Fox News host Sean Hannity downplayed the testimony given by former acting Attorney General Sally Yates, who revealed that she warned President Donald Trump's administration on multiple occasions about then-national security adviser Michael Flynn and his contacts with Russian officials. Instead, Hannity tried to reinvigorate baseless claims that someone in former President Barack Obama’s administration unlawfully unmasked Flynn.
Hannity's attempt to downplay negative information about the Trump administration goes hand in hand with his sycophantic coverage of the president. Throughout Trump's campaign, Hannity constantly defended Trump as experts and journalists criticized his “racist” comments and debunked claims. Additionally, Hannity and Trump have served as a sounding board for one another, with Hannity pushing for Trump's war on the press and Trump tweeting about conspiracies promoted on Hannity's show.
In testimony to a Senate Judiciary subcommittee investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election on May 8, Yates said she warned the Trump administration in late January that Flynn was “compromised” in his ability to execute the responsibilities of his position in an independent fashion. Nearly three weeks after Yates warned the administration, Trump asked for Flynn’s resignation. The move came only after The Washington Post reported that Flynn had communicated with Russian ambassador Sergey Kislyak regarding sanctions put in place by the Obama administration -- “contrary to public assertions by Trump officials,” including Vice President Mike Pence. In her testimony, Yates said that “the Russians also knew that General Flynn had misled the vice president and others,” and that the indiscretion potentially exposed him to foreign blackmail. Yates added that when she brought her concerns to White House counsel Don McGahn, he reportedly asked her, “Why does it matter to DOJ if one White House official lies to another White House official?”
Despite the details revealed during the hearing, Hannity downplayed the importance of Yates’ testimony during his three-hour radio show and nightly Fox News program on May 8. Instead, he and guest Sara Carter of Circa News speculated about whether the Obama administration was involved in improperly unmasking members of the Trump administration, as well as journalists, lawyers, doctors, and even Hannity himself. However, administration officials have said that unmasking -- revealing otherwise obscured identities in intelligence reports -- occurs commonly but to limited audiences when officials have a good reason for getting the information; Yates noted during her testimony that she had never asked for anyone to be unmasked but had seen reports generally where names were already unmasked. Hannity also suggested on his radio show that the alleged unmasking was “a violation of our Fourth Amendment rights,” adding, “We’re talking about criminal actions here:”
SEAN HANNITY (HOST): I want to know if I was unmasked. Because you both saw those reports and I have no ability to corroborate independently whether or not it’s true, but Sara, what are you hearing on your end about the names? Is it Congress or these -- the 16 other presidential candidates, what?
SARA CARTER: I don’t think it’s just limited to Congress, Sean. I don’t think it’s limited to Congress at all. I think that what John [Solomon] and I really want to find out goes far beyond Congress. Were there other members unmasked? And John and I had written about this early on in our first story. Were there journalists? Were there doctors? Who else was being unmasked? Lawyers, people with important jobs, judges? These are questions that need to be answered and nobody wants to give it up, right? They can hide under the classification of it, but eventually these answers have to come forward. And I think it’s a violation of civil liberties if we don’t have an answer to this.
HANNITY: Isn’t it bigger than civil liberties, though? Isn’t that a violation of our Fourth Amendment rights? And aren’t we also discussing if the intelligence community is used for political [opposition] research and taking away people’s Fourth Amendment rights? We’re talking about criminal actions here.
This is not the first time Hannity has downplayed the scandal surrounding Flynn. Following Flynn’s resignation, Hannity used his opening monologue to blame liberals for Flynn’s downfall, despite the administration’s own admission that Flynn had lied to the White House.