something that made it objectively necessary to designate Hannity as a client by the standards of the law.  Something that made it essential to Cohen (and Hannity, and perhaps others) that Hannity get called a “client” so that privilege could be asserted.

  3. Archy says:

    Is it possible that Cohen created such a “brilliant scheme”, where there was “no trail” to real people (“David Dennison”?) and “no trail” to any real money (he’s just so good to his friends, he often pays things like $130000 out of his own pockets)? And should anyone ask, it’s just about real estate questions and there were never any legal fees. Really?
    Guess he just never got around to advertising it on TV with an 800 number.

  4. Trip says:

    The Wheeler (not Marcy) Lawsuit:
    In the lawsuit—which was first reported by NPR—Wheeler alleges that Fox News, the Trump White House, and Ed Butowsky, a wealthy Trump supporter and unpaid Fox News commentator, worked together to use Rich’s murder to cast doubt on the conclusion by U.S. intelligence agencies that the D.N.C. was hacked by Russia. “Rod Wheeler unfortunately was used as a pawn by Ed Butowsky, Fox News, and the Trump administration to try and steer away the attention that was being given about the Russian hacking of the D.N.C. e-mails,” Douglas Wigdor, Wheeler’s lawyer, told NPR.

    According to court documents, Butowsky texted multiple messages to Wheeler’s phone telling him how he should frame the story. Part of one message read:
    [t]he narrative in the interviews you might use is that your and Malia’s work prove that the Russians didn’t hack into the DNC and steal the emails and impact our election
    A text message allegedly sent from Butowsky to Wheeler on 14 May 2017 reads:
    Not to add any more pressure but the president [Donald Trump] just read the article. He wants the article out immediately. It’s now all up to you. But don’t feel the pressure

    Sean Hannity says he will drop the Seth Rich conspiracy theory and stay at Fox News

    Julian Assange Offered Hannity Impersonator ‘News’ About Top Democrat
    The head of Wikileaks told @SeanHannity__ to seek ‘other channels’ for information on Sen. Mark Warner of the Trump-Russia investigation. ‘@SeanHannity__’ was a woman in Texas.

    But were Hannity and Butowsky actually coloring outside of the Fox News lines? Or did Murdoch provide the crayons and paper?

    Ofcom has concerns about Murdoch power in UK if Sky bid allowed
    Concerns, too, were raised about the impact of Murdoch titles on the political process. Ofcom said that buying Sky may increase the ability of the Murdochs to “coordinate editorial policy of news outlets under their influence” and “may increase the influence that members of the Murdoch family trust have over the political process”.

    European Commission raids London offices of Murdoch’s Fox as part of sports cartel probe

    Is a giant shoe about to drop, finally? **I hope**

    • JD12 says:

      It’s interesting that the Fox raid in London was the day after Cohen’s in NY. The European Commission is investigating price fixing by Fox, but they added to their report last summer when the Seth Rich story lawsuit was filed. They’ve had plenty of time to gather information.

  5. aubrey mcfate says:

    What is the likelihood that the investigation that resulted in yesterday’s hearing leads us to find out what Cohen and Hannity communicated about?

    • SpaceLifeForm says:

      Study the graphic at the top of the article.

      See what Hannity is holding?

      Sure looks like a money bag to me.


      • SpaceLifeForm says:

        Disregard. Upon further review of the graphic from other sources, it just appears to be his shirt.

  6. scribe says:

    You read it here first in my comment the other day ( ):

    Well, the taxi medallion thing might not be Trump’s privilege. But given the [apparently] [near-]chaotic nature and structure of Cohen’s practice, it might take some doing to unravel just who his client(s) is(are) and whose privilege it might be to assert. I could see a good-faith argument being made for the court to appoint a special master to sort through the mess, independent of the government and of Cohen.

    Per today’s NYT, Judge Wood suggested a special master might be the appropriate way to handle this mess.

    Also, I don’t think the whole “rhetorical having fun b/c there are Playboy bunnies involved” thing is going to go far with Judge Wood, seeing as she was one herself.
    As well as a trustee at Amherst College, EW.

    • KM says:

      I think it’s important to distinguish what might be reasonable rationales for making a decision, or legally justifiable / “principled” ones, and the actual motivations behind a particular action by a particular person in a particular real-life situation.

      It is entirely possible that Judge Wood will indeed eventually decide on a special master, and even that she rationalises that decision in terms of precisely some principle like this.  But none of that would necessarily mean that that’s why she’s really doing it — for example, that she somehow has strong confidence that a special master would have some special capacity to sort out the (very deliberately arbitrary and convenient) “mess” of Cohen’s various relationships that an SDNY filter team would lack.

  7. pseudonymous in nc says:

    Avenatti and Jill Wine-Banks were also on this last night on MSNBC: if Hannity and Cohen just had conversations about real estate, then there’s no issue in terms of privileged documents, and nothing to argue about in front of a judge, so there must be documents that they want pre-emptively protected. I don’t think it’s as dumb as thinking “claiming three clients instead of two makes me a real lawyer.”

    (Though “I never paid legal fees” isn’t the same as “I never gave him money for any of the other stuff he does.”)

    • scribe says:

      Not necessarily so for 2 reasons.

      1.  A lawyer is expected to preemptively assert privilege for all clients against all inquiries so as to not inadvertently release privileged material.  The drill is “assert blanket privilege”, “requester gets more specific”, and then “work down the request to the irreducible minimum”.

      To give you an example that happened to a colleague:  in the aftermath of the post-9/11 anthrax attacks, a colleague had his law office in a highrise building.  Unknown to the general public at that time, the Postal Service was already tracking all mail that went through is mail-sorting machines.  The FBI sent out agents to try to recover mail that had been near the anthrax letters in the mail stream, both to avoid further injuries that might have resulted from cross-contamination (recall, a lady in rural Connecticut died of anthrax when her mail was cross-contaminated) and to try to develop any more information they could.  So, the FBI had an agent going from office to office in this high-rise asking “did you get any mail between one certain date and another certain date and from zip codes beginning with ’08something’?  And if you did, can I have it?”

      Eventually, the agent came to my colleague’s office.  In response to his requests [above] he was told: “this is a law office.  Our clients come to us and expect their matters to be protected by attorneys who keep confidences.  We do not allow the FBI to go through our files nor our mail [without a warrant, which he didn’t have].  We understand the purpose of your inquiry and would like to cooperate, but we have to preserve our clients’ confidences.  Would it be acceptable to you if we checked our own files to see if there is anything responsive to your search and, if there is, advise you and then we can all sort out the legalities?”  Obviously, the lawyers didn’t want anthrax loose in their office.  The agent was fine with this, the lawyers checked and found nothing responsive, advised the agent, and both went on their way.

      2.  In New York, the ethics rules are a little more stringent when it comes to revealing client confidences.  Not only are lawyers precluded from revealing client confidences, but they are not to reveal any information about the client if it might tend to embarrass the client.  The classic example is the famous actress visiting the office of an attorney specializing in divorce.  the gossip columns would have a field day with her life if it were confirmed she was thinking about divorcing.  And a morals clause in her contract might be triggered, too.  In such a case, the lawyer (and his staff) would be forbidden from revealing that the actress had been there, had had anything to do with him, had retained him, etc.  Of course, as happened yesterday, a court order directing revelation (in this instance, the identity of a person asserted to be a client and entitled to a #1 above blanket assertion of privilege) both must be obeyed and gets the lawyer off the ethical hook.

      Given the furor about Hannity, you can see exactly the justification for such a rule.  It may well be that he called Cohen for something analogous to free legal advice at a cocktail party, or it might be a whole lot more.  We won’t know that for a while.

      • KM says:

        I will let the lawyers weigh in on the legal particulars.

        But I will note that this is entirely abstract, as if we were talking about some generic, “stylised”, regular NY lawyer, and treats “good faith” as a reasonable presumption.  It conveniently ignores the fact that we know a lot of empirical detail about the “lawyer” involved, and the kinds of “clients” he attracts, the way he “practises” “law” and “business”, the prior behaviour of the whole gang of which he is a part (on their own and in the specific context of a known investigation), the way this whole episode went down, some of the conflicting interests at stake, and the reactions to it by the relevant parties.

        It may well be that he called Cohen for something analogous to free legal advice at a cocktail party, or it might be a whole lot more.  We won’t know that for a while.

        In light of what I just said, no.  We don’t ever know anything for certain, of course, but I think we have pretty good reason to assume exactly what pseudonymous suggested:  that Cohen wouldn’t have formally designated, and (very reluctantly) named, Hannity as a client in these proceedings if there wasn’t something (big/bad) — either on his or Hannity’s part, but more likely both — that he was worried was or might be included in the materials seized, and that he was trying to cover through assertions of privilege.  This would also fit with Hannity’s weird, contradictory response to his own outing.

      • pseudonymous in nc says:

        Okay, I get the “metadata” argument: you initially assert privilege on, for instance, calendar/scheduling records or call logs because they might disclose client relationships.

        As others have said, though, Cohen talks to a lot of people. There’s something about the relationship with Hannity that made him and his lawyers want to maximize it in privilege terms for the court even as Hannity minimized it in his own statements.

        • bmaz says:

          There is something totally sketchy on this. Cohen’s attempts to keep it double super secret, vis a vis Hannity’s “eh, a little cocktail talk about real estate”, don’t add up. At all. Cohen and his lawyer knew full well the microscope they were under, and STILL pulled this bunk. Why???

          It does not add up. And, again, they look like idiots in front of Judge Wood. It is all……quite insane.

        • Trip says:

          There is an alternative explanation. What if the dramatic in-court Hannity-reveal was a method of throwing off the scent (for reporters) for something worse?  The lawyer threatened to appeal the decision to reveal the client, according to Avenatti. And yet, when the ruling came down, the lawyer didn’t opt to write it down on a piece of paper, didn’t appeal, and just blurted it right out.

          Or…Cohen might want people to know this, for some reason, that later saves his own ass?


        • SpaceLifeForm says:

          BIngo! It is NOT Hannity that is a huge smoking gun connection to Cohen.
          Great fodder for media which helps in the distraction.

          The entire ploy of 2 of 3 named, is just that, a ploy. To distract from the likelyhood of 4 to a dozen or more clients that want to stay out of the news and out of court.

        • pseudonymous in nc says:

          But that would mean any communications or records those hypothetical clients wouldn’t be considered privileged.

          Occam’s Razor suggests that Cohen simply doesn’t have many/any legal “clients” in the way you’d normally define them.

        • JD12 says:

          Haha unbelievable.

          I did see him on his TV show saying he wasn’t a client and that he had nothing to hide. Maybe after realizing attorney-client privilege won’t work he decided to go the friends talking about their private lives route.

          Hannity might not have too much to worry about. If it’s a hush payment that’s just embarrassing. If he did coordinate messaging with Trump he has some First amendment protections. Unless of course there’s a text from Trump saying “Hey Sean, Donald J. Trump here, no not a staffer, CNN just ran some very real news about all the collusion I did with Russia, I know they are always very real news but I need you to tell everyone it’s fake like I just did on Twitter. We both know it’s not true but tell them Hillary is the real collusion.”

  8. Old Attorney says:

    You can have an attorney client relationship about any matter so long as there is an attorney being asked a legal question and imparting advice and in private. There is no requirement of a fee being charged or paid. You meet an attorney at a party, ask her a legal question, she answers and the privilege thereby attaches. You don’t even have to get her a drink!

  9. Bob Conyers says:

    I suspect that Hannity feels confident in letting whatever Cohen may have on tape get out in public because Hannity can fall back on 1st Amendment protections.

    I think it would be hard to find something Hannity was told in the process of passing along dirt or gossip that puts Hannity at legal risk, but it may well have a lot of bearing on coverups by Cohen or obstruction by Trump. Hannity’s big risk at this point is probably lying to investigators, so he has an incentive to be quiet to avoid telling a falsehood, but I don’t think he has an incentive to openly lie to support a coverup, and that is a problem for Cohen and Trump.

  10. orionATL says:

    judge woods opines that an independent special master may be needed (doubtfully on the merits. mostly to keep her from bring eaten alive by the rightwing media monster in all venues).

    so she suggests each side nominate 4 persons. how the hell does that get to independent? rather than a time-consuming stalemate? say 2-3 months to review (maybe) hundreds of thousands of pages/messages?

    stalemate is as good as checkmate for cohen and trump. this is how “stupids” survive.

    • scribe says:

      This is how smart judges handle things.

      She has each side submit 4 names to her and her alone, without letting the other side or anyone else know who’s on the list.  Assume one side’s list is “A,B,F,R” and the other “C, Y, R, J”.  She can then say “both sides agree on ‘R’ as someone they can trust to do this job right” and then appoint “R” to do it.

      It’s similar to the way arbitration panels are often selected.  Each side submits a list of names (or just one name) and then the panelists each side submitted select one or more “neutrals” they can both  agree on.

      • orionATL says:

        thanks, scribe. reading your explanation beats spending time in the courthouse :)

        i was assuming the cohen/trump side would suggest four die-hard loyalists, not one of which would allow any but the most innocuous document to go forward.

        • scribe says:

          Fair assumption for both sides.

          Some real gamesmanship comes in on this one.

          I might guess the SDNY will suggest former USAtty SDNY Giuliani or former AG Mukasey, which might well put Trump in a quandary because he might suggest Giuliani and/or Mukasey, too.

        • Trip says:

          Rudy should be UNDER investigation, not part of it. FFS, he was supposedly leaking Fed chatter about Clinton on Fox News. Talk about leakers and promoters of fake news.

      • Kay says:

        Can the judge choose a name only one side submitted, or even a name that neither side submitted, since she doesn’t reveal who submitted which names?

  11. mary says:

    Everyone should read Red Mafiya by Robert Friedman and check out what he says about the El Caribe Country Club-among everything else. Michael Cohen was part owner of this mafiya center in Brighton Beach.He is DEEPLY connected to  top Ukrainian mafiya bosses through his family, his father in law, and his brother and his father in law. We are talking about a global crime enterprise that lead to Mogilivitch and others of that stature

      • greengiant says:

        That would be back in the 80s and 90s when Felix’s father was reported to work for him.  The counter investigations of investigative journalists, the intimidation tactics and trail of bodies is also old news.  Check out and their battle with beat downs, threats,  libel lawsuits, Hippa violations, and malign press.

  12. jayedcoins says:

    A question for the lawyers here. Special master or not, are there concerns about the case proceeding with enough pace to be politically relevant? Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for wormboys like Cohen to get their due no matter how long it takes, but I also think it is fair to say that if they are able to drag this out it only benefits Cohen and Trump, likely to the detriment of the entire country. Is there any precedent for pushing the pace on a case with a potentially high level of public policy importance?

  13. Jill says:

    If I were Michael Cohen or Donald Trump, I would certainly be very concerned about the safeguarding of material that were seized by the FBI, which at the order of Judge Wood. are being inputed into a searchable database.

    According to the OIG report on McCabe, the FBI in New York was the source of numerous leaks in the Eric Garner investigation and Loretta Lynch was so upset that she called both McCabe and the N.Y. FBI’s Assistant Director in Charge and called them both out on the leaks

    • KM says:

      the FBI in New York was the source of numerous leaks

      Sigh.  How is it that this kind of thing always somehow manages to get turned into a right-wing talking point?  Up, down, black, white and all that.

    • scribe says:

      The use of a searchable database is normal in discovery matters, especially when the information is stored digitally.  There are any number of contractors who perform this service, hiring contract attorneys to do all sorts of reviews.  This work includes privilege analysis, redaction, you name it.

      The contractors dump the computers’ contents into a powerful program, the law firms create a paradigm for categorizing the information, the contract attorneys get to work and spend their days reading one email after another and categorizing things.

      It is generally considered to be safe for confidentiality.  There are matters involving stuff from the source code for products, patents, boatloads of personally identifiable information, trade secrets, bankers behaving badly, you name it.  The attorneys doing this work wind up tuning out all but the most egregious stuff and, even then, don’t talk about it.  If Corporate America didn’t feel comfortable with the security these contractors provide, the contractors wouldn’t exist.

      As you note, the FBI is fr more likely to leak, usually to support their chosen narrative and political position.  They’ve done it since Hoover.

      This case is being handled well within all the norms and practices of major litigation.

      • KM says:

        the FBI is fr more likely to leak,

        Far more likely than whom?  And note that jill’s original post specifically mentioned the serial leaking of the FBI field office in New York, not the FBI in general.

        If you’re trying to slip the SCO into this claim — well, one can be a regular critic of the FBI and still be perfectly aware that everything we know so far tells us this is nonsense.

    • bmaz says:

      Baloney. Filter teams get used all the time on sensitive search returns. Bandying about garbage talking points about “leaks” doesn’t accomplish squat. This is a pretty formalized and competent process, and Judge Wood acknowledged exactly that. Cohen and Trump are just blowing shit to dirty the proceedings, it is pretty much sham argument.

  14. sand says:

    I’ll take Hannity at his word that he never paid a Michael Cohen invoice, just like Trump didn’t pay back the $130k (directly). Invoices are for suckers (a.k.a., citizens). Trump and his cronies went to wiseguy school.

    In Shady Finance 101, Professor Roy Cohn explained that he “often provided counsel for free, collecting money when he needed it. . . . Even though he lived a lavish life, Cohn claimed he had little taxable income or assets.” (Or Autobigraphy of Roy Cohn).

    These guys seem like C students, though. What’s the over on how many crimes Cohen documented/recorded of himself and others?

  15. Bay State Librul says:


    Your comments are reasonable, make a whole lot of sense, and you have ethics.

    The problem is that you have “to think like a crook” because you are dealing

    with liars, con men, and complete greedy assholes…………



    • scribe says:

      No.  The Rules apply to all – if society didn’t see something as a problem there would not be a need for, and consequently wouldn’t be, a Rule.

      I happen to love crooked businessmen – they keep me employed.

  16. matt says:

    [Hannity/Cohen Conversations] also might involve coordination on some of the more insidious pushback on the Russian story.

    Hannity bias, even illegal paid bias that may come to light, has nothing to do with the collusion aspect of the “Russian Story.”  It has to do with Hannity’s unwavering Trump loyalty and his anti-Mueller narrative after the events of the 2016 election.  Hannity bias has to do with the “Obstruction Story.”

    The Cohen Raid has seemed to obfuscate any dialog about the next chapter in the “Russia Story” that has happened over the weekend- a chapter about a president reluctant to go to war and the mainstream media, including all Left leaning outlets cheering for it… on a pretext that is just as dubious as Iraq’s faked WMD’s.

    • Trip says:

      How exactly would you know whether or not Hannity is a cog in the larger wheel, that includes the Kremlin operations?

      Trump blustered about how he’s been the toughest on Russia. However, he manages to derail sanctions on oligarchs, which hit the Kremlin hardest. He announced what he was going to bomb ahead of time, signaling intent. That was Trump. The disgusting cheerleading from generals and the media is peripheral, but no one in the press told Trump to do the tough guy act in Syria. They covered it glowingly after the fact, which is appalling, but you seem to be parroting talking points that Trump is a pacifist only being bullied into acts of aggression. That is not true.

      • matt says:

        Trump is no pacifist- but YES, he was bullied into the Syria strike.  No way he would have done it without international pressure and dinner with Dershowitz on Tuesday.  We both agree he is sympathetic to Putin and the Oligarchs… I never said he wasn’t.

        “no one in the press told Trump to do the tough guy act in Syria”

        No way on this.  Media has gone full steam after the alleged attack in Douma last week calling for war with Syria, making the argument that “hey you criticized Obama for not enforcing the Red Line… now you’ll be a liar and a wimp of you don’t attack Assad.”

        Doubtful Hannity is not a cog in a Russian conspiracy.  He is an ideologue (sorry orionATL for criticizing your use of this word… it does come in handy sometimes) who hates “liberals” and wants to believe in his savior Trump.

        The “cog” in the 2016 Election Conspiracy is Cambridge Analytica.  Digging deep there will lead to uncomfortable realities, many of which I fear Mueller will not want to expose.

        • matt says:

          THE MEDIA IS WAGGING THE DOG while Israel/UK/France created a pretext for illegal war- and then escalated that illegal war with hesitant US complicity.

          This is only the beginning of extended involvement in the Syria and the perpetuation of war in the Middle East.  Americans, including the Left, are woefully absent in the political dialog… because…  boobs are more interesting than bombs.

          And, its hard to overwrite our programming on Russia…  they have to be the bad guys, right?

        • Trip says:

          You are combining a bunch of different elements.

          Bolton is uber zionist and a neocon. Yes, he would like to bomb everything. And Israel via Bibi has been attempting to escalate war with Iran. But Trump has been criticizing the Iran deal since Obama was still in office.

          The recent bombing was careful to alert Russia. There was signalling so that no Russian forces would be hit.

          And yes, the Kremlin isn’t innocent. They sent mercenaries to Syria, denying this to their own people, until forced to admit it, when the body bags returned. They are playing the game for geopolitical advantage in the ME to their own benefit. You think Putin is there for more altruistic endeavors than the US?

          There can be more than one bad guy.

          But Trump used this opportunity, just as he did the last time, to deflect from his own personal political problems. Further, HE NEVER wanted to keep the agreement that Obama wanted with Iran. That isn’t anyone pushing Trump, that IS Trump.




        • matt says:

          Trump is conflicted with his dual loyalty to Putin/Oligarchs and Kushners/Netanyahu.  He’s limited in his understanding about Iran and Syria and he likely cannot see the broader implications of both countries interests in the region.  You’re right about there being no “good guys.” either way the Syrian people are/have been doomed… unless diplomacy prevails over war (unlikely).

          Yes, there are a lot of elements to combine regarding, Russia, Trump, election meddling, Syria, and National/Energy interests of the EU, Israel and the greater Middle East.  They are all connected, and I believe the connections between Trump himself and Putin/Oligarchs are not that important in the grand scheme of things.  And certainly,  Hannity/Clifford/Cohen is even less so.

        • Trip says:

          All of it is likely connected. Because, as far as Trump is concerned, NONE of it has to do with diplomacy, it’s all self-dealing/self-enrichment. How far Cohen was involved remains to be seen, but he supposedly he acted as courier for the Ukraine deal.

          And just an FYI:

          Russian reporter Borodin dead after mystery fall

          A Russian investigative journalist who wrote about the deaths of mercenaries in Syria has died in hospital after falling from his fifth-floor flat…a friend revealed Borodin had said his flat had been surrounded by security men a day earlier.
          Vyacheslav Bashkov described Borodin as a “principled, honest journalist” and said Borodin had contacted him at five o’clock in the morning on 11 April saying there was “someone with a weapon on his balcony and people in camouflage and masks on the staircase landing”.

          What did Borodin write?
          In recent weeks, the journalist had written about Russian mercenaries known as the “Wagner Group” who were reportedly killed in Syria on 7 February in a confrontation with US forces… He had also investigated political scandals, including allegations made by a Belarusian escort known as Nastya Rybka in a video posted by Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny.

        • matt says:

          Putin is doing the same dance Trump is.  I know, I know… Putin and Assad lead oppressive regimes.  A sign of the times.

        • greengiant says:

          Nastya Rybka is Anastasia Vashukevich who is jailed in Thailand and claims to have dirt,  “Deripaska and a top Kremlin official, Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Prikhodko.The report featured video from Deripaska’s yacht in 2016,”    Deripaska’s attempts to suppress the video are interesting.  Progozhin is alleged to have ordered the mercenaries in Syria under an agreement to get a portion of oil rights for all wells/land captured.

        • Trip says:

          Yep, I know. But that was how the copied excerpt read.

          It kinda puts a dark tone on Cohen’s preferring to jump out of a building rather than bailing on Trump, doesn’t it?

        • Trip says:

          Mattis Wanted Congressional Approval Before Striking Syria. He Was Overruled.

          Defense Secretary Jim Mattis urged President Trump to get congressional approval before the United States launched airstrikes against Syria last week, but was overruled by Mr. Trump, who wanted a rapid and dramatic response, military and administration officials said…Mr. Mattis prevailed in limiting the strikes to three targets that did not risk endangering Russian troops scattered at military installations around Syria. Nor did the 105 missiles hit Syrian military units believed to be responsible for carrying out an April 7 suspected chemical weapons attack on Douma, near Damascus…Mr. Mattis pushed to get congressional authorization, according to people with knowledge of the internal debate. In several White House meetings last week, he underscored the importance of linking military operations to public support…Mr. Trump did not necessarily want to hit Syria hard enough to bring Russia into the war, administration officials said. But he did want to appear aggressive in his response.
          “He just wants the big show,” said Derek Chollet, an assistant secretary of defense in the Obama administration. “So Mattis was probably pushing on an open door.”

        • matt says:

          Agreed, Trip.  Trump had to make a show of support to UK, France and Israel… but informed Putin ahead of time.  He’s trying to have his cake and eat it too… Trump is trying to be friendly to both Israel & Russia (good luck with that)… Neo Cons are against Russia and for Israel… and the Alt-Right are for Russia and against Israel.

          All I’m trying to say is that after Putin’s victory in Eastern Ghouta… the Isreal, EU, and the US are pivoting with regards to “next steps” in the Middle East drama.  Americans have a huge responsibility to do something right for a change in light of our huge past/current role in the region.  As this pivot is happening… American media and forums like EW are all caught up in “other news.”  Which is fine, as long as important foreign policy matters are not forgotten.  Especially when mis-steps have led to a Cold War at best with our greatest Nuclear Rival.

        • Trip says:

          I think EW does a fantastic job: Often tying together seemingly unrelated issues that are entangled with policy and actions.

        • matt says:

          Yes, EW does a fantastic job on every issue there is a post about.

          Not much on Syria as topic header, though- which is fine, I’m not complaining.  But it is one of the most important factors in the Russia/Trump saga… and in the Never Hillary saga that produced Trump.

        • JD12 says:

          There were rumors last week that Mattis was trying to pump the brakes. I thought it could have just been his PR person trying to make him look good in the press, but it looks like it was the truth. (Unless he’s trying to bank some credibility for an attack on Iran, but let’s assume he was acting in good faith.)

          There is no evidence that Douma was anything more than a chlorine attack, something that’s happened a handful of times since Khan Shaykhun without provoking a response. Friday NBC reported that a nerve agent was confirmed, but the report was premature. It’s still not confirmed.

          The images used in the media were clearly intended to imply that this attack was the same exact thing as Khan Shaykhun, meaning Sarin was used. Trump boxed himself in with his statements all week. It was Bolton’s first week on the job, and we know what his playbook consists of, what was Bolton’s role in selling it? MBS had just toured the country announcing billions and billions in deals, including a substantial arms deal. Right before that, he had gone to France and the UK. He undoubtedly would have promoted the strike. Then there’s the fact that the night of the strikes, the OPCW had arrived in Lebanon, en route to Syria the next day.

          I felt better that our allies were involved this time, to help restrain Trump if necessary. The Skripal poisoning probably pushed their support over the top. I know they think they’re sending a message, but Assad had nothing to do with the Skripals.

          Mattis was asked right after the attacks if the chemicals had been confirmed, he offered a somewhat evasive yes, sensing the reporter angling toward a nerve agent. When the reporter followed up, he said that wasn’t confirmed, but they had good information and were still investigating, you know the deal. His actual words were they “are not ruling out Sarin,” perhaps revealing it’s more likely to be ruled out than confirmed. He looked uncomfortable going along with the White House’s deception.

        • Fran of the North says:

          While I agree that Assad had nothing to do with Skripal, odds are very high that Russia did. And while the physical results of the attack were born by the Syrian regime, a psychological message was sent LOUD and CLEAR to Putin et al:

          “The alliance (intentional small A) can strike and you are impotent to prevent it.”

          That message was also heard by other existing and potential clients.

          Of course the danger is that there is retaliation at a later date and/or in a different theater.

        • JD12 says:

          I think Fisk is telling the truth, but he might not be getting the truth. It sounds like the only people willing to talk were Syrian government supporters. The doctor he spoke with doesn’t seem to understand how the West views the situation, if the part about the “White Helmet” were true, that particular description of the person would be better off withheld. Fisk’s skepticism of the official version is justified though.

          The best information I’ve seen on chemical weapons is Bellingcat. Until we hear from the OPCW all we have is open source. Nobody does it better and they have a special interest in chemical weapons.


  17. bmaz says:

    One consideration I have not seen discussed much, if at all, is that Cohen clearly thinks that all his work for the Trump Organization is attorney client privileged. And that strikes me as almost laughable.

    First off, Cohen was “in house” during all those years and matters to the extent he was operating as an attorney at all. Remember, he was also an “executive” for Trump Org. That being an executive thing pretty much destroys any ability to claim attorney client privilege. To the extent it did not in and of itself, Cohen has other issues. In house and corporate counsel have to be meticulous and detailed in how they conduct themselves in order to maintain any ability to claim attorney client privilege. The greater Trump Org is not, and cannot be a “client” because it and any of the thousands of corporate shells are not “people”. The clients have to be certain people acting on behalf of the corporation/organization. This is effectively impossible to maintain except under the most exacting and well designed situations. Not a chance in hell these idiots did so.

    So, in short, I find it VERY hard to believe anything related to the greater Trump companies deserves to be privileged. None of it.

    • KM says:

      SDNY clearly agrees.  Explains why SDNY’s letter seemed to offer this particular example to the court, without any further elaboration, as self-explanatory evidence of Team Cohen’s bad faith in advancing privilege claims.

    • Avattoir says:

      My thoughts as well.

      Plus, I believe it’s probable that the Hannity-as-client reveal was / is an artifice, as was its predecessor, the recently overtaken “Undisclosed Client”  and that both were intended to function something like a MacGuffin.

      The MacGuffin variant I mean here is one that distracts from the reality that Cohen does not run ANY sort of legal practice for which the concept of client-attorney privilege was developed (that is, to allow a client to seek out and an attorney to provide legal advice within a zone of confidentiality).

      Instead, its ‘purpose’, Cohen’s aim, indistinguishable from the mob / Bizarro World cartoonish view of the privilege, is for it to function like something between a human Cone of Silence standing watch over an event horizon to an effective Black Hole against the institutions of a country based on Rule of Law.

      As bmaz and any other practicing attorneys here know well, what I’ve described above isn’t any particularly unique insight: every attorney who’s ever represented a member of even the most rudimentary sort of coordinated criminal operation learns very early on about this point of view.

      So, if Cohen and Davidson have been working some scam that’s caught up Stormy Daniels, Karen McDougal, and the bunny impregnated by Broidy – presumably the sort of scam flexible enough to be operated for a shakedown, or for protection, or to exploit pretty much whatever money-making or influence-enhancing opportunity that might arise, that then requires Cohen to invent a client-attorney relationship.

      And in choosing Hannity, Cohen would be banking on their common interest in at least not cooperating in the OSC bringing down Trump – including that Hannity might well scramble to minimize their relationship yet remain unlikely to resort to telling his audience he got ensnared in a mobster trap.

      • bmaz says:

        “….that then requires Cohen to invent a client-attorney relationship.”

        The key word here is “invent”. And I think that both right, and antithetical, to any true understanding of attorney client relationship within its contemplated meaning in law.

      • KM says:

        “… including that Hannity might well scramble to minimize their relationship yet …”

        … continue nevertheless to affirm his (“good-faith” belief that he enjoyed) attorney-client privilege?

  18. SFoster says:

    Kimba Wood was a Bunny, a waitress, for five days in London. The women involved with T and the other guys were Playmates, centerfolds in the mag.

    • bmaz says:

      Wait, so your misogynistic pile of crap argument is that Kimba Wood isn’t “bunny enough” for you?? Don’t let the door hit you in the ass on the way out from your first comment.

      • scribe says:

        Suddeutsche Zeitung reported on the hearing in today’s edition, noting she “looks only 50 though she’s actually 74”.

        • Trip says:

          I love how, by association of profession, the women aren’t credible (I’m guessing that might be the commenter’s point, although there really wasn’t one), and yet you have men associated with THEM, and somehow that guilt by association is meaningless.

  19. scribe says:

    Re: Rudy or Mukasey as selections for Special Master.
    My thought is, if the USAtty’s office was really trying to force the issue, choosing one of them (both Trump loyalists) as one of their selections for special master would put them in a difficult position and moreso, Trump. Every document they allowed out to the FBI would infuriate Trump, making the case for his removal. Every document they held back would be subject to litigation by the USAtty, probably leading to more litigation silliness by Trump and Friends.

    And it would destroy their reputations, too.

    It’d be a real dick-shaking move for the USAtty to choose one or both of them for their list – showing ultimately that even Trump’s loyalists couldn’t protect him. But I don’t see it as a likely happening.

    • bmaz says:

      It would be ridiculously gross legal malpractice to let either Rudy or Mukasey serve as a special master here.

        • bmaz says:

          Might try, but Wood is smarter than that. You go get someone clearly neutral and clean in reputation. The court can just make the call under supervisory powers. Someone like Hank Schuelke or something.

        • KM says:

          This is blatant goalpost-shifting.  Of course Trump’s team will go there if Judge Wood insists on a special master.  But what you said earlier was:  “I might guess the SDNY will suggest former USAtty SDNY Giuliani or former AG Mukasey …”.

          Your suggestions about how any special master appointment — no matter how ostensibly friendly to Trump et al. — might ultimately prove a millstone around the neck of said Team Trump strike me as interesting.  But I just can’t see the advantages to SDNY of pursuing such a strategy, as opposed to recommending rigorously neutral and reputable third parties.  Destroying Giuliani’s or Mukasey’s reputations?  Dick-shaking?  Really??

        • pseudonymous in nc says:

          Given that Mukasey just published a fairly pompous op-ed about attorney-client privilege in the WSJ, strike him off the list. He’s possibly conflicted anyway.

  20. Trip says:

    Is Hannity paranoid, or did he suspect he was being surveilled, since he was up to no good? How does that tie into Cohen?
    Sean Hannity Casually Claims That He and His Panelists Are Being ‘Surveilled Illegally’

    “By the way, I have sources saying all of us are being surveilled illegally, just in case you’re interested,” Hannity said. His guests were Circa’s Sara Carter, The Hill’s John Solomon and Trump legal counsel Jay Sekulow. He provided no further details about his claims but his claim but (sic, all of this) it came at the end of the segment in which the group had been discussing Fusion GPS and the anti-Trump “Steele dossier”…It’s not the first time that Hannity has suggested he was the target of secret government surveillance. Back in April, alt-right figure Chuck Johnson claimed that Hannity was under surveillance in 2016 for having ties to WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange.

    • bmaz says:

      You mean John “Former National Security ‘Expert’ at the Naval War College fired for being an internet perv with posted dick pics, and idiot crank” Schindler? That guy??

    • Dev Null says:

      That raw story link is odd. They seem mostly to be rehashing old Schindler posts rather than Schindler’s post today in the Observer:

      For what my opinion is worth (my opinion and $3.45 will buy you a medium latte at Starbucks) I would have more confidence in Schindler’s reliability if any of his flat statements of fact had been borne out by the passage of time.

      And perhaps some have been, but if so I’m not aware of them.

    • bmaz says:

      Seriously, Schindler?? THAT is what you have? Okay.

      Tell me, do you have the same laissez faire trite attitude toward Louise Mensch? You ought to be on the record as to how low of material you will bring to this blog and act like it is mainstream. What say you?

      You either “have something or you don’t”. Let’s see what you got. “Time will tell”.

  21. matt says:

    Tucker Carlson will be next.  The only mainstream media figure last week to question the narrative for the Syria strikes… hosts Glenn Greenwald (and agrees with him)… and ridicules John Bolton to his face.

  22. x174 says:

    thanks for your concern of due diligence. not sure what you are asking.

    from the quality and nature of the commentary for this post, it seemed like most of the comments weren’t responsive to mt’s suggestion that “they also might involve coordination on some of the more insidious pushback on the Russian story.”

    the bizarre nature of the development along with cohen’s over-exertion to keep sh out of the picture seems very suspicious.

    i appreciate your effort to maintain rigor and discipline on the site but as with others struggling to make sense of this latest revelation–including yourself–i consider a wider range of voices to see if any of them could provide potentially substantive clues.

    while schindler may not be the most unimpeachable source, his statement that others in the ic have been surveilling sh seems interesting and worthy of follow up.

    it makes sense and seems to tie together a number of extreme peculiarities.

    if i come across anything more credible and definitive, i’ll let you know.

    • bmaz says:

      Cool. I may well have been overly harsh. I apologize. But Schindler is an, um, dubious source. Very much along the lines of Mensch. FWIW.

      • maestro says:

        To me, Schindler is *close* to Mensch, but retains the tiniest bit of credibility since (unlike Mensch and the rest of her gang of twitter sleuths/crazies) he did actually work for the NSA for a minute and regardless of how or why he left seems to still be in touch with people still in the building. Maggie Haberman has at least considered what he has claimed about what his friends at NSA are telling him, and even Susan Rice engaged with him on a somewhat respectable level.

        All that is to say that while I tune out most of what he says, he’s at least worth considering when he says something like “My friends/former co-workers at NSA are telling me XYZ.”

  23. SteveB says:

    John Schindler 1st asserted that Hannity been “under counter intelligence surveillance for some time” in a blog post 30 Jan 2018

    I have no idea whether he is someone one should credit with great insight and sources, or whether he is someone to be given a wide berth a la Mensch.
    I thought it worth mentioning to point out how long this notion has been out there, at least from this individual

    While looking at this bmaz done debunk.

    • SteveB says:

      Ok sorry not trying to be rude to anyone. I was hurredly amending my post in editing having only just seen bmaz.

      bmaz identified some of the issues going to the credibility of the author of the theme in question John Schindler. I dont know much about him beyond a brief search today, but what I saw put me on alert as to whether he is in a similar category to La Mensch.


      She I know, from her time as an MP: deeply unimpressive. Her blog is excrable.

      I have been impressed by the folks here. If the authors here place somebody in a box with Ms Mensch that’s a close to zero credit rating which I for one would take seriously.

  24. Rapier says:

    RE; KM way back up thread, on client. Much later

    Right. quicker minds than mine sussed out that by making him a client then privilege is on the table. It’s a theory. A fun one from the peanut gallery.

    I am imagining that in 2 or 4 years the SC will rule that client means whatever Michael Cohen says it means.

  25. SpaceLifeForm says:

    Something still does not look normal though. Maybe under shirt? Near his right armpit, but chest side, does not look like his shirt is hanging normally.

    Maybe it is just a bullet-proof vest.

    [Note: not threading properly, not going to redo]

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