President Donald Trump huddled Wednesday with Fox News host Sean Hannity and former Speaker Newt Gingrich, according to two people familiar with the plans, a meeting that was originally set to discuss midterm strategy.
The meeting took place at the White House as Trump prepares a four week push to help Republicans keep control of Congress. Gingrich, who led the 1994 Republican takeover of Congress, penned an expansive memo for the president detailing how to hold onto majorities in the Senate and the House, one of the people familiar with the plans said.
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The former speaker is best known as the architect of the “Contract with America,” the government-shrinking rubric that was a key part of the GOP’s successful midterm strategy that year, when the Republicans picked up 54 House seats and eight seats in the Senate during President Bill Clinton’s first term. One of the pillars of that approach was having candidates unite behind a national message rather than focus on individual races. Reached for comment on the meeting, Gingrich hung up the phone.
Hannity is a friend and informal adviser to Trump who has defended the president amid controversy, and though he frequently offers on-air advice to the White House, he is rarely spotted on the White House campus. He remained in Washington on Wednesday to broadcast his primetime show live from Fox’s D.C. studios.
During a press conference in New York City last week, the president downplayed Hannity’s influence on his thinking, even while praising his coverage of the administration. “Believe it or not, I don’t speak to him very much,” Trump said. “But I respect him.”
In an email statement to POLITICO, Hannity said: “When Politico provides me details and copies of their schedules, I will consider offering mine.”
In July, Trump hired Hannity’s longtime friend and former executive producer, Bill Shine, as White House communications director, formalizing the ties between the administration and the network.
Trump has ratcheted up his midterm campaigning recently, holding seven events in seven states in the last two and a half weeks. In recent days, however, the president has appeared more enlivened by his potential Democratic foes in 2020 than he is by the midterms.
On Thursday night, he appeared at a rally for Republican senatorial nominee Karin Housley in Rochester, Minn., a state he lost narrowly in 2016 and which he assured the crowd was not, despite its reputation, a Democratic state. Earlier in the week, he made an appearance in Mississippi to campaign for Sen. Cindi Hyde-Smith, who was appointed to replace Thad Cochran and who is running for her first full term.
Press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders did not respond to calls and emails about Wednesday evening’s meeting.