Sean Hannity’s TXT Messages To Mark Meadows [Updated]

How the host's off-camera views contradict what he was telling his audience

Yesterday, January 4th, the House Select Committee investigating the January 6th attack on the capital released a letter written to Fox News Host Sean Hannity requesting an interview. At the center of the committee’s case for the request are the following texts Hannity sent to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows:

12/31/2020
“We can’t lose the entire WH counsels office. I do NOT see January 6 happening the way he is being told. After the 6 th. He should announce will lead the nationwide effort to reform voting integrity. Go to Fl and watch Joe mess up daily. Stay engaged. When he speaks people will listen.”

1/5/2021
“Im very worried about the next 48 hours.”

“Pence pressure. WH counsel will leave.”

1/6/2021
“… Ask people to peacefully leave the [C]apit[o]l.”

1/10/2021
“Guys, we have a clear path to land the plane in 9 days. He can’t mention the election again. Ever. I did not have a good call with him today. And worse, I’m not sure what is left to do or say, and I don’t like not knowing if it’s truly understood. Ideas?”

https://january6th.house.gov/sites/democrats.january6th.house.gov/files/2022-1-4.BGT%20and%20LC%20Letter%20to%20Hannity_Redacted.pdf

Beyond revealing more about Hannity’s role as an external advisor to the administration (more on that in a moment), these texts demonstrate the divergence between Hannity the advisor and Hannity the right-wing media host.

In particular, the 12/31 message implies that Hannity was well aware that Trump has lost the election and had little hope of changing the outcome. He even appears to be aware that Trump is being given poor advice about those possibilities. However, on-air, Hannity the host continued to rally his audience to support the big lie and promote the January 6th “Stop the Steal” rally.

There’s often been a public perception that Hannity is, well, not the brightest bulb among right-wing media stars. Yet these snippets of txts, in particular, the ominous “Im very worried about the next 48 hours.” (Jan 5th, less than 24 hours before the riot), show someone who appears far more tuned into the reality of the situation than many close Trump advisors.

This brings us to Hannity’s role as an external advisor to the President and his close staff. In the January 10th txt, for example, we see a Hannity exasperated by his direct communications with the President (“I did not have a good call with him today”).* Hannity is implying that it’s time for Trump to give up the fight whether he likes it or not. These communications suggest that he and the former president were in semi-regular contact.

Hannity and Trump have a long-standing relationship that goes back to Hannity’s start in the New York conservative talk radio. In those days Trump was a recurring guest on Hannity’s radio show and later the Hannity and Colmes TV program. Still, while news personalities have served as informal external advisors to Presidents in the past, it appears that the relationship between Hannity and President Trump may be unique in terms of both access to the President and the regularity of their conversations. As the House Investigations Committee letter notes: “[i]t appears from other text messages that you may have had a conversation directly with President Trump on the evening of January 5th (and perhaps at other times) regarding his planning for January 6th.”

All those conversations were happening while Hannity was regularly interviewing and “reporting” on the President as part of his Fox News program. At no time was Hannity’s audience at Fox made aware of the depth of this ongoing relationship. Given Hannity’s relationship with Fox’s management, it’s unlikely these revelations will have much impact on him. What remains to be seen is how Hannity and his lawyer Jay Sekulow (who also served as an outside counsel for President Trump during both impeachment proceedings) will respond to the Committee’s request. Also, the degree to which Hannity himself (not to mention Fox News) will cover these txts and the interview request on his program. He was notably silent on the topic last night.

Then again, not revealing that he’s been requested for an interview based on his communications with the President is in keeping with the broader pattern of keeping the thoughts of Hannity the advisor hidden from Hannity the host’s audience.

[Update 1/6/2022]
The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake published an excellent deep dive into topics raised in this post. He also notes that the 12/31 and 1/5 text both seem to suggest that Hannity was somewhat aware that White House counsel Pat A. Cipollone and his top deputy, Patrick F. Philbin were threatening to resign if Trump went through with a documented plan to replace the acting AG with loyalist Jeffrey Clark.

* – Note that former President Trump has already issued a statement about this text through a spokesperson:


A personal message: Happy New Year folks. One of my resolutions is to write more publicly this year. And I could think of no better place to rebuild that muscle than here. James and Steven have graciously welcomed me back to the fold. My primary beats beyond politics will be the criminal legal system and social safety net (with some pop culture probably thrown in as well). And hopefully, unlike with my comments, I’ll keep the typos to a minimum.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2020, Capitol Riot, Congress, Donald Trump, Media, , , ,
Matt Bernius
About Matt Bernius
Matt Bernius is a design researcher working to create more equitable government systems and experiences. He's currently a Principal User Researcher on Code for America's "GetCalFresh" program, helping people apply for SNAP food benefits in California. Prior to joining CfA, he worked at Measures for Justice and at Effective, a UX agency. Matt has an MA from the University of Chicago.

Comments

  1. Sleeping Dog says:

    Great to see that you are stepping across the aisle. I look forward to your future posts.

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  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    And hopefully, unlike with my comments, I’ll keep the typos to a minimum.

    So “James and Steven graciously welcome you back to the fold, and you repay them by showing them up? What an ingrate!

    A little more serious, I’m happy to see you posting again.

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  3. OzarkHillbilly says:

    As far as

    All those conversations were happening while Hannity was regularly interviewing and “reporting” on the President as part of his Fox News program. At no time was Hannity’s audience at Fox made aware of the depth of this ongoing relationship. Given Hannity’s relationship with Fox’s management, it’s unlikely these revelations will have much impact on him.

    It’s not like FOX is a reputable news organization, is it now?

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  4. Matt Bernius says:

    @Sleeping Dog & @OzarkHillbilly:
    Thanks! It’s definitely been a while. And I’d love any feedback from the community.

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  5. CSK says:

    There’s speculation by Jamie Gangel of CNN that Trump canceled tomorrow’s commemorative press conference because of what Trump sees as Hannity’s betrayal of him as revealed in Hannity’s text messages to Mark Meadows.

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  6. Modulo Myself says:

    These reactions are no different than after the pussy-grabbing tape. In the end, it did not matter. Trump knows this. He knows the GOP is made up of bootlickers and the moderates will both-sides their way into rationalizing anything. And you know what? Had they used that dumb scheme to overturn the EC Trump would be president right now in the midst after a slew of court cases and legal changes, and the same idiot moderates would be buying into trolling bits about how NYC prosecutors aren’t going after criminals while rationalizing away an actual theft of an election.

    Trump’s support has never been the crazy base. It’s the system that exists to rationalize anything and equivocate torture or anti-vaccine lies or profound misconduct with attempts, however fraught, by honest people to make things better, and it works because the people who are really invested in this equivocation are just higher-level Hannitys being paid way way less. They need equivocation because that is their job and otherwise they will just be exposed as Sean Hannity.

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  7. Matt Bernius says:

    @CSK:

    There’s speculation by Jamie Gangel of CNN that Trump canceled tomorrow’s commemorative press conference because of what Trump sees as Hannity’s betrayal of him as revealed in Hannity’s text messages to Mark Meadows.

    I had not seen that it had been canceled. Looks like it happened after I logged off last night.

    As for the reasons for the cancellation, while the Hannity release might have played a role, Jonathon Swan suggests that other factions had been working behind the scenes to convince him to cancel it for a while.
    https://www.axios.com/trump-cancels-jan-6-press-conference-75ad9207-6820-43ec-be2d-7e64661de916.html

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  8. Gustopher says:

    In particular, the 12/31 message implies that Hannity was well aware that Trump has lost the election and had little hope of changing the outcome. He even appears to be aware that Trump is being given poor advice about those possibilities. However, on-air, Hannity the host continued to rally his audience to support the big lie and promote the January 6th “Stop the Steal” rally.

    And because people hear what they want to hear, I’m betting Trump then watched the show, and thought “I convinced him. He was doubting, but I convinced him.” And it then became evidence of how right the election theft fantasy was.

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  9. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    In particular, the 12/31 message implies that Hannity was well aware that Trump has lost the election and had little hope of changing the outcome.

    Well, sure. I mean he is sentient being and any sentient being knew Trump lost.
    THEY ALL KNEW…and they were still intent on overturning the election to install an un-elected leader.
    And friggin’ Navarro is now going on TV bragging about planning the coup.
    Where the fuq is Garland and the DOJ? Maybe we’ll find out this afternoon…but I’m sure it will be unsatisfactory.
    There seems no one, in a position to do anything, that has the spine to protect democracy.

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  10. CSK says:

    @Matt Bernius:
    Well, Swan’s explanation makes sense. But since when does Trump listen to any advice that doesn’t tell him what he already wants to hear?

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  11. CSK says:

    That January 6 Committee has subpoenaed the phone records of Sebastian Gorka.

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  12. Matt Bernius says:

    @CSK:

    But since when does Trump listen to any advice that doesn’t tell him what he already wants to hear?

    I don’t have time to find the story, but there was speculation during his term that advisors regularly used Fox News as a platform to advance their agendas with the President.

    This would be in keeping with that behavior.

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  13. CSK says:

    @Matt Bernius:
    I agree with you; I’ve read plenty of stories about Trump spending hours on the phone with Hannity in particular. But I’m also fairly sure that Hannity spent 95% of that time telling Trump how wonderful he is, which is the only way you can keep Trump’s attention.

    Trump seems to have been determined to stage tomorrow’s clown show. For him to cancel it abruptly simply on the basis of good advice seems very out-of-character.

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  14. becca says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: Navarro actually lays out the whole plan. Cruz and Gosar were ringleaders. 100 gop members at the ready. Then the rioters happened and blew the coup!
    Treason defined

    Is it ironic that the guy with the horns actually may have saved our democracy to fight another day?

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  15. Not the IT Dept. says:

    You forgot a third option: Hannity the idiot.

    I’m sure there are a lot of right-wing media types who thought that they had a closer relationship with Trump than they actually did, that he was playing them along as he does with almost everyone. (I’m assuming there’s someone in his life he’s real with although I can’t imagine who it might be.) Trump is a taker, a huge sucking whirlpool who pulls everything into its maw and pulls it down to the depths. Wait for a week or so after Trump or his gophers go public with his disdain for Hannity and Hannity will find himself on the receiving end of the True Believer Mob like so many others have.

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  16. gVOR08 says:

    @Matt Bernius: I’ve seen a lot of speculation about why TFG cancelled his “news conference” for the 6th. The only thing that seems credible is a claim he cancelled because he wasn’t getting any live TV coverage. I haven’t found anything definite about who was or was not going to carry it live, including FOX. It struck me as odd that they might not cover it, then I remembered they’re trying not to dig the hole deeper re the Dominion suit. Anybody know if they’d planned to carry it?

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  17. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @becca:

    Then the rioters happened and blew the coup!

    I’m not sure I buy that part.
    When it became clear Pence wasn’t going to do his part I think Trump, Bannon, Stone, et al, decided that was the only way to delay the count, and so they sent the hoards to the Capitol.
    Remember – they did not have a permit for that.

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  18. CSK says:

    @gVOR08:
    Now this makes sense. If the press doesn’t show up, what’s the point in having a press conference?

    According to U.S. News and World Report, someone close to Trump says he canceled the event for fear the press wouldn’t cover him “fairly.” Amend “fairly” to “at all” and you may have the answer.

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  19. MarkedMan says:

    @gVOR08: FWIW, I had heard that he had originally scheduled it as conflicting with the prayer service commemorating those who lost their lives. I don’t even Fox could have stomached the optics of cutting from a somber service with grieving families to a bloviating Trump whining and insulting.

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  20. becca says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: just repeating the Navarro story.
    Cruz and Gosar being called out on tv, by a co-conspirator, for attempting to overturn an election, would be shocking news if IOKIYAR weren’t so baked into our national psyche.

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  21. Andy says:

    Great to see you posting again Matt!

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  22. Scott F. says:

    It’s good to read you’re posting here, Matt. I always enjoy your take in the comments.

    In particular, the 12/31 message implies that Hannity was well aware that Trump has lost the election and had little hope of changing the outcome.

    The 12/31 message also establishes that Hannity saw then that “voter integrity” was a hobby horse that Republicans could use to regain and sustain power beyond Trump. That shows me (like Ingraham’s “legacy” texts) that Trump is a means to their ends as party organ more than otherwise.
    @Not the IT Dept.:

    Wait for a week or so after Trump or his gophers go public with his disdain for Hannity and Hannity will find himself on the receiving end of the True Believer Mob like so many others have.

    I don‘t expect this would play out the way you expect. Bear in mind that the Republican objective is minority rule and Fox prospers more from the Republican project than the Trump project. Trump and the True Believer Mob (which TFG has shown he has a unique way to manipulate) are useful toward that objective for now. Trump needs Fox to reach the mob just as much as Fox needs Trump to control the mob.

    Trump, with his petty and impulsive instincts, will want to smack at Hannity, but neither will let it get out of hand. There is too much co-dependency between them.

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  23. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @CSK: I read there was going to plenty of press there, practically an overflow crowd, but nobody was going to air it live.

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  24. mattbernius says:

    @Andy & @Scott F.:
    Thanks for the encouragement. It’s much appreciated!

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  25. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Scott F.:

    Faux News benefits most when a Dem is in the WH. It’s tougher to gin up outrage and keep the rubes coming back when all you are doing is patting the guy on the back. That works better with TFG, as he can gin up the outrage, but the typical R president?

    @Matt Bernius:

    Oh don’t worry, just post something that one us in the peanut gallery doesn’t like and you’ll get feedback.

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  26. just nutha says:

    @CSK: “Fairly”/ “at all,” potayto/potahto.

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  27. CSK says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:
    Well, that would be the same thing to Trump, a non-reader. If it’s not on television, it’s not real. Speaking of which, what cable or network outfit, even Fox, will bother to carry his January 15 Arizona rally?
    @just nutha:
    “Fairly” to Trump means “oleaginous non-stop fawning praise of him.”

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  28. gVOR08 says:

    @Scott F.:

    Trump and the True Believer Mob (which TFG has shown he has a unique way to manipulate) are useful toward that objective (minority rule) for now.

    Always remember that Trump was an aberration for Republicans. Hard to know where dark money is going, but the “Establishment” wanted Jeb Bush. I think Koch et al wanted Pence, who’s a wholly owned subsidiary, but they’d have been OK with Little Jebbie. Trump came out of nowhere, intending to pump up his brand and get out. Then he lit a fire with the base, who hate the Establishment more than we do. (Although they seem a mite confused about who the Establishment is. Actually, on the GOP side, I think the Establishment is confused about who the Establishment is.) And Pence got control of staffing so Chuckles Koch and the boys were good.

    Eisenhower was also an aberration. He was basically drafted to run by GOP moderates who thought the frontrunner, Robert (Mr. Republican) Taft, would drag them down to their sixth straight defeat in 1952. It ain’t just Trump. The GOPs have always been like this.

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  29. gVOR08 says:

    As to Hannity’s intelligence, and TFG’s, George Lakoff talks about conservatives being able to work out complex causation, but their default is simple, moralistic causation. In other words, some people can’t think very well. Other people can, but don’t. It’s hard to tell the difference.

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  30. CSK says:

    Maggie Haberman tweeted that several of Trump’s advisors informed him that it was unlikely he’d get live television coverage tomorrow. So he canceled.

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  31. Kathy says:

    Has Hannity and/or Benito claimed executive privilege yet?

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  32. Kathy says:

    @CSK:

    Who holds a press conference to mark a major national historical event?

    To be fair, Little Benito is hampered by the double-think narrative that holds the putsch participants as both heroic patriots and Antifa scum. So they can’t hold a vigil/protest at the memorial to their glory/false-flag operation.

    Such a thing would get live coverage.

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  33. Lounsbury says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: As your DoJ are not KGB nor Gestapo, there is this wee thing you have relative to actual law and due process.

    Braggarts like Navarro blustering in public do not a successful legal case make in themselves. Lots of people say lots of things, and often of dubious facticity.

    Of course as well real legal action does not operate at Facile Internet Commentator speeds. Although political police do, however that hardly recommends itself.

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  34. Scott F. says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    Faux News benefits most when a Dem is in the WH. It’s tougher to gin up outrage and keep the rubes coming back when all you are doing is patting the guy on the back. That works better with TFG, as he can gin up the outrage, but the typical R president?

    Fox Corporate has both profit motives and political motives that much is clear. These motives are aligned for the most part – there’s money to be made from the rubes, as you say, and there’s money to be held or taken through their “service-the-rich” politics. But in the long run, Trumpist populism isn’t a comfortable fit for the donor class of the GOP or for their corporate mouthpiece network. As @gVOR08 notes, the mob hates the Establishment and while Trump has managed to confuse them about who the Establishment is, it’s all smoke and mirrors.

    The disconnect between what Hannity says to his viewers versus what he says to those in power represents cracks in those mirrors. It could be useful to hammer away at those cracks.

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  35. MarkedMan says:

    @Not the IT Dept.:

    Wait for a week or so after Trump or his gophers go public with his disdain for Hannity and Hannity will find himself on the receiving end of the True Believer Mob like so many others have.

    I wouldn’t be so sure of this, although wouldn’t go so far as to disagree. If your average trumper had to choose between Trump and Hannity, my guess is they would choose Hannity. (Note that I use “trumper” to denote a certain mindset and intelligence level, and not actually someone who is 100% behind Trump.) I’ve said, from way back in 2015, that everyone is overestimating the importance of Donald Trump in this movement.

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  36. Joe says:

    Has Hannity and/or Benito claimed executive privilege yet?

    @Kathy: Better than simple Executive Privilege, this will be the confluence of Executive Privilege (because the President needs to be able to deliberate in secret) and First Amendment (because when you secretly deliberate with a member of the press, the member of the press needs to be able to keep his source a secret).

    Who holds a press conference to mark a major national historical event?

    @Kathy: Well, no one now.

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  37. MarkedMan says:

    @Lounsbury: “facticity” I like that word.

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  38. Kathy says:

    @Joe:

    I’m like 99.99% sure there is no journalistic privilege.

    Besides, when advising another idiot, it’s not like Hannity was investigating a story or no one knew whom he talked to.

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  39. dazedandconfused says:

    Hannity had an advantage over the ones in the administration and the assorted hangers-on, Bannon et al. Hannity’s ox wasn’t going to be gored by Trump being out of office. He makes the same money when Ds are in the WH, at least as much, and more is entirely likely. He watched Glenn Beck collect a mint in the Tea Party craze.

    However, for the jesters in the Orange One’s court, self interest was at play and was very different from Hannity’s. With Trump out of office not only would grifting become more difficult, they lose their legal protection. To them, the mad-cap “Green Bay Sweep” scheme, viewed through fear-goggles, looked entirely workable.

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  40. Joe says:

    @Kathy: I am also 99.99% sure there is no Executive Privilege when the executive is talking to someone who has no duty of loyalty to the Office of the President. But it doesn’t mean they won’t try to weave two types of straw into fool’s gold. I’m just sayin’ – your heard it here first.

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  41. gVOR08 says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    Where the fuq is Garland and the DOJ? Maybe we’ll find out this afternoon…but I’m sure it will be unsatisfactory.
    There seems no one, in a position to do anything, that has the spine to protect democracy.

    I see Garland has made his speech, and skimming articles on it, I have no idea why. He doesn’t seem to have actually said anything.

    The problem is that saving democracy appears to be the job of the, nonexistent, Constitution Police. Garland seems to be saying his job is to carry out the routines of DOJ, not to save democracy. Swalwell, Raskin, et al may feel some responsibility, but Manchin and Sinema have made it clear it’s not their job to save democracy. Without them, there’s not much Pelosi or Schumer can do. Biden may feel some responsibility, but about all he can do is pressure Garland, Manchin, and Sinema. The supposedly liberal MSM have made it clear their job is to peddle papers and boost ratings, not to save democracy. There’s no one whose job description says “guardian of democracy”. There’s no one whose failure to save democracy will lead to firing or even reprimand.

    The base problem is that while what happened around the election should be criminal, it’s unprecedented so no one’s passed laws against it. DOJ has, at least, established that counting the EC vote is a government proceeding so that obstructing it is a felony. However I don’t believe the Federalist Soci Supreme Court has yet weighed in. Congress should act enact legislation to prevent a recurrence, for which see Sinemanchin and filibuster.

    I don’t know what we lowly commenters can do. But it can’t hurt to kvetch about Garland, Manchin, and Sinema and hope to make some tiny contribution to pressuring them.

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  42. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Kathy: Pretty sure Hannity can’t claim executive privilege, just his 5th Amendment rights.

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  43. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @gVOR08: I didn’t see it but my suspicion is that Garland, as head of the DOJ, feels it is his honor bound duty to be constrained by the long standing DOJ policy of not commenting on ongoing investigations by the DOJ. Unlike those in the previous administration.

    Remember how much we used to complain about how those previous guardians of the law flouted norms and precedent and we all reminisced over the golden days of the rule of law and dreamed of their return?

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  44. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: And his 1st amendment freedom of the *press* rights.

    **depending on how broadly one defines the “press”.

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  45. CSK says:

    Trump put out a press release late this afternoon asking what he referred to as “MAGA Nation” to “rise up” against vaccine mandates for school children that he claims Biden will impose.

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  46. Kathy says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    the 5th amendment protections are far narrower than people seem to believe. You are not required to provide testimony against yourself in criminal matters. It does not prevent the government to compel testimony against your self-interest.

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  47. Jax says:

    @CSK: I tried to get my 12 year old boosted yesterday and was told they can’t do it until the venerable State of Wyoming “approves” the CDC guidance. (eyeroll)

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  48. Matt Bernius says:

    @Sleeping Dog:

    Oh don’t worry, just post something that one us in the peanut gallery doesn’t like and you’ll get feedback.

    I have no doubt about that. In fact I’ve got a countdown clock going and I’m taking bets as to how long it will take for me to do that.

    Fortunately, the last few days have given me more than enough material to keep all ya’lls on my side for the honeymoon period.

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