The Daily Beast published a story Thursday evening claiming that Fox News’ host Sean Hannity has been advising President Trump on the Nunes memo.
According to three sources with knowledge of their conversations, Trump has been in regular contact with Hannity over the phone in recent weeks, as the Fox News primetime star and Trump ally has encouraged the prompt release of a controversial four page memo crafted by Republicans on the House Intelligence Committee. Hannity has gone to the wall to push for the public release of the memo, which the Intelligence Committee and its chairman, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), authorized this week in a party-line vote despite the classified information therein…
In their conversations, Trump and Hannity discussed the Nunes memo’s supposed bombshell-level significance, and how it could shed light on the alleged anti-Trump bias and “corruption” at the FBI. On these calls, Trump has directly referenced specific recent Hannity segments related to #ReleaseTheMemo, according to one of three sources with knowledge of their conversations.
The story itself says that the White House press office didn’t respond to questions and Hannity refused to comment. However, a few minutes after the story appeared, Hannity disputed it on Twitter in no uncertain terms: “A total lie, Fake news. Phony ‘anonymous sources’. Amazing how the left wing media just makes Sh&)(: up.”
Obviously, this is not a good look for the White House or for Fox News. If the story is true it makes the White House appear to be acting out of highly partisan motives on an already highly partisan issue. I don’t think anyone on the really doubted that was the case (on either side of this debate), but having Hannity as an unofficial adviser will certainly make a good talking point for those who claim this is about politics, not substance. This won’t hurt Hannity’s reputation (again, if true) since he’s never pretended to be anything other than a partisan conservative, but Fox News may feel differently about having one of their host coordinating with the White House on an issue he is also covering on the air.
So who is telling the truth here? On that point, it’s worth recalling that, according to this December report by the NY Times, Trump regularly spends time at night calling friends and unofficial advisers to sound them out on various issues on his mind:
When the guests depart, the remote control comes back out. He is less likely to tweet at this hour, when the news he would react to is mostly recycled from hours earlier…
In between, it is time for phone calls, to people he has fired like Corey Lewandowski and Mr. Bannon, old friends like Thomas J. Barrack Jr. and Richard LeFrak, and more recently Republican lawmakers, especially Representative Mark Meadows of North Carolina, the head of the conservative Freedom Caucus. This is when his fixations are unfettered: Russia, Mrs. Clinton, Barack Obama, the “fake news” media, his bitter disappointment with Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
I think that establishes, at a minimum, that Trump does sound people out on issues. Could Hannity have been one of those people? Hannity’s denial seems pretty firm, but is he denying having any conversations with the president or merely rejecting the idea that he has become an unofficial adviser on this specific issue? Perhaps he’ll clarify that a bit more on tonight’s show.