Sean Hannity has some departing words for Trump associates before he heads to Singapore to cover the president’s back-on-again summit with Kim Jong-un: Smash the hell out of your phones before Robert Mueller can get his treasonous hands on them. The Fox News host came up with the novel idea, which he laid out in detail Wednesday night on Hannity, after CNBC reported that Special Counsel Mueller has asked witnesses to turn in their phones so his team can access messages sent over encrypted apps.
"If I advise them to follow Hillary Clinton’s lead, delete all your emails and then acid wash the emails and hard drives on your phones," he said. "Then take your phones and bash them with a hammer into little itsy-bitsy pieces, use BleachBit, remove the SIM cards and then take the pieces and hand it over to Robert Muller and say, 'Hillary Rodham Clinton. This is equal justice under the law.'"
Perhaps realizing that destroying evidence is a federal offense, Hannity clarified that he was kidding and then proceeded to once again fantasize in detail about how witnesses could stick it to the special counsel. "Mueller wants everyone's cell phones,” Hannity continued. “My advice to them – not really, kidding, bad advice – would be, follow Hillary's lead. Delete them, acid wash them, bust them up, take out the SIM cards and say, 'Here Mr. Mueller, here, I’m following Hillary's lead.'"
According to CNBC, Mueller's team began asking witnesses to turn over their phones in order to access conservations held on encrypted apps like Signal and WhatsApp in April. The witnesses have complied, fearing Mueller would issue a subpoena if they didn’t, but not all of them were thrilled to hand over their smartphones to the special counsel.
“What the fuck do they need my fucking Blackberrys for?” Nunberg said. He assumes it’s to look for communications on encrypted apps, but he said he didn’t download WhatsApp until after he transitioned to the iPhone. He said he thinks he downloaded it in December 2017.— Olivia Nuzzi (@Olivianuzzi) June 6, 2018
Mueller's suspicion that previously undisclosed communications may have been taking place over encrypted apps proved correct. On Monday, a claim was filed stating that Trump's former campaign manager Paul Manafort – who has been charged with tax evasion, money laundering and violating federal lobbying laws – tried to coordinate witness testimony using WhatsApp and another encrypted app called Telegram. Muller learned of the witness tampering after requesting the phones be turned in for examination. The special counsel also filed a subpoena to access Manafort’s iCloud account, allowing the FBI to read certain encrypted messages without possessing any hardware.
Though Manafort appears to be almost comically wrapped up in several federal matters, it might not matter. In March, the New York Times reported that Trump's lawyers had floated the possibility of the president pardoning Manafort and former national security adviser Michael Flynn, who has pled guilty to lying to the FBI about his conversations with a Russian ambassador. If Manafort and Flynn knew a pardon was coming, it could prevent them from offering up incriminating evidence against Trump or his campaign in exchange for a more lenient sentence.
Though pardoning Manafort may have once been considered an unspeakable abuse of executive power, the prospect seems more realistic after Trump's recent pardon of conservative commentator Dinesh D'Souza, who was convicted of campaign fraud in 2014. Soon after the pardon was granted, Trump suggested he may also pardon Martha Stewart and Rod Blagojevich, the Celebrity Apprentice contestant and former Illinois governor who was convicted of attempting to sell the Senate seat left vacant after Barack Obama was elected president. The Washington Post later reported that the president has become "obsessed" with his unfettered ability to grant pardons, and that he may sign "a dozen or two more" in the coming months.