After learning that Donald Trump and Sean Hannity share the same lawyer, Robert Costa, Sarah Ellison and Josh Dawsey took a deeper look at the relationship between the president and his number one propagandist.
The phone calls between President Trump and Sean Hannity come early in the morning or late at night, after the Fox News host goes off the air. They discuss ideas for Hannity’s show, Trump’s frustration with the ongoing special counsel probe and even, at times, what the president should tweet, according to people familiar with the conversations. When he’s off the phone, Trump is known to cite Hannity when he talks with White House advisers.
The revelation this week that the two men share an attorney is just the latest sign of how Hannity is intertwined with Trump’s world — an increasingly powerful confidant who offers the media-driven president a sympathetic ear and shared grievances. The conservative commentator is so close to Trump that some White House aides have dubbed him the unofficial chief of staff.
That comes on the heels of this report from the Daily Beast about the role of another Fox News personality, Lou Dobbs.
Dobbs doesn’t get to just interview and socialize with the president; he is involved in some of the administration’s more sensitive discussions. During the first year of the Trump era, the president has patched in Dobbs via speakerphone to multiple meetings in the Oval Office so that he could offer his two cents, according to three sources familiar with these conversations. Trump will ask Dobbs for his opinion before and after his senior aides or Cabinet members have spoken. Occasionally, he will cut off an official so the Fox Business host can jump in.
Dobbs, these sources all independently recounted, has been patched in to senior-level meetings on issues such as trade and tax policy—meetings that featured officials such as senior policy adviser Stephen Miller, former top economic adviser Gary Cohn, former chief strategist Steve Bannon, trade adviser Peter Navarro, and Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin.
Over the course of Trump’s presidency, it is the morning show Fox and Friends that shows up the most in what he chooses to tweet about. The whole charade about a “caravan of migrants” traveling through Mexico was simply the most recent example. We also know that the president rarely misses Justice With Judge Jeanine and tweets about it often.
Putting all of this together, it becomes clear why Trump requires so much “executive time.”
President Trump is starting his official day much later than he did in the early days of his presidency, often around 11am, and holding far fewer meetings, according to copies of his private schedule shown to Axios. This is largely to meet Trump’s demands for more “Executive Time,” which almost always means TV and Twitter time alone in the residence, officials tell us.
The president has to set aside time to watch Fox News and talk on the phone with Fox News personalities. Contrary to previous administrations, it is not the people working in the White House or running federal agencies that the president turns to for advice and counsel. That is precisely why the ongoing turnover in this administration doesn’t pose much of a problem. Instead, Trump needs to hear from Sean Hannity, Lou Hobbs, Jeanine Pirro and the hosts of Fox and Friends to set his agenda and craft his response to the issues of the day.
In the interests of time management, it might be best to simply do away with the pretense of assuming that the White House and Fox News are two separate entities. Trump should just make Sean Hannity his chief of staff, Lou Dobbs his secretary of homeland security, Jeanine Pirro his attorney general and the Fox and Friends hosts his council of economic advisers. He has already made Fox News contributor John Bolton his national security adviser. Tucker Carlson has done yeoman’s work in pretending like there is some kind of thoughtful grounding to this presidency. So I’m sure he’d feel left out if there wasn’t a spot for him. Perhaps he could just cover everything else.
Of course I’m kidding…sort of.