After months of futile efforts, House Democrats have finally procured a top witness from President Trump’s inner orbit, but they won’t be grilling her on live television.
Hope Hicks, Trump’s 30-year-old former communications director, is coming to Capitol Hill Wednesday for a closed-door interview with members of the House Judiciary Committee.
A key witness for former Special Counsel Robert Mueller, Hicks was present or involved in major events that factored into his investigation, including Trump’s issuing a misleading statement on a meeting with Russian nationals at Trump Tower in 2016, his efforts to compel then-White House Counsel Don McGahn to fire Mueller in 2017 and his anger at then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ recusal.
In total, Mueller mentioned Hicks’ name over 180 times in the report.
Democrats on the committee plan on using their time to question Hicks about several topics, said one aide: What she knew about the hush money payments Trump made to his former attorney Michael Cohen to hide his extramarital affairs, Trump’s attempt to fire McGahn; his firing of former FBI Director James Comey’s, his conduct towards his former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and his anger at Sessions.
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. But one committee aide still expressed confidence the interview would yield substantive results. Although the interview will not be open to the public, judiciary committee aides said they would try and release a transcript as soon as possible.
They also plan to use the information from Hicks’ interview as part of their second hearing into the contents of the Mueller report, which is slated for June 20. 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.
Republicans on the committee will question Hicks as well, but a committee aide did not immediately respond to request for comment about what those topics would be.
Although Hicks left the White House last year, she had been by the President’s side since he launched his candidacy in 2015, and had worked for the Trump Organization before that. The judiciary committee had issued a subpoena for Hicks last month for both documents and testimony from her time working for Trump. Although she declined to hand over documents from her tenure in the Administration — her attorney explained in a letter to Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler that the White House instructed her not to — she did provide information from the campaign, and agreed to sit for the closed interview.
Hicks’ appearance is a breakthrough for the committee, who has been struggling to compel key figures to cooperate with their investigation into Trump and whether he obstructed justice or abused the powers of his office.
But the fight for information is not over. At least one representative from the White House will be in attendance, a committee aide said. As expected, the White House sent a letter to Nadler Tuesday afternoon stating that Hicks was immune from testifying about her time in the White House.
“The longstanding principle of immunity for senior advisers to the President is firmly rooted in the Constitution’s separation of powers and protects the core function of the presidency, and we are adhering to this well established precedent in order to ensure that future Presidents can effectively execute the responsibilities of the Office of the President,” White House Counsel Pat Cipollone wrote in a letter to Nadler.
Before that letter was publicized, committee aides said they would negotiate with Hicks as the interview transpired. They emphasized, however, that they would not accept assertions of executive privilege unless it was officially entered into the record, which they believe is a losing battle for the White House.
Hicks’ attorney could not be reached for comment.
Committee aides did not speculate if Hicks’ assertions of privilege could produce yet another fight in court, explaining that they did not want to predict anything before her testimony.
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