As Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the Russia scandal intensifies, the pressure seems to be getting to Donald Trump. In fact, as key figures weigh whether, and to what extent, to cooperate with the probe, the president has sounded at times a bit like an organized-crime figure.
Last week, for example, Trump argued that those who cooperate with federal investigators (Michael Cohen) are “weak,” while those who don’t (Paul Manafort) may be deserving of a pardon. This week, the president published a tweet that praised Roger Stone’s “guts” for refusing to cooperate with the special counsel.
A day after Trump wrote that missive, Fox News’ Sean Hannity, one of the president’s closest allies, told his radio audience that he believes talking to the FBI is a bad idea. From Media Matters’ transcript:
“If you’re like me, and you were – grew up to revere an FBI agent, and the FBI comes to your house, and maybe some crime took place in the neighborhood, and maybe you have a little bit of information, but you don’t quite fully recall everything, but you’re pretty sure you do – the advice I have to give you now is, ‘Don’t talk to the FBI.’ How awful is that?”
I’ll assume that was a rhetorical question.
In case there were any doubts about the reasoning behind Hannity’s comments, the host added, “I don’t think anything of what we’re hearing is true, because it just – none of it makes sense, but they get to jump the gun, because they want this all to – they want everybody to believe Donald Trump was colluding with the Russians.”
It’s quite a one-two punch, isn’t it? On the one hand, we see the sitting president, the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation, publicly praising those who refuse to cooperate with a federal investigation – to the point that some knowledgeable observers questioned whether he’d crossed the line into witness tampering.
On the other hand, we see that same president’s most ardent media ally – by all accounts, an unofficial White House adviser – publicly discouraging people from talking to the FBI.
What’s more, let’s not forget that Fox’s Hannity isn’t just another Trump-supporting pundit. The president published a tweet on Friday encouraging the public to tune in to Hannity – something Trump has done many times before.
Hannity is so closely aligned with this president that the Fox host literally took the stage at a Trump campaign rally last month. Earlier this year, New York’s Olivia Nuzzi reported that Trump and Hannity talk on the phone nearly every night. “On some days,” the article added, “they speak multiple times, with one calling the other to inform him of the latest developments.”
With this in mind, when Hannity advises, “Don’t talk to the FBI,” I wonder how many will perceive it as advice reflecting the president’s wishes?