Former Trump deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates told investigators with the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) that in the lead up to the 2016 presidential election, Fox News’s Sean Hannity would tailor the content of his nightly cable news show according to the suggestions of then-candidate Donald Trump’s campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
The documents were obtained through protracted litigation surrounding BuzzFeed News’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for interview summaries (FBI 302 reports) from the investigation of former special counsel Robert Mueller.
Gates and Manafort, who were longtime business associates before joining the Trump campaign, were both indicted by federal authorities in October of 2017 on charges related to their consulting work on behalf of pro-Russian politicians in Ukraine.
While documents previously released by BuzzFeed illustrated that Hannity was “a central point of contact between the president’s allies who were under investigation [by Mueller] and Trump himself,” Monday’s cache showed that the symbiotic relationship between the cable news host and Trump’s campaign began well before the 2016 election.
“Hannity and Manafort had a good relationship,” Gates told federal investigators while under oath in 2018. “Hannity was a Trump supporter who publicly applauded Manafort’s hiring by the Trump Campaign. Hannity said, ‘Finally, we have an adult in the room,’ when Manafort was hired. During the campaign, Hannity tailored his shows to the agenda Manafort suggested.”
Gates also said Hannity referred to himself as a “pundit,” as opposed to a “journalist.”
NEW: Sean Hannity continues to be a prominent presence in the #MuellerMemos (FBI 302s). In this latest batch we obtained, Rick Gates told Mueller's team that during the 2016 campaign, "Hannity tailored his shows to the agenda Manafort suggested."https://t.co/90eZcxJjMp pic.twitter.com/fHPE5rnCcs
— Jason Leopold (@JasonLeopold) March 3, 2020
As Law&Crime previously reported, court documents unsealed on the docket for Manafort’s criminal trial in the District of Columbia revealed hundreds of text messages exchanged between Hannity and Manafort in 2017 and 2018.
Those messages showed Manafort, for the most part, praising Hannity’s support of President Trump and criticizing special counsel Mueller’s tactics in his investigation into Manafort’s criminal misdeeds.
Hannity expressed disdain for Hillary Clinton, Mueller, and Democratic politicians. He also repeatedly urged Manafort to appear on his show prior to his incarceration.
Manafort was eventually sentenced to 7 and a half years in prison for bank fraud, tax fraud, and not filing reports of his foreign bank accounts, among other charges.
Gates pleaded guilty to conspiracy and lying to the FBI and was sentenced to 45 days in jail, three years of probation, and a $20,000 fine.
Law&Crime reached out to Hannity for comment. He said that, as he tweeted in June 2019, his “view of the Special Counsel investigation and the treatment of Paul Manafort were made clear every day to anyone who listens to my radio show or watches my TV show.”
“I am extremely proud of the investigative reporting that me, my radio staff, TV staff, and ensemble cast of reporters have done the last three years,” Hannity said in a statement. “While the media mob peddled lies and conspiracy theories and were proven wrong again and again, we have been vindicated on everything we reported from Hillary Clinton’s server, deleted emails, dirty Russian dossier, premeditated fraud on the FISA Court, illegally spying and more. Just read the Horowitz report, and watch what U.S. Attorney John Durham discovers in time.”
“As a member of the press, I will never ever confirm or deny any sources I may or may not have had,” he added.
Editor’s note: this story was updated post-publication with a statement from Hannity.
[image via Fox News screengrab]