Sean Hannity repeatedly tried to scale back Donald Trump’s effort to use the Jan. 6 session of Congress to overturn the 2020 election results, according to text messages between the Fox News host and former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows revealed publicly Tuesday.
“I do NOT see January 6 happening the way he is being told,” Hannity said of Trump’s efforts in a text on Dec. 31, 2020, to Meadows, obtained by the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack. Instead, Hannity told Meadows that Trump should go to Florida and become a vocal supporter of election reforms.
“Stay engaged,” Hannity wrote, effectively encouraging Trump to accept defeat. “When he speaks people will listen.”
Trump, though a spokesperson, said he disagreed with Hannity's assessment.
The texts are the latest indication that some of the former president’s closest allies grew increasingly alarmed by his actions in the aftermath of his defeat, despite not saying so publicly. Hannity was one of Trump's staunchest media allies throughout his candidacy and presidency and he has often relied on Hannity for his counsel and conservative media megaphone.
Hannity warned Meadows in a Jan. 5 text that amid the “Pence pressure … WH counsel will leave.” It was an apparent reference to efforts by Trump and his allies to press Pence to unilaterally block the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory.
The texts were revealed in a letter from Jan. 6 committee Chair Bennie Thompson and Vice Chair Liz Cheney requesting an interview with Hannity, calling him a “fact witness” in their inquiry.
Wary of potential First Amendment concerns in calling a news commentator in for an interview, the panel’s leaders stressed they did not “seek information regarding any of your broadcasts, or your political views or commentary.”
It is unclear if Hannity will comply with the panel’s request. A lawyer for Hannity, Jay Sekulow, expressed concerns about the constitutional and First Amendment implications of the request and said in a statement they would be "evaluating the letter from the committee" and would "respond as appropriate."
The texts also indicate that in the days following the Jan. 6 attack, Hannity struggled to convince Trump that the election was over — and suggested he was working closely with Meadows and at least one other Trump ally, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), to get Trump to back down.
“Guys, we have a clear path to land the plane in 9 days,” Hannity wrote in a text to Meadows and Jordan on Jan. 10. “He can’t mention the election again. Ever. I did not have a good call with him today. And worse, I’m not sure what is left to do or say, and I don’t like not knowing if it’s truly understood. Ideas?”
Thompson and Cheney said they had information indicating Hannity had “advance knowledge” about Trump and his legal team’s planning for Jan. 6 and had been providing advice to the president and White House staff.
The panel had previously released a text from Hannity to Meadows urging Trump to make a statement and ask people to leave the Capitol during the Jan. 6 attack. And they also released messages Meadows received from other Fox personalities pressing him to call on his supporters to stand down amid the riot.
It's the second time Hannity's private messages have been publicly released in a Trump-related probe. Texts he exchanged with Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, during Manafort's criminal case, became public as well.
Among other messages the panel disclosed was a forwarded article from Hannity to Meadows on Jan. 6 featuring a suggestion that some members of Trump’s Cabinet had sought his removal via the 25th Amendment.
“We would like to question you regarding any conversations you had with Mr. Meadows or others about any effort to remove the President under the 25th Amendment,” Thompson and Cheney wrote.
Meridith McGraw contributed to this report.
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