An attorney for Hannity, Jay Sekulow, has reviewed the letter. In a statement Tuesday, he told reporters the request for voluntary compliance raised “serious constitutional issues including the First Amendment concerns regarding freedom of the press.”
The committee has narrowed its request to a series of texts from Dec. 31, 2020, to Jan. 20, 2021, that were sent between the conservative pundit, Trump, White House staff, and Trump’s legal team.
In a 2020 New Year’s Eve text to former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, for example, Hannity wrote: “We can’t lose the entire WH counsels office. I do NOT see Jan. 6 happening the way he is being told. After the 6th he should announce will lead the nationwide effort to reform voting integrity. Go to the FI and watch Joe mess up daily. Stay engaged. When he speaks, people will listen.”
Just a night before the Capitol attack, Hannity sent and received a “stream of texts,” the committee emphasized.
Hannity, during the afternoon of Jan. 5, sent a text saying: “I’m very worried about the next 48 hours.” It is unclear who received that message. But that same night he sent a message to Meadows saying, “Pence pressure. WH counsel will leave.” Other texts have also indicated to the committee that Hannity was in direct contact with Trump on the evening of Jan. 5 regarding his planning for Jan. 6.
Hannity’s activity on Jan. 5 generates numerous questions for investigators. In their letter, they laid them out:
“With the counting of electoral votes scheduled for Jan. 6 at 1 PM, why were you concerned about the next 48 hours?”
“What communication or information led you to conclude that the White House counsel would leave? What precisely did you know at that time?”
Hannity also appeared to have been in direct contact with Meadows while the riot was actively unfolding, and the president’s supporters were trying to occupy the Capitol.
The Fox News host pleaded to Meadows that he advise Trump to say something publicly and “ask people to peacefully leave the Capitol.”
Later on Jan. 6, Hannity forwarded press reports to Meadows about cabinet members who wanted to remove Trump under the 25th Amendment.
“As you may recall Secretaries DeVos and Chao both resigned following the President’s conduct on Jan. 6, as did members of the President’s White House staff,” the Jan. 6 committee said in its letter to Hannity. “We would like to question you regarding any conversations you had with Mr. Meadows or others about any effort to remove the president under the 25th Amendment.”
Hannity’s text messages were provided to the committee as a part of the tranche Meadows turned over to the committee when it first subpoenaed him. Meadows reversed course midway through that cooperation, however, and began stonewalling the committee as Trump ramped up his legal bid to keep documents shrouded. That decision to quit cooperating earned Meadows a criminal contempt of Congress charge and it is up to the Department of Justice now to decide whether it will pursue an indictment against Meadows.
Hannity is also being grilled about messages sent after the Capitol attack. There was one, in particular, on Jan. 20, that Hannity sent to both Meadows and Rep. Jim Jordan, a Republican of Ohio and devoted Trump ally.
“Guys, we have a clear path to land the plane in nine 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?” Hannity wrote.
None of these exchanges are, the committee contends, subject to “any kind of privilege.”
“All bear directly on the issues before our committee. We cannot in good faith fail to question you on these and other specific issues relevant to our investigation, which includes an investigation into the facts and circumstances relating to the interference with the peaceful transfer of power,” the committee wrote.
Jordan has also been asked to voluntarily comply with the committee’s investigation. He has rebuffed the probe. He and Rep. Scott Perry of Pennsylvania are two lawmakers that have been squared up by the committee openly for their reported involvement in Trump’s putsch on Jan. 6, 2020. Perry, like, Jordan, also refused to comply with the voluntary request. Jan. 6 Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat, has indicated that GOP leader Kevin McCarthy may be next in its requests to fellow lawmakers.
Notably, Hannity is not the only right-wing talking head that piled onto Meadows on Jan. 6. Fox anchors Brian Kilmeade and Laura Ingraham both texted Meadows, according to documents obtained by the committee, asking him to do something, anything, as the riot exploded.
“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 lamented, “Please get him on TV. Destroying everything you have accomplished.”
While Hannity is now in the spotlight, right-wing commentator Sebastian Gorka says he would like it pulled off him.
Gorka sued the committee on Jan. 4 in a district court in Washington, D.C., and asked the court to stop the Jan. 6 Committee from accessing his Verizon phone records.
Gorka has not been subpoenaed by the probe thus far.
In his 22-page lawsuit, he notes that he was scheduled to deliver remarks for a rally on Jan. 6. in front of the Supreme Court but it was canceled.
“Therefore, he only observed speeches at the Ellipse as one spectator among many and left. He committed no crime and has done nothing, and has no information, that could provide the basis for new laws,” the lawsuit states.
Gorka slammed the committee as a “purely partisan fishing expedition.”
This brand of lawsuit has become increasingly common among those in Trump’s Jan. 6 network. Former national security adviser Michael Flynn, Trump’s adviser John Eastman and conspiracy theorist and “Stop the Steal” rally organizer Ali Alexander, to name just a few, have all sued the committee in an effort to stop the body from accessing phone records.
The committee has made clear that they are not after the content of those calls or texts but are looking for call logs. Those details could flesh out the timeline of who spoke to who and when and for how long.
A spokesperson for the committee declined to comment on the lawsuit.