The Fox News host Sean Hannity tried to sell Donald Trump on a novel way to heal the wounds of his presidency and the deadly Capitol attack: a pardon for Hunter Biden.
The bizarre idea was referred to in texts released by the House January 6 committee, which on Thursday held its first primetime televised hearing.
Tom Rice told the New York Times of Trump and January 6: ‘I think he had a duty to try to stop it, and he failed in that duty.’
In one message, Hannity told Kayleigh McEnany, then-White House press secretary, that Trump “was intrigued by the pardon idea!! (Hunter)”.
The Daily Beast said a source familiar with the conversations between Hannity and Trump confirmed that Hannity was referring to Hunter Biden.
Joe Biden’s surviving son has become a magnet for Republican attacks over his business affairs and personal life, including a collapsed marriage and struggles with addiction.
A laptop he once owned was touted by Trump allies including Hannity as an “October surprise” to blow up the 2020 election. It did not explode but news outlets have since run stories based on information from the computer.
Hunter Biden has confirmed that his tax history is under investigation, saying in December 2020: “I take this matter very seriously but I am confident that a professional and objective review of these matters will demonstrate that I handled my affairs legally and appropriately.”
His business dealings in China are reportedly part of the investigation.
Hunter Biden’s dealings in Ukraine were at the heart of Trump’s first impeachment in 2019, for soliciting dirt on political rivals in exchange for military aid.
Trump was impeached a second time in 2021 for inciting the Capitol riot, a failed attempt to block certification of Joe Biden’s electoral college win.
After Trump’s defeat, a Hunter Biden pardon was floated in conservative circles.
On December 10, 2020, the editor of the National Interest, a conservative magazine, wrote: “Trump himself might consider pardoning Hunter as well as his own family … as well as officials who worked for him.
“The difficulty for Trump has been that any such pardons would not only look self-serving but also raise questions about trying to foreclose criminal liability since no charges have been leveled against Hunter or Ivanka or Don Jr.
“These issues might not be enough to deter him, and Hunter Biden’s predicament would allow Trump to inveigh against the federal justice system more broadly. He could show magnanimity and evenhandedness by pardoning Biden’s scapegrace son.”
The source who spoke to the Beast said Hannity pitched the idea on 7 January, the day after the attack on Congress, as a way to help “smooth things over”.
But the source said that like other suggestions, including an end to Trump’s lie about a stolen election and Trump attending Joe Biden’s inauguration, it went nowhere.
“It died on the vine,” the Beast quoted the source as saying, adding that though Trump was briefly interested, the pardon was “never seriously considered”.
Another source told the Beast Hannity “genuinely wanted some healing”.
Fox News, McEnany, and Trump did not comment.
Trump issued last-minute pardons to aides and allies including Steve Bannon, his former campaign chair and White House strategist who was charged with fraud.
Hannity has continued to attack Hunter Biden on his show.