House Panel Asks Sean Hannity of Fox News to Cooperate in Jan. 6 Inquiry
The House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol has requested that Sean Hannity, the star Fox News host, respond to questions about his communications with former President Donald J. Trump and his staff in the days surrounding the riot.
In a letter on Tuesday, the committee asked for Mr. Hannity’s voluntary cooperation, meaning that the host has not received a formal subpoena. The letter detailed a series of text messages between the conservative media star and senior officials in the Trump White House, illustrating Mr. Hannity’s unusually elevated role as an outside adviser to the administration.
As Mr. Trump grappled with the political fallout of the attack — including a looming impeachment inquiry and rebukes from some top Republicans — Mr. Hannity wrote on Jan. 10 to Mark Meadows, the president’s chief of staff, and Representative Jim Jordan, an Ohio Republican and a key ally. “He can’t mention the election again. Ever,” Mr. Hannity said in the message, referring to Mr. Trump. “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?”
A lawyer for Mr. Hannity, Jay Sekulow, said on Tuesday that the committee’s request “would raise serious constitutional issues including First Amendment concerns regarding freedom of the press.” Fox News referred inquiries to Mr. Sekulow’s statement.
The letter from the committee informed Mr. Hannity that it believed the Fox News host “had advance knowledge regarding President Trump’s and his legal team’s planning for Jan. 6,” calling him “a fact witness in our investigation.” The committee wrote that it had obtained “dozens of text messages” between Mr. Hannity and members of Mr. Trump’s inner circle, including a note on Jan. 5 in which Mr. Hannity expressed concern about the next day’s counting of Electoral College votes.
“I’m very worried about the next 48 hours,” Mr. Hannity wrote.
Mr. Hannity was one of several Fox News stars who became informal confidants to Mr. Trump over the course of his administration, frequently conversing with the president by telephone and over meals in the White House.
“He was more than a Fox host; he was also a confidant, adviser, campaigner for the former president,” Representative Adam B. Schiff, a California Democrat and member of the committee, said on MSNBC on Tuesday.
Key Figures in the Jan. 6 Inquiry
The House investigation. A select committee is scrutinizing the causes of the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, which occurred as Congress met to formalize Joe Biden’s election victory amid various efforts to overturn the results. Here are some people being examined by the panel:
Donald Trump. The former president’s movement and communications on Jan. 6 appear to be a focus of the inquiry. But Mr. Trump has attempted to shield his records, invoking executive privilege. The dispute is making its way through the courts.
Mark Meadows. Mr. Trump’s chief of staff, who initially provided the panel with a trove of documents that showed the extent of his role in the efforts to overturn the election, is now refusing to cooperate. The House voted to recommend holding Mr. Meadows in criminal contempt of Congress.
Scott Perry and Jim Jordan. The Republican representatives of Pennsylvania and Ohio are among a group of G.O.P. congressmen who were deeply involved in efforts to overturn the election. Mr. Perry has refused to meet with the panel.
Phil Waldron. The retired Army colonel has been under scrutiny since a 38-page PowerPoint document he circulated on Capitol Hill was turned over to the panel by Mr. Meadows. The document contained extreme plans to overturn the election.
Fox News anchors. Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity and Brian Kilmeade texted Mr. Meadows during the Jan. 6 riot urging him to persuade Mr. Trump to make an effort to stop it. The texts were part of the material that Mr. Meadows had turned over to the panel.
Steve Bannon. The former Trump aide has been charged with contempt of Congress for refusing to comply with a subpoena, claiming protection under executive privilege even though he was an outside adviser. His trial is scheduled for next summer.
Michael Flynn. Mr. Trump’s former national security adviser attended an Oval Office meeting on Dec. 18 in which participants discussed seizing voting machines and invoking certain national security emergency powers. Mr. Flynn has filed a lawsuit to block the panel’s subpoenas.
Jeffrey Clark. The little-known official repeatedly pushed his colleagues at the Justice Department to help Mr. Trump undo his loss. The panel has recommended that Mr. Clark be held in criminal contempt of Congress for refusing to cooperate.
John Eastman. The lawyer has been the subject of intense scrutiny since writing a memo that laid out how Mr. Trump could stay in power. Mr. Eastman was present at a meeting of Trump allies at the Willard Hotel that has become a prime focus of the panel.
Last month, the committee revealed that Mr. Hannity had contacted Mr. Meadows on Jan. 6 as rioters overtook the Capitol, asking: “Can he make a statement? Ask people to leave the Capitol.” The Fox News stars Laura Ingraham and Brian Kilmeade sent similar notes asking that Mr. Trump take steps to quell the violence. In Fox News prime time on Jan. 6, Mr. Hannity told his viewers that “all of today’s perpetrators must be arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” adding: “Every good and decent American, we know, will and must condemn what happened at the Capitol.”
A spokesman for the committee declined to say on Tuesday if additional Fox News hosts would be asked to answer questions. Mr. Hannity is the most prominent media star so far that the committee has contacted about testifying. The committee previously issued a subpoena for the conspiracy theorist and Infowars host Alex Jones, who has sued the committee to try to stonewall the investigation.
The letter to Mr. Hannity was signed by Representative Bennie Thompson, Democrat of Mississippi and the committee chairman, and its vice chairwoman, Representative Liz Cheney, Republican of Wyoming.
“We have no doubt that you love our country and respect our Constitution,” Mr. Thompson and Ms. Cheney wrote. “Now is the time to step forward and serve the interests of your country.”