WASHINGTON (AP) — The House panel investigating the Jan. 6 U.S. Capitol insurrection on Tuesday requested an interview with Fox News personality Sean Hannity, one of former President Donald Trump’s closest allies in the media, as the committee continues to widen its scope.
In a letter to Hannity, Mississippi Rep. Bennie Thompson, Democratic chairman of the panel, said the panel wants to question him regarding his communications with former President Donald Trump, former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and others in Trump’s orbit in the days surrounding the insurrection.
A Fox News spokesperson declined to comment on the request. Jay Sekulow, Hannity’s lawyer, told Axios, “If true, any such request would raise serious constitutional issues including First Amendment concerns regarding freedom of the press.”
Sekulow later told The Associated Press he had not seen Thompson’s letter.
In his letter, Thompson 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.”
However, the chairman said, the committee has a responsibility to investigate the dozens of text messages it has in its possession, from Dec. 31, 2020, to Jan. 20, 2021, between Hannity, Trump and Meadows regarding the outcome of the 2020 presidential election and Trump’s failed efforts to contest it.
One specific December 2020 text from Hannity to Meadows highlighted in the letter reads: “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 voting integrity. Go to Fl and watch Joe mess up daily. Stay engaged. When he speaks people will listen.”
Hannity criticized the violence last Jan. 6. But he’s also sharply criticized the committee, saying on the air Dec. 13 after his text to Trump was 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 Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., publicizing his text. “Do we believe in privacy in this country? Apparently not.”
The request is the first by the nine-member panel to a member of the media and opens a new door for the investigation as it widens its scope to any and all people who were in contact with the former president and his inner circle in the time surrounding the attack.
AP Media Writer David Bauder in New York contributed to this report.