Manafort and Hannity exchanged hundreds of text messages about Mueller probe

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By Tom Winter and Pete Williams and Rich Schapiro  with NBC News Politics
Manafort and Hannity exchanged hundreds of text messages about Mueller probe
Paul Manafort and Sean Hannity   -   Copyright  AP file

Ex-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort exchanged hundreds of text messages with Fox News host Sean Hannity after the longtime GOP operative was charged in the special counsel's probe, according to court documents released Friday.

"The media is trying to split me with DT and family by lies and untruths," Manafort wrote to Hannity in August 2017. "It is such a dirty game."

In another, Manafort says: "I have new lawyers who are junk yard dogs and will undo a lot of this injustice. But it is going to be a painful and expensive fight for me."

Hannity, for his part, offers Manafort consoling words and an open invitation to his show.

"I pray that God give you grace and peace in this difficult moment," Hannity, one of Trump's most vocal supporters, wrote that same month. "If you ever just want to talk, grab dinner, vent, strategize -- whatever, I am here. I know this is very hard. Stand tall and strong."

Hannity and Manafort, who is serving a 7 1/2 year prison sentence on charges brought by ex-special counsel Robert Mueller, sometimes texted multiple times a day between July 2017 and June 2018, according to the newly-released court documents.

In late January of this year, Manafort said in one message, "Sean, per our conversation this morning, my attorney -- Kevin Downing -- will call you at 11:30 am tomorrow. He will update you on what we are doing and how it connects to your reporting. What number should I give him to call you?"

Hannity replies, "Awesome," and says "I asked him to feed me every day" and later says, "HE HAS TO SEND ME STUFF."

While Hannity's text number is redacted, his full name is attached to some of the messages.

The documents show that the judge presiding over Manafort's trial in Washington D.C. was concerned that Downing had violated a gag order imposed on the lawyers and parties in the case.

A newly unsealed document shows that Judge Amy Berman Jackson ordered Downing to appear for a hearing in late March on "why the court should not institute proceedings against him" for contempt of court.

The documents do not show how the matter was resolved.

Downing did not immediately return a request for comment. A Fox News spokeswoman also did not immediately return a request for comment.

Rick Gates, a longtime associate of Manafort's and former Trump campaign official, pleaded guilty in February 2018 to charges of conspiracy and lying to FBI agents investigating Russian election interference.

The following month, Hannity said to Manafort in a text: "Why don't u get a sweetheart deal like Gates"

Manafort replied, "They would want me to give up Dt or family, esp JK. I would never do that."

JK, the texts suggest, refers to Trump's son-in-law Jared Kushner.

Hannity texted: "Understand. There is nothing to give up on DT. What did JK do?"

"Nothing, just like I did nothing," Manafort replied. "They will want me to make s--- up on both. I will never do that."