Ex-Trump aide Hicks to be the first star
witness for House committee
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[June 18, 2019]
By David Morgan
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Hope Hicks, once a
close aide and communications director for President Donald Trump,
becomes on Wednesday the first member of his inner circle to testify to
the congressional panel leading a probe into possible obstruction of
justice by Trump.
Democrats who control the House of Representatives Judiciary Committee
believe Hicks can provide important insights into troubling chapters of
former Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian meddling in
the 2016 presidential election, and Trump's efforts to interfere with
"She's our first fact witness," said Jamie Raskin, a Democratic lawmaker
on the committee. "Having somebody talking about what happened from a
personal perspective will be a dramatic debut for the committee."
Hicks, who was one of Trump's closest aides during the 2016 campaign and
the first 14 months of his presidency, was subpoenaed to testify and is
due to appear at 9 a.m. (1300 GMT) on Wednesday, the committee said.
It will be a closed-door interview with lawmakers, and the committee
will release a transcript afterward.
The White House is trying to prevent former Trump aides from cooperating
with a string of congressional investigations into Trump, so it is
unclear how helpful the 30-year-old public relations consultant will be.
Hicks' attorney did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.
Mueller's 448-page report refers to Hicks more than 180 times and places
her in the middle of some of the most incriminating episodes involving
Trump, who did not agree to answer Mueller's questions on obstruction.
Democrats want Hicks to shed light on 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 who
had offered "dirt" on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.
One question is whether Trump himself was aware of the meeting at the
The Mueller report quotes former deputy campaign chairman Rick Gates as
saying Trump Jr. told Hicks, other campaign staff and Trump family
members about his plans for the meeting but that Hicks denied knowing
about the meeting until months later.
The report also recounts how in July 2017, Trump directed Hicks to issue
a misleading statement to the press saying only that the Trump Tower
meeting had been about Russian adoption.
"I would like to know about her involvement in that process and what she
personally knew happened," said Ted Lieu, another Democrat on the
Judiciary Committee. "She was involved in that whole chain of events,
where the president lied about what actually happened."
[to top of second column]
Then-White House Communications Director Hope Hicks leaves the U.S.
Capitol after attending the House Intelligence Committee closed door
meeting in Washington, U.S., February 27, 2018. REUTERS/Leah
Mueller’s report concluded there was insufficient evidence to
establish that the Trump campaign engaged in a criminal conspiracy
with Moscow. It also described attempts by Trump to impede Mueller’s
probe, but stopped short of declaring that he committed a crime.
EVIDENCE OF OBSTRUCTION?
Hicks was also present for two separate episodes that Mueller cited
as offering relevant evidence of obstruction after Trump took
office: his efforts to get former Attorney General Jeff Sessions to
redirect the Russia probe away from his 2016 election campaign team,
and his attempts to persuade former White House Counsel Don McGahn
to deny that Trump asked him to remove Mueller.
Lawmakers are not sure whether Hicks will talk about her time in
Trump's administration. The White House has already directed her not
to give the committee documents pertaining to her tenure there,
which ended in March 2018. Last month, the White House directed
McGahn to ignore a subpoena for documents and testimony, leading him
to skip a committee hearing.
House Republicans dismiss the committee probe as political overreach
calculated to placate Democratic voters who want Trump impeached.
"It just seems like the Democrats are trying to influence the 2020
election and using the committees to do so," said Debbie Lesko, a
Republican on the panel.
Legal experts believe Hicks could decline to answer questions on key
topics, citing Trump's assertion of executive privilege over the
That could force the committee to seek a federal court order
directing her to testify, an action the full House authorized in a
party-line vote last week.
The committee has also subpoenaed Annie Donaldson, McGahn's former
chief of staff, to testify on June 24. Donaldson did not respond to
a Reuters query.
(Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Peter Cooney)
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