The Jan. 6 select committee has requested Fox News Channel host Sean Hannity voluntarily cooperate with its investigation of the assault on the U.S. Capitol, a source with direct knowledge of the plan told Axios and the committee later confirmed.
Why it matters: Hannity is one of the most prominent media figures in America and was a close adviser to Donald Trump throughout his presidency. The committee revealed last month that Hannity texted then-White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows during the riot to urge him to get Trump to stop his supporters.
Driving the news: In a letter to Hannity, Chair Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and Vice Chair Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) wrote that they seek “voluntary cooperation on a specific and narrow range of factual questions” and are not seeking “information regarding any of your broadcasts, or your political views or commentary.”
- Jay Sekulow, counsel to Sean Hannity, told Axios, “If true, any such request would raise serious constitutional issues including First Amendment concerns regarding freedom of the press.”
Between the lines: Hannity condemned the attack on the U.S. Capitol, saying on his show on the night after the riot that “all of today’s perpetrators must be arrested and prosecuted.”
- But Hannity has never criticized Trump for his role in ginning up the crowd in D.C. that day. And he has criticized the congressional committee investigating Jan. 6.
Details: Axios has not yet been able to establish the nature of the cooperation the committee plans to ask of Hannity. Committee officials have said Hannity was among several Fox News hosts who were texting Meadows during the riot.
- The letter cited text conversations with Meadows, in which Hannity said, “I do NOT see January 6 happening the way he is being told.” He instead advocated for Trump to go to Florida and focus on election reform.
- Two other Fox News hosts — Laura Ingraham, the host of the 10pm show “The Ingraham Angle,” and Brian Kilmeade, a host of the morning show “Fox & Friends” — also weighed in with Meadows in real time as Trump supporters stormed the Capitol to disrupt the certification of Joe Biden’s electoral victory.
Behind the scenes: Hannity was much more than a TV host during the Trump presidency. He was a friend, supporter and informal adviser in frequent phone calls with the former president.
- One former Trump aide sarcastically referred to Hannity as the “real chief of staff.” That was a gross overstatement, but it spoke to Hannity’s special access to Trump.
- Such was Hannity’s influence with Trump that officials who wanted to persuade him often turned to the Fox News host to help get their ideas or action items across the line.
- A phone call from Hannity to Trump carried more sway than a conversation between the president and many members of his own Cabinet.
Go deeper: Trump cancels Jan. 6 press conference
Editor’s note: This story has been updated with a letter the committee sent to Hannity as well as new texts made available by the committee.