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Fox's Hannity sarcastically advises witnesses in Mueller probe to 'follow Clinton's lead' and destroy their phones

Fox News host Sean Hannity on his show Wednesday night sarcastically advised witnesses in special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel MORE's investigation to "follow Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonVirginia governor's race poses crucial test for GOP Hillary Clinton backs Shontel Brown in Ohio congressional race Hillary Clinton: Casting doubt on 2020 election is 'doing Putin's work' MORE's lead" and destroy their personal phones before handing them over to prosecutors.

Hannity's comments — he said he was kidding during the same telecast — followed a report by CNBC that Mueller's team had asked witnesses in its probe to turn over their personal phones for examination of encrypted messaging apps like WhatsApp, Dust and Signal.

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The Fox host lambasted Mueller's "pitbull" team for the tactic of demanding that witnesses turn over phones and all encrypted apps, along with the messages and emails within them.

Hannity then made a comparison to Clinton, whose use of a private email server when she served as secretary of State prompted an FBI investigation and has been the subject of frequent criticism on his show.

"Maybe Mueller's witnesses, I don't know," Hannity said on air. "If I advised them to follow Hillary Clinton’s lead, delete all your emails and then acid-wash your emails and hard drives on the phones, then take your phones and bash them with a hammer to little itsy bitsy pieces, use BleachBit, remove the sim cards and then take the pieces and hand them over to Robert Mueller, and say, Hillary Rodham Clinton, this is equal justice under the law."

Hannity later said that he was kidding in repeating advice that witnesses should follow Clinton's lead and destroy their phones before giving them to Mueller.

"Mueller wants everyone's cellphones. 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," Hannity said, "I'm following Hillary's lead."

Hannity is a closely watched television host in the Trump era given his closeness to the president. President TrumpDonald TrumpChinese apps could face subpoenas, bans under Biden executive order: report Kim says North Korea needs to be 'prepared' for 'confrontation' with US Ex-Colorado GOP chair accused of stealing more than 0K from pro-Trump PAC MORE is known to watch the show, and the two reportedly talk frequently

Mueller's request that witnesses turn over phones and messaging apps follows a court filing from Mueller's team accusing former Trump campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortLegal intrigue swirls over ex-Trump exec Weisselberg: Five key points There was Trump-Russia collusion — and Trump pardoned the colluder Treasury: Manafort associate passed 'sensitive' campaign data to Russian intelligence MORE of attempted witness tampering — in part by using encrypted messaging apps. Mueller asked the court on Monday to revoke or revise Manafort's release conditions, including his bond and house arrest, in response to the court filing.

More than 30,000 of Clinton's emails during the FBI investigation of her use of a private email server were found to have been destroyed.

Clinton has said that the emails were deleted "because they were personal and private about matters that I believed were within the scope of my personal privacy."

She said her team had gone through her emails and had turned everything connected to work to the State Department. The FBI, however, later recovered thousands of emails and determined that many of them were related to Clinton's work.

This story has been updated and corrected to reflect Hannity's tone.