Late this afternoon, the House Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the U.S. Capitol asked Fox News Channel personality Sean Hannity voluntarily to answer questions about his communications with former president Donald Trump and Trump's White House chief of staff Mark Meadows in the days around the January 6 insurrection.
In their letter requesting the conversation, committee chair Bennie Thompson (D-MS) and vice chair Liz Cheney (R-WY) revealed evidence that Hannity was deeply involved with White House matters, acting not as a member of the press but as an advisor. In fairness, by his own account Hannity has always been a political operative. In August 2016, he told Jim Rutenberg of the New York Times, "I'm not hiding the fact that I want Donald Trump to be the next president of the United States." After all, he said, "I never claimed to be a journalist."
Treading carefully to reassure Americans that the members of the committee are not interested in undermining the independence of the press, the January 6th committee asked Hannity to comment on "a specific and narrow range of factual questions." The committee made it clear that "our goal is not to seek information regarding any of your broadcasts, or your political views or commentary." They reiterated their desire only to understand the facts at issue, and they appealed to Hannity's love of country and respect for our Constitution to ask him to "step forward and serve the interests of your country."
The committee's letter specified that they had seen a number of Hannity's texts, all of which were eye-popping and which revealed that Hannity was acting as an inside member of Trump's team. On December 31, 2020, he texted Meadows: "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[orida] and watch Joe mess up daily. Stay engaged. When he speaks people will listen."
On January 5, the night before the insurrection, Hannity "sent and received a stream of texts," including the message: "Im very worried about the next 48 hours." The committee noted that the counting of the certified ballots was scheduled for 1:00 on January 6, so why was Hannity worried about the next 48 hours?
Hannity appears to have talked with Trump on January 10 and was concerned with what he heard. He texted Meadows and Representative Jim Jordan (R-OH), saying, "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 texts reveal that Hannity saw his role not as a news reader, but rather as a member of the White House team, protecting the president, and Hannity's participation in the conversations means that none of them can be considered privileged.
Hannity is apparently being represented in this matter by Jay Sekulow, a lawyer on Trump's legal team, rather than lawyers from the Fox News Channel. While Sekulow has indicated he will object to the committee's invitation on First Amendment grounds, the fact that the Fox News Channel seems to be standing back suggests that the corporation does not see the committee's invitation as a First Amendment case involving freedom of the press and in fact might well be concerned that one of its lead personalities is connected to an event that should have been reported to the FBI.
Blaming the "total bias and dishonesty" of the select committee, Trump today canceled his press conference planned for January 6.