Paul Manafort reportedly believed Fox News host Sean Hannity was relaying backchannel messages from Donald Trump to him — all while the former was under investigation for federal crimes, new documents allege.
The revelation was part of a trove of documents related to Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, which were obtained and published by BuzzFeed News. The documents claim that Manafort saw the political commentator as an unofficial messenger for the president, one purportedly relaying messages to his former campaign chief who, at the time, was facing investigation for a range of federal fraud charges.
As the Daily Beast noted, Manafort did not speak directly to Trump or anyone associated with the president but apparently believed he was receiving messages through the Fox News host.
“Manafort knew Hannity was speaking to Trump because Hannity would tell Manafort to hang in there, that he had been talking to Trump, that Trump had his back, and things like that,” a newly released memo stated. “Manafort understood his conversations with Hannity to be a message from Trump.”
The memos claimed that Manafort also believed he could attempt to use other intermediaries to communicate with the president, including former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, but “never did so.”
As the Daily Beast added, the relationship between Manafort and Hannity existed in a hazy area, with the Fox News commentator coming under fire for what many saw as a journalistic conflict of interest. He reported frequently on Manafort’s legal investigations but dismissed criticism that his relationship with the former campaign chief was inappropriate.
The relationship between Hannity and Manafort was already under focus last year when text messages between the two were released, NBC News wrote. The texts showed Manafort complaining that investigators were trying to “split” him from Trump and from his own family with “lies.”
The relationship with Manafort was not Hannity’s only appearance in the Mueller memos. Another showed that former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen told Hannity during a Fox News appearance in 2015 that Trump might meet Russian President Vladimir Putin — thought Cohen didn’t exactly know how to make it happen. In an interview with the FBI, the former presidential lawyer said he ended up turning to Google to find a number for the Kremlin.
“Cohen called the Kremlin and spoke to a woman about the idea of Putin and Trump meeting. The woman that answered said she would speak to a supervisor and get back to him She mentioned the name Sergei Ivanov and said he should reach out to Ambassador [Sergey] Kislyak,” the interview summary noted. “Cohen asked for the woman’s email address and sent his contact information to her by sending her an email with his signature block.”