The texts from Fox News host Sean Hannity, a prominent supporter of Trump, indicate he had direct knowledge of the former president’s plans for January 6 and harbored concerns for them, the Jan 6 committee said.
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- Sean Hannity expressed deep concern about Trump’s actions before, during, and after the Capitol riot.
- Text messages released by the Jan. 6 committee show the extent he went to try to get Trump to stop the violence.
- But he struck a different tone on the airwaves, defending Trump and spreading conspiracy theories about the riot.
The bipartisan House committee investigating the January 6 Capitol riot has made public a series of text messages that show how “worried” Fox News host Sean Hannity was about then-President Donald Trump’s actions leading up to the insurrection. They also reveal how far Hannity went to try to get Trump to change his post-election strategy and stop the violence that unfolded at the Capitol following his “Save America” rally on January 6.
- On December 31, 2020, a week before the insurrection, Hannity texted Trump’s chief of staff, Mark Meadows, expressing deep concern that Trump’s efforts to overturn the election could result in mass resignations: “We can’t lose the entire WH counsel’s 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 voter integrity. Go to Fl and watch Joe mess up daily. Stay engaged. When he speaks people will listen.”
- On the evening of January 5, 2021, Hannity again texted Meadows warning against Trump’s pressure campaign on then-Vice President Mike Pence to nullify Joe Biden’s victory: “I’m very worried about the next 48 hours.” He added: “Pence pressure. WH counsel will leave.”
- As the violence was unfolding on January 6, 2021, Hannity texted Meadows about Trump calling off the mob of frenzied supporters who stormed the Capitol: “Can he make a statement? Ask people to leave the Capitol,” he said in one message. Hannity added: “Ask people to peacefully leave the Capitol.”
- On January 10, 2021, when the House of Representatives was on the cusp of impeaching Trump for inciting the insurrection, Hannity said he was “not sure what is left to do or say” to stop Trump from talking about the election: “Guys, we have to clear a path to land the plane in nine days,” Hannity wrote to Meadows and Ohio Rep. Jim Jordan. “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 messages reflect another fissure in Hannity’s relationship with Trump after the two reportedly had a falling out because Hannity was “disgusted” with Trump’s lies about the election.
But the Fox News host struck a vastly different tone on the airwaves. Although he condemned the violence, he repeatedly endorsed the bogus conspiracy theory that “radical groups” like antifa infiltrated the mob of Trump supporters to sow chaos at the Capitol.
“Then we had the reports that groups like antifa, other radical groups — I don’t know the names of all of them — that they were there to cause trouble,” Hannity said on his radio show.
The host defended Trump as recently as last month, after the House committee released an initial batch of his frantic texts to Meadows urging him to rein Trump in before, during, and after the January 6 riot.
“This was a riot that was unleashed, incited and inspired by the president of the United States,” commentator Geraldo Rivera said on Hannity’s Fox News show. But Hannity cut in and appeared to deflect blame from Trump, saying the president had sent tweets asking rioters to behave “peacefully” hours after the siege began.
Rivera replied by reminding Hannity of his own texts to Meadows, which the January 6 committee had released the previous day.
“I beg you, Sean, to remember the frame of mind you were in when you wrote that text on January 6,” Rivera said.
Hannity’s messages were included in 9,000 pages of documents Meadows turned over to the committee in response to a subpoena. Though he initially cooperated with the investigation, he’s since reversed course, refusing any further help and filing a lawsuit asking a court to invalidate the committee’s subpoenas to him.
In a letter to Hannity on Tuesday, the leaders of the committee requested that he voluntarily cooperate with the investigation.
They wrote that Hannity’s communications with Trump and his top aides suggest that he had advance knowledge about “President Trump’s and his legal team’s planning for January 6th” and “knowledge of concerns by President Trump’s White House Counsel’s Office regarding the legality of the former President’s plans for January 6th.” The committee said it has obtained “dozens of text messages” sent between Hannity and Trump’s top staffers and advisors concerning January 6.
Committee chairman Rep. Bennie Thompson and vice chair Rep. Liz Cheney urged Hannity to comply with their request out of a sense of patriotism.
“We have no doubt that you love our country and respect our Constitution,” they wrote. “Now is the time to step forward and serve the interests of your country.”
Hannity’s attorney, Jay Sekulow, said in a statement to multiple media outlets that the committee’s request raises First Amendment and press freedom concerns.
“The request raises serious constitutional issues,” Sekulow said. “We are reviewing the Committees letter and will respond as appropriate.”
Hannity was not the only Fox News host or close Trump ally to urge the former president’s top aides to get him to take action to stop the Capitol riot. Fellow Fox News primetime hosts Laura Ingraham and Brian Kilmeade also texted Meadows during the riot.
“Mark, the President needs to tell people in the Capitol to go home. This is hurting all of us. He is destroying his legacy,” Ingraham wrote. Kilmeade similarly texted, “Please get him on TV. Destroying everything you have accomplished.”
Trump’s eldest son and one of his most devoted loyalists, Donald Trump Jr., also begged Meadows to appeal to Trump.
“He’s got to condemn this shit ASAP,” Trump Jr. wrote in a text. “The Capitol Police tweet is not enough.” He added: “We need an Oval office address. He has to lead now. It has gone too far and gotten out of hand.”
Insider has reached out to Fox News for comment.
Jake Lahut contributed to this story.