Dems Get Inside Trump Inner Circle with Hope Hicks Interview

Clay Curtis
June 19, 2019

President Donald Trump blasted House Democrats for bringing Hope Hicks to the Hill to testify, accusing congress members of dragging Hicks "through Hell".

In a letter Tuesday to Nadler, White House Counsel Pat Cipollone wrote that Trump had directed Hicks not to answer questions "relating to the time of her service as a senior adviser to the president".

At Wednesday's closed hearing, Hicks is expected to face questions from Democrats about at least five episodes detailed in the Mueller report that she had knowledge of or had witnessed first-hand, the aide said.

A House Judiciary Committee aide suggested the panel would not find it acceptable for Hicks not to answer any questions about her time in the White House.

Hicks is the first member of Trump's inner circle to appear before the House Judiciary Committee, which is undertaking its own investigation into possible obstruction of justice, corruption and abuse of power as House Democrats wrestle with whether to start an impeachment inquiry. She left the position on March 29, 2018, and is now a top communications executive at Fox.

While a White House official will be in the room during her testimony, Democrats say that they will not accept assertions of executive privilege over her entire time while serving as the White House communications director, arguing it won't hold up in court because she discussed these matters with the special counsel.

Hicks, who is mentioned in the special counsel's report dozens of times, also was a witness in Mueller's investigation into the Trump campaign's contacts with Russian Federation during the 2016 election, having sat for two days of closed-door interviews with the special counsel's team.

While Trump has continued to block their requests, Democrats have made some minor gains in recent weeks with Hicks' appearance and the Justice Department's agreeing to make some underlying evidence from Mueller's report available to committee members.

In the same letter, Cipollone said other executive privilege assertions may be raised involving Hicks' time with Trump during the presidential transition period after the 2016 election - but before he was sworn in.

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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 US political opponent from a foreign government, aides said.

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 Russian Federation.

With the exception of the hush money payments - which, according to the Wall Street Journal, is still being investigated by federal prosecutors in New York City even though Cohen pleaded guilty - much of these topics were laid out in Mueller's report.

And she reportedly told President Trump his son's emails "will never get out".

Hicks, once a close aide to President Trump, was subpoenaed last month and ordered to produced documents related to Trump's firing of former FBI Director James Comey and information related to the president's efforts to order White House counsel Don McGahn to fire Special Counsel Robert Mueller. Witnesses the committee has announced for that hearing so far include Rick Hasen, a professor at University of California, Irvine who specializes in election and campaign finance law. Plus, they have questions about then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who is now in jail, according to the aide.

Other Trump associates frequently mentioned in Mueller's report have refused to appear before the committee, including former White House Counsel Donald McGahn.

Trump tweeted as the hearings opened that "the Dems are very unhappy with the Mueller Report, so after nearly 3 years, they want a Redo" and "now they bring back Hope Hicks". It is unclear whether Donaldson will show up for a scheduled deposition next week. The top Republican on the panel, Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, said they were "simply talking about things that are already out there in public or getting the same answers over and over".

Republicans who attended the interview, arranged and led by the majority-Democrat panel, said it revealed little or no new information and they accused Democrats of political harassment of Trump, a criticism the Republicans have long voiced. He said they could have probably heard from her sooner if they hadn't taken "a scorched-earth approach to pursuing information" with subpoenas.

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