The Daily Beast reported President Donald Trump “has been in regular contact with” Fox News host Sean Hannity in recent weeks about the release of a memo drafted by Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) critical of the FBI’s investigation into Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign and his ties to Russia.
According to The Daily Beast, Trump has spoken with Hannity regularly “over the phone” about releasing the memo. The report echoes earlier reports from the New York Times, which alleged Hannity “had for months peppered Mr. Trump, his family members and advisers with suggestions on strategy and messaging,” and from the Los Angeles Times, which reported Hannity had called Trump and advised the president on immigration. From the the Daily Beast:
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.
Sources say Hannity’s persistent advocacy reinforced Trump’s already growing determination to get that memo into the public realm—despite huge potential fallout within the law enforcement and intelligence arms of his own administration.
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.
"Senior counselor to the president, Sean H[annity]," one senior White House official joked to The Daily Beast this week.
In recent weeks, Hannity has used his radio show to attack the FBI’s criticism of Nunes’ memo, and directed listeners to “call Congress now” and “say, ‘Release the memo.’” Hannity has also repeatedly and publicly called for Special Counsel Robert Mueller to be removed.
While Hannity advises the president on Nunes’ memo, Fox News anchor Shep Smith noted how the memo is intended as “a weapon of partisan mass distraction." From January 25:
Many who have seen the memo say it's misleading, distracting, and lacking context. The memo itself is in the conservative discussion mix while the special counsel investigating Russian interference in our democracy is apparently about to interview the president of the United States while seeking to determine whether he's colluded with the Russians or obstructed justice. A memo can be a weapon of partisan mass distraction, especially in a pivotal moment in American history when it behooves the man in charge for supporters to believe the institutions can't be trusted, investigators are corrupt, and the news media are liars. Context matters.
Update: On February 1, Sean Hannity responded on Twitter to The Daily Beast's report, calling it "Fake news" and saying on his show, Hannity, "people in the media were saying that I'm advising him on the memo. ... You can't advise this president, he's such his own man."
SEAN HANNITY (HOST): By the way people in the media were saying that I’m advising him on the memo. First of all, you can’t advise this president, he’s such his own man. You can’t tell him not to tweet. He follows his own ways. And I’m saying it every night, call your congressman, release the memo, hello.
Update: Crooked Media's Brian Beutler adds a notable point:
It’s ok that Trump is talking to Hannity about a classified memo on an unsecured phone because there’s no private email server involved.
— Brian Beutler (@brianbeutler) February 2, 2018