Hope Hicks Appears for Closed-Door Testimony Amid Executive Privilege Fight
Hope Hicks, the former White House communications director, angered Democrats Wednesday by declining to answer some questions during a closed-door session with members and staff of the House Judiciary Committee investigating President Donald Trump.
The White House had already warned the committee’s Democratic chairman, Jerrold Nadler of New York, that the Justice Department considers Hicks “absolutely immune” from answering questions tied to her time as a senior adviser to Trump at the White House.
“Because of this constitutional immunity, and in order to protect the prerogatives of the Office of the President, the president has directed Ms. Hicks not to answer questions before the committee relating to her time as a senior adviser to the president,” White House counsel Pat Cipollone wrote to Nadler on Tuesday.
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. He alerted Nadler that a representative from his office would attend the Hicks questioning as a monitor if that is needed. He didn’t address her time in the Trump campaign.
Hicks, who was subpoenaed to testify, was part of Trump’s inner circle as one of his longest-serving and most trusted advisers. She left the White House last year and is now chief communications officer for Fox Corp.
Trump tweeted as the hearings opened that “the Dems are very unhappy with the Mueller Report, so after almost 3 years, they want a Redo” and “now they bring back Hope Hicks.”
A Nadler committee aide had said on Tuesday that members and staff on the panel expected to question Hicks about her knowledge of at least five instances of alleged obstruction of justice by Trump, citing details in Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on his investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Within the first hour of Hicks’s questioning, Judiciary Committee Democrats going in and out of the session shared complaints about her refusal under White House direction to answer questions about episodes during her time in the administration.
“It’s ridiculous,” Representative Karen Bass of California told reporters, calling it “just another example of White House stonewalling.”
Nadler would say only that “Hicks is answering questions put to her.” Democrats said the questioning hadn’t yet touched on her time on the Trump campaign.
Representative Doug Collins of Georgia, the panel’s top Republican, said Democrats seem to be gearing up “a summer of reruns,” rehashing and “relitigating” matters already explored in greater depth by Mueller.
Republican committee member John Ratcliffe of Texas said “I don’t know what a bunch of House members are going to find out that a team of 60 spending $40 million couldn’t find out, or ask Hope Hicks.”
One subject Democrats wanted Hicks to talk about is a June 9, 2016, meeting at Trump Tower in New York, where the Mueller report discusses how the president’s son Donald Trump Jr., and other campaign officials met with Russians who promised to offer negative information on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
When news of emails about the meeting surfaced about a year later, Trump is described as dictating to Hicks a false press statement that the meeting was about changing regulations on Americans adopting Russian children.
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