In a letter to Fox News personality Sean Hannity seeking his cooperation with their probe, chairs of the House select committee investigating the Capitol riot disclosed several text messages he reportedly sent to then-White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in the days leading up to, during and after the attack on the Capitol on 6 January.
According to the committee, Mr Hannity “had advance knowledge” of plans for 6 January established by the former president and his legal team.
“It also appears that you were expressing concerns and providing advice to the president and certain White House staff regarding that planning,” said the letter, dated 4 January. “You also had relevant communications while the riot was underway, and in the days thereafter. These communications make you a fact witness in our investigation.”
The committee is focused on communication between Mr Hannity and the president’s team between 31 December 2020 and 20 January, 2021, according to the letter, which was written by chairs Bennie Thompson and Liz Cheney.
The committee also suggested that Mr Hannity may had spoken directly with the former president on 5 January and 10 January.
- In a message to Mr Meadows on 31 December 2020, Mr Hannity wrote: “We can’t lose the entire WH counsels office. I do NOT see January 6 happening the way he is being told. After the 6 th. [sic] He should announce will lead the nationwide effort to reform voting integrity. Go to Fl and watch Joe mess up daily. Stay engaged. When he speaks people will listen.”
According to the committee, “this text suggests that you had knowledge of concerns by President Trump’s White House Counsel’s Office regarding the legality of the former president’s plans for [6 January]. These facts are directly relevant to our inquiry.”
- On 5 January, he wrote to Mr Meadows: “Im very worried about the next 48 hours.”
- In another text to Mr Meadows that night, he wrote: “Pence pressure. WH counsel will leave.”
The committee has asked Mr Hannity “what communications or information led you to conclude that White House Counsel would leave? What precisely did you know at that time?”
- While the assault was underway, Mr Hannity texted Mr Meadows: “Ask people to peacefully leave the [C]apit[o]l.”
- Later that day, Mr Hannity also texted Mr Meadows “press coverage relating to a potential effort by members of President Trump’s cabinet to remove him from office under the 25th Amendment,” according to the committee.
The committee members added, “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,” the letter says.
- In a message to Mr Meadows and Republican US Rep Jim Jordan in the days leading up Joe Biden’s inauguration on 20 January, Mr Hannity wrote: “Guys, we have a clear path to land the plane in 9 days. 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?”
The committee stressed to Mr Hannity that its goal “is not to seek information regarding any of your broadcasts, or your political views or commentary. We have deep respect for the First Amendment to our Constitution.”
“You appear to have factual information directly relevant to the events of [January 6] and the attack on the institutions of our democracy,” the committee chairs wrote in their letter. “We have a duty to understand all of the underlying facts, and make legislative recommendations.”
A spokesperson for Fox News pointed The Independent to a statement from Mr Hannity’s counsel Jay Sekulow, who told Axios: “If true, any such request would raise serious constitutional issues including First Amendment concerns regarding freedom of the press.”
In a statement on his programme last month, after the committee published some messages from Fox News personalities to Mr Meadows during the assault, he said he “said to Mark Meadows the exact same thing I was saying live on the radio at that time and on TV that night on January 6 and well beyond January 6.”
“And by the way, where is the outrage in the media over my private text messages being released again publicly? Do we believe in privacy in this country? Apparently not,” he said.
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