Former Trump Aide Hope Hicks Frustrates Democrats With Limited Testimony

Hope Hicks
Aaron P. Bernstein/Reuters

Hope Hicks, once a close aide to U.S. President Donald Trump, drew fire from Democrats on Wednesday for not answering questions during a closed House Judiciary Committee session about whether her former boss broke the law.

White House lawyers asserted immunity for Hicks on matters involving her 14 months in the Trump administration. Lawmakers wanted to ask Hicks about six instances in which Democrats believe Trump may have broken the law during the 2016 presidential campaign and while in the White House.

Hicks was directed not to respond to questions as basic as the location of her White House office or material she already told Special Counsel Robert Mueller during his investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and possible obstruction by Trump, Democratic lawmakers told reporters.

“They make the objection, we say it’s nonsense. But Hope Hicks is listening to what they’re saying in terms of objections, so she doesn’t answer,” U.S. Representative Ted Lieu said.

Lieu said Hicks answered questions about the campaign but did not elaborate.

Democratic lawmakers said White House lawyers did not claim executive privilege but said Hicks was immune from having to testify, an assertion committee chairman Jerrold Nadler rejected in a letter to White House lawyers on Tuesday.

Democrats said they may have to go to court to force Hicks to respond as the White House continues its strategy of not cooperating with investigations in the Democratic-led House of Representatives.

“This is the beginning of what will be, I presume, litigation,” said Representative David Cicilline.

“It’s not at all helpful. It’s more obstruction by the White House,” said U.S. Representative Veronica Escobar, a Judiciary Democrat who called for impeachment proceedings against Trump to begin.

House Judiciary Republican Matt Gaetz said not much new emerged from the questioning. “It appears to be Democrats trying to relitigate the Mueller report,” he said.

Hicks was Trump’s campaign press secretary and his White House communications director until she left in March 2018 and later became chief communications officer and executive president for Fox Corporation, parent company of Fox News.

HUSH MONEY AND POTENTIAL OBSTRUCTION

Democrats on the committee wanted to hear from Hicks about alleged hush money payments made during the campaign to two women, including porn star Stormy Daniels, who say they had affairs with Trump. He has denied the affairs.

They also wanted Hicks to talk about five examples of potential obstruction of justice by Trump that are laid out in Mueller’s report, as well as the president’s efforts to impede the Mueller investigation.

Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) speaks with reporters as Former White House Communications Director Hope Hicks sits for a closed door interview before the House Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., June 19, 2019. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

Hicks was mentioned 183 times in Mueller’s report.

Assertions during questioning of executive privilege – a legal principle sometimes cited by presidents to keep White House information under wraps – would block a key line of inquiry by the committee and could lead to a subsequent legal challenge.

Despite the closed setting, Democrats viewed Hicks’ appearance as a breakthrough for their congressional investigation, which could trigger impeachment proceedings against the president if it unearths evidence of serious misconduct.

Democrats say her appearance could help undermine Trump’s strategy of stonewalling congressional investigators by encouraging others to cooperate with them and by giving investigators the chance to challenge any executive privilege assertions, possibly in federal court.

Democrats want Hicks to testify about an effort by the president to mislead the public about a June 9, 2016, meeting at Trump Tower in New York, where the Mueller report said campaign officials, including the president’s son Donald Trump Jr., met with Russians offering “dirt” on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. A key question is whether Trump himself was aware of the meeting at the time.

Aides said Hicks also would be asked about alleged obstruction by Trump involving former White House Counsel Don McGahn, former Attorney General Jeff Sessions, former FBI Director James Comey and former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

A transcript of her testimony, which will be released after the interview, will be featured at a Thursday hearing where the committee will examine an ABC News interview, in which Trump said he saw nothing wrong with accepting damaging information about a U.S. political opponent from a foreign government, aides said.

The White House last month asserted executive privilege to block the release of Mueller’s unredacted report and related evidence, such as investigative interviews. The committee and the Justice Department have since reached an agreement giving panel members access to more of the Mueller report and some underlying material from the investigation.

McGahn, a star witness in the Mueller report, could face legal action for defying a subpoena for his testimony and documents after the White House directed him not to cooperate with the Judiciary panel.

Mueller’s 448-page report found insufficient evidence to establish that the Trump campaign engaged in a criminal conspiracy with Moscow, despite numerous contacts between the campaign and Russia. It also described numerous attempts by Trump to impede Mueller’s investigation but stopped short of declaring that he committed a crime.

(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Peter Cooney and Bill Trott)

What do you think?

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Otis
Member

The Dumbos questioned the woman’s sex-life. That is outrageous. Ask Congress what they do in their bedrooms and there would be a chorus of crickets.

John Darger
Guest
John Darger

Let me try to remember….under Obama…Loretta Lynch pleaded the 5th , Lois Lerner pleaded the 5th , Hilary Clinton answered I don’t remember 21 out of 25 questions when speaking to Judicial Watch, a total of 9 Obama administrators pleaded the 5th….I guess what goes around comes around.

Otis
Member

I’ll bet they were frustrated.

Charles
Member

More of the fishing expedition by the Democrats. They have no decency and are trying to obstruct everything the President is trying to accomplish. They are failing on a national stage.

Phyllis Softa
Member

Stopped short of declaring that he committed a crime AND stopped short of exonerating him from Obstruction of Justice and Abuse of Power. Mueller outline in the report the consequence of impeachment would NOT prevent charges being filed against a FORMER POTUS! Page 2 of Volume II outlines WHY Trump was not charged and cites the specific DOJ manual directive on charging a president while in office. Page 178 of Volume II CLEARLY outlines the possible remedy of impeachment &/or indictment post office.

Mike
Guest

Has anyone heard of any accomplishments from Jaba the Hut Nadler in his 27 years in Congress? He may be the only one to have stomach bypass surgery to lose some blubber, so I guess there’s that. Otherwise, he’s just riding the gravy train, and looking to get his face in front of the camera. And what a sickly face it is.

Noah_Vaile
Guest
Noah_Vaile

I think thta democrap members of the house are in violation of their oath of office and shopuld be impeached.

Jim Bethea
Member

Delusion Dems have No Candidates with any shred of intelligence ~ so they must continue “chasing Russians & illusive obstructions with one investigation after another ~~ This is nothing but abuse of powers of the House and will blow-up in their faces ~~ With 6 months of House Control and have accomplished absolutely nothing ~ Hiding their heads in the sand about the out of control border invasions, while Soros & Obama “Resist Trump” organizers have attorneys south of the border training these illegals in how to make statements that will get them into the US forever….Not looking good for… Read more »

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