Capitol probe seeks to question Fox host Hannity over Trump texts

Panel sends letter requesting Hannity voluntarily answer questions about communications with Trump and others in days surrounding January 6, 2021 attack.

Fox News host Sean Hannity is seen in the White House briefing room
The lawmakers say they have dozens of text messages between Hannity, Trump and the former president's team [File: AFP]

The United States House of Representatives panel probing the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol has asked Fox News host Sean Hannity to provide information about his text messages with former President Donald Trump, his aides and lawyers at the time.

The investigators on Tuesday sent a letter requesting Hannity voluntarily answer questions about matters including his communications with Trump, Chief of Staff Mark Meadows and others in the days surrounding the attack, in which thousands of Trump supporters stormed the seat of US democracy in Washington, DC, in a bid to prevent lawmakers from certifying President Joe Biden’s election victory.

“Im very worried about the next 48 hours,” Hannity wrote in one of those text messages on the eve of the attack, according to the legislators’ letter to Hannity. In another text to Meadows, Hannity wrote, “Pence pressure. WH counsel will leave.”

“Why were you concerned about the next 48 hours?” Representative Bennie Thompson, the committee’s chairman, and Liz Cheney, its vice chair, asked Hannity. The letter added that Hannity’s communications suggested he “had 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 lawmakers said they have dozens of text messages between Hannity, Meadows and others “related to the 2020 election and President Trump’s efforts to contest the outcome of the vote”.

“At this time, we are specifically focused on a series of your communications with President Trump, White House staff and President Trump’s legal team between December 31, 2020, and January 20, 2021,” Cheney and Thompson wrote to Hannity.

Hannity’s journalism not inquired about

The lawmakers said Hannity’s communications were not subject to any kind of privilege and were related to the issues being probed by the committee.

In the letter, Thompson and Cheney said: “The Select Committee has immense respect for the First Amendment to our Constitution, freedom of the press, and the rights of Americans to express their political opinions freely. For that reason, we do not intend to seek information from you regarding your broadcasts on radio or television, your public reporting or commentary, or your political views regarding any candidate for office.”

Jay Sekulow, Hannity’s lawyer, told The Associated Press news agency that they were reviewing the committee’s letter and “will respond as appropriate.”

Five people, including a Capitol Police officer, died and dozens of people were injured during or in the aftermath of the incident.

More than 700 people have been arrested in connection with the multi-hour onslaught at the Capitol by Trump supporters who were seeking to overturn his defeat in the presidential election, which the former president falsely claimed was a result of widespread fraud.

Hannity had previously criticised the violence that took place on January 6. However, he has also been sharply critical of the committee and its work, saying on the air on December 13 after his texts were revealed: “We’ve been telling you that this is a waste of your time and money. They have a predetermined outcome.”

He also complained about committee member Cheney publicising his texts. “Do we believe in privacy in this country? Apparently not.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies