World

Trump’s lawyer plus porn star and Fox anchor equals courtroom drama

NEW YORK: Donald Trump's legal battle with his own Justice Department led to an extraordinary courtroom showdown yesterday between his personal lawyer, one of America's most prestigious prosecution offices and a lavender-clad porn star .

The high-stakes hearing before a federal judge in downtown Manhattan, centred on a technicality, almost descended into a farce when the name of Mr Trump's favourite Fox News anchor was revealed as another client of Mr Michael Cohen.

Mr Cohen, the president's long-time personal lawyer and fixer, is under criminal investigation by the FBI. Last week, agents confiscated documents in a raid on his home, hotel room, office and a safety deposit box. They also seized two mobile phones.

RESTRAINING ORDER

His legal team and Mr Trump - who denounced the raid as a "witch hunt" - sought a restraining order that would prevent prosecutors from reviewing the material until the president can decide if any of it should be protected by attorney-client privilege.

US District Judge Kimba Wood denied the request, but agreed that Mr Cohen's legal team should have access to the documents.

Judge Wood also forced Mr Cohen's lawyer to reveal the name of a previously undisclosed client who could also be affected by attorney-client privilege concerns.

Mr Sean Hannity was revealed to be that client - the Fox News host Mr Trump is known to admire and speak with by phone, and whose television show is the most watched in US cable news.

The revelation was met with gasps and laughter in court, but Mr Hannity furiously denied any such relationship.

"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," he tweeted.

Some documents seized by the FBI reportedly relate to a payment of US$130,000 (S$170,000) that Mr Cohen admits making to porn star Stormy Daniels, who claims she had a one-night stand with Mr Trump a decade ago.

The president has denied any knowledge of the payment to secure Ms Daniels's October 2016 signature on a hush agreement preventing her from talking about the liaison.

The porn star, real name Stephanie Clifford, is fighting to quash the agreement.

"For years, Mr Cohen has acted like he is above the law," she told reporters after the 21/2-hour hearing.

"That ends now. My attorney and I are committed to making sure that everyone finds out the truth and the facts of what happened." - AFP

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