According to two people familiar with the matter, Trump had privately gossiped with Hannity—a prominent informal adviser to this president and one of Trump’s preferred late-night phone buddies—about the Fox host’s desire to make an example of the Times. Though President Trump thought it was a good idea for Hannity to explore legal action against the news outlet, one of the two sources stressed that it “wasn’t the president’s idea” for Hannity and his attorney to shoot off a threatening letter to the Times. Trump did not order or direct Hannity to do so, this source said.
A third person with knowledge of the situation said that for the past month the president had repeatedly complained to advisers that he and other Trumpworld figures should consider lawsuits for all the “lies” news outlets have supposedly told about them during the coronavirus crisis. This source said they were aware of an instance when Trump directly conveyed the sentiment to Hannity and at least one other conservative media personality.
Update: Sean Hannity has released a statement denying the story, through Fox News Channel:
“Fake news. I never spoke with the President nor consulted with him about my attorney’s letter to the New York Times or who I should hire. And as previously stated, Michael Cohen was never my attorney.”