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Sean Hannity, shadow White House press secretary?

President Trump promised future action and lamented his position in Syria on April 12, saying "It's too bad that the world puts us in a position like that." (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post)
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When President Trump plugs Sean Hannity's Fox News show, it is usually to promote one of his own interviews on the program or an appearance by one of his sons. On Wednesday, however, Trump advertised a “big show tonight on @seanhannity,” without explanation.

Though neither the president nor a member of his family was a scheduled guest, Trump seemed to know — and like — something about Hannity's impending telecast.

During the show, Hannity tweeted a denial that was notable for its specificity. He said Trump “was not given ANY heads up on my monologue using the 'Comey' standard” — a reference to former FBI director James B. Comey's comparison between Trump and a “mob boss,” which inspired Hannity to argue that it is Comey, special counsel Robert S. Mueller III and the Clintons who are akin to the mafia.

In his tweet, Hannity asserted said that Trump did not know in advance about one trope in one segment of the program. Hannity did not deny that the president knew about other elements of the show. Asked to clarify, a Fox News spokeswoman referred to Hannity's tweet.

It would be wholly unsurprising for Trump to have had advance knowledge of — or even input into — parts of a “Hannity” episode. The Washington Post's Josh Dawsey reported last week that Trump's close relationship with Hannity involves “regularly calling the host before or after the program to test ideas or give feedback.”

Such calls have been reported in the past and discussed openly by both men. During a presidential debate in 2016, Trump pointed to “numerous conversations with Sean Hannity” to back up a claim — contradicted by Trump's own, contemporaneous statement — that he opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.

“He would watch the TV show and call me, and he and I would go at it over the Iraq War,” Hannity told the New York Times. “I remember these conversations vividly.” Hannity, who once starred in a Trump campaign ad, also acknowledged to the Times that he offers advice to Trump.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump released a campaign ad featuring Fox News's Sean Hannity. (Video: Donald J. Trump)

If Hannity is an informal adviser, then he also appears to be an occasional ad hoc spokesman — a shadow White House press secretary who sometimes articulates the president's thoughts in ways the more judicious (and official) press secretary does not.

On Wednesday's “big show” promoted by Trump, for example, Hannity said: “Rod Rosenstein is so incompetent, compromised and conflicted that he can no longer serve as the deputy attorney general. And [Attorney General] Jeff Sessions now has an obligation to the president of the United States to fire Rod Rosenstein, after Rosenstein authorized the unconstitutional and unprofessional search of the office of [Trump attorney] Michael Cohen in New York. Jeff Sessions, tomorrow morning, should fire Rod Rosenstein.”

Hannity delivered these remarks after his monologue.

Trump’s flimsy case for firing Rod Rosenstein

In a tweet earlier in the day on Wednesday, Trump similarly called Rosenstein “conflicted” but stopped short of demanding his firing.

During a media briefing, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders dodged questions about whether Trump wants to oust Rosenstein.

“I don't have any personnel announcements on this front,” she said.

It is virtually impossible to know for certain, but Hannity might have expressed Trump's true sentiments more authentically than the person whose job is to speak for the president.