Throughout Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s prosecution of Paul Manafort, he found a willing and enthusiastic ally and confidant: Fox News host and presidential pal Sean Hannity.
On Friday, a D.C. federal judge released dozens of pages of private text messages between the former Trump campaign chairman and Hannity, who at one point offered “anything I can do to help.”
The messages show Hannity apparently reached out shortly after the FBI raided Manafort’s Alexandria, Virginia apartment in August 2017. Hannity checked in on Manafort throughout the course of the special counsel’s investigation and prosecution of him, asking if he was OK. Like many other higher-ups in Trump’s orbit, Manafort maintained a friendly relationship with Hannity during the 2016 election and kept in touch after he left the Trump campaign in August 2016.
The Special Counsel’s Office charged Manafort with tax and bank fraud counts in Virginia and tried him in a separate case in Washington, D.C., for acting as an unregistered foreign agent, money laundering and obstruction of justice.
Hannity spent large portions of his texts with Manafort discussing (and rehashing) episodes of his own television show. He complained about never-Trumpers, Hillary Clinton, and the special counsel’s investigation.
Hannity also repeatedly invited Manafort on TV, saying it would give him a chance to defend himself against Mueller’s prosecutors. Hannity told Manafort to connect him with his lawyer to get information on important developments. Manafort repeatedly declined, citing a court gag order restricting him from publicly discussing his case.
But the text messages were perhaps the most blatant behind-the-scenes look at how cozy the host was with Manafort, the subject of hours of news coverage on Fox and Hannity’s show in particular.
Hannity in one instance declared he was “NOT a fair weather friend,” and told Manafort how unfairly he believed he was being treated.
“We are all on the same team,” he said.
Manafort also had plenty of compliments for Hannity, saying he was on “fire,” “great” on radio, and declared that “in a fair world, you would get a Pulitzer prize for your incredible reporting.” He said he loved Hannity’s interview with former Trump adviser Roger Stone, and in one instance, Manafort said he watched the show with his three-month-old grandson, who was apparently mesmerized.
“I swear to God. He was totally focused. Your audience is growing demographically,” he said.
“You help me keep my hope and sanity,” Manafort said on another occasion.
And throughout the investigation and trial, Hannity repeatedly publicly called for the charges against Manafort to be dropped.
Hannity even hinted at insider knowledge of attempts to retaliate against those involved in the Russia investigation. When Manafort said he hoped that then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions would appoint a new special counsel to investigate the Russia inquiry, Hannity texted “He has to [do] it [or else] he is gone. Talked to a friend.”
While it’s unclear who Hannity was talking about, he often speaks to Trump.
After the text messages were revealed on Friday, Hannity appeared to shrug them off, writing on Twitter that his views on the Russia investigation and Manafort “were made clear every day to anyone who listens to my radio show or watches my TV show.”
Manafort is currently serving a 7.5-year prison sentence after he was found guilty of financial crimes by a Virginia jury and pleaded guilty to conspiracy to obstruct justice and defraud the United States in a separate D.C. case.