The Guardian has published a new investigation into Sean Hannity’s real estate holdings. As it turns out, Hannity was not above using government money to help finance his investments, purchasing two apartment buildings in Georgia with the help of a federal Housing and Urban Development mortgage loan program.
Illegal? Of course not! There’s nothing wrong with using a government program when purchasing real estate.
Embarrassing? Yes, especially since Hannity interviewed HUD Secretary Ben Carson on his Fox News program without mentioning a potential conflict of interest, a journalism no-no. Just to be clear, Hannity, if he’s using HUD money to help finance his real estate purchases, has a reason to be extra nice to Carson, the head of HUD. And Hannity was nice to Carson, “praising” him, as the Guardian put it.
The Hannity expose matters beyond what it tells us about Fox’s most popular on-air personality. It also demonstrates the ongoing danger the investigation into Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen continues to pose for the president - and will continue to pose.
We would not know much about this matter at all if it wasn’t for the hearing about the FBI raid on Cohen’s office earlier this month. At it, the judge pressed Cohen’s lawyer to name Cohen’s clients. Out came Hannity’s name. Hannity subsequently said on his radio show he used Cohen for very little, saying he had a couple of privileged “brief discussions” with Cohen, and citing Cohen’s knowledge of real estate as the reason for those discussions.
Just to be clear: It doesn’t appear Cohen had much to do with the Hannity’s real estate investments. Those are handled by a lawyer named Christopher Reeves. But once Hannity’s name came up in Cohen’s legal case, people got interested in those real estate investments.
Business by its very nature can sometimes be embarrassing. There is not a person out there would be thrilled to discover that the FBI raided their lawyer’s office, and the documents subject to independent judicial review.
But as the Hannity story shows, the longer investigations go on into the businesses owned by Trump and his associates, the more stuff will be revealed that no one is expecting to hear. Unexpected things have a way of surfacing when court filings are made, when people are testifying under oath or when desperate people are frantic to avoid or minimize prison time.
There is no question, after all, that Cohen knows much about the innards of Trump Organization, a business that all too often appears to be a decades-long series of rolling scams of various kinds. As Adam Davidson detailed in the New Yorker, there is a long trail of shenanigans of all kinds that Cohen can cast light upon - and Cohen himself now faces “an avalanche of charges.” Little wonder the White House has refused to say whether Trump would issue a pardon to his personal attorney Michael Cohen.
The longer investigators continue to look at Cohen, the more likely it is things will begin to surface that no one expects. It’s all but certain embarrassing information will continue to either tumble out or get dug up by intrepid journalists as the case continues. All too often, it’s the unexpected that poses the greatest danger.
For Hannity, the Guardian investigation is an embarrassment. For Trump, it’s a warning.
Helaine Olen is a columnist with The Washington Post.