Trump-Russia collusion investigations

Hope Hicks resigns from White House one day after admitting to Russia probe that she  told ‘white lies’ for Trump

The White House communications director resigned one day after she told a House Intelligence Committee that she told ‘white lies’ on behalf of Trump - though the White House denied that was the reason

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 March, 2018, 2:41am
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 March, 2018, 9:27pm

Close Trump aide Hope Hicks has resigned from her position as the White House communications director one day after she admitted to telling “white lies” on behalf of US President Donald Trump.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters the timeline for Hicks’ departure was unclear, and denied that the departure was related to her testimony to the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday.

It’s unclear what other reason the 29-year-old Hicks - who is famously close to Trump and was one of his longest-lasting aides - might have for stepping down.

Hicks made the remarks while testifying to the House in its probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 presidential election.

In the interview, Hicks said that she had told “white lies” for Trump, but they hadn’t amounted to anything substantial.

Hicks was named White House communications director in September, but had been on Trump’s staff from the beginning of his presidency. Prior to joining the Trump campaign, she had worked in public relations for the Trump Organisation.

“I wish the president and his administration the very best as he continues to lead our country,” Hicks said in a statement released by the White House.

“Hope is outstanding and has done great work for the last three years,” Trump said in a statement.

She is the latest of several recent high-profile departures from Trump’s White House.

Another communications aide, Josh Raffel, said Tuesday he would resign; a top technology aide, Reed Cordish, said earlier this month he would leave; and Staff Secretary Rob Porter resigned earlier this month after reports that he had been accused of domestic violence by two ex-wives.

On Tuesday night Hicks was questioned by the house committee on a series of topics, including claims that Trump dictated a misleading memo on board Air Force One – but remained tight-lipped on most subjects.

“We got Bannoned!” said panel Democrat Denny Heck of Washington, referring to Steve Bannon’s similar reticence to answer questions - and his claim, like Hicks, that his silence was at the bidding of the White House.

Hicks wouldn’t answer many questions about events and conversations since US President Donald Trump took office, Republican Chris Stewart of Utah, who was at the meeting, confirmed.

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Representative Peter King, a House Intelligence Committee Republican, said the first 20 minutes of the panel’s questioning of Hicks established what areas she wouldn’t discuss.

He said that under instructions from the White House, she declined to answer questions related to the transition period between the election and Trump’s inauguration, as well as the time “in the West Wing.” 

Later in the day, Hicks did answer some questions about the transition, according to Republican Representative Tom Rooney.

Her remarks included barbed comments about Paul Manafort, the now-indicted former campaign manager to President Donald Trump, during a House Intelligence Committee interview, according to a House official familiar with her testimony.

Hicks said that if Manafort had gone through the same level of background checks as other Trump aides, he never would have gotten the job of campaign chairman, revealed the official, who requested anonymity because the session wasn’t public.

The panel’s top Democrat, Adam Schiff of California, said that she began answering some transition-related questions after it became clear she had addressed those topics in an earlier interview she did privately with the Senate Intelligence Committee’s probe. 

Schiff has said that the committee wanted to know about events and conversations tied to Hicks’s role as part of the Trump campaign as well as her current post as a top adviser in his administration.

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“We ought to treat this witness like Steve Bannon and she should be subpoenaed,” Schiff told reporters after the interview, saying the White House has suddenly stopped being cooperative with the panel’s probe.

“We need to compel answers.”

Hicks, who met with the panel voluntarily for about nine hours, didn’t speak to reporters.

On January 31, The New York Times reported that a former spokesman for Trump’s legal team, Mark Corallo, was prepared then to tell Special Counsel Robert Mueller of his concerns over a comment Hicks made during a phone call with him and the president.

According to the Times, Corallo claimed Hicks said during the call that emails written by Donald Trump Jnr about a June, 9, 2016, meeting with Russians at Trump Tower would “never get out.” 

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Corallo was concerned that Hicks might be considering obstructing justice, the Times reported, citing sources. 

Her lawyer, Robert Trout, denied Hicks made such a statement or suggested documents or emails would be concealed, the Times reported.

Trout didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Some of the questions, Schiff said, would focus on “what role she may have played in the drafting of that initial false statement about the Trump Tower meeting” to the media last summer.

Schiff said that Hicks would be asked to describe what roles the younger Trump, and even the president, had in crafting that statement.

He was referring to reports that during an Air Force One flight from Germany, Trump dictated a statement to Hicks as an initial response for the media to revelations that his eldest son had met with the Russian lawyer during the 2016 campaign. 

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The statement’s assertion that the meeting primarily concerned a programme for adopting Russian children turned out to be false when emails revealed that Trump Jnr had agreed to the meeting after being offered dirt on his father’s presidential foe, Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Schiff said beforehand that he hoped Hicks would be more forthcoming than former Trump aides Bannon and Corey Lewandowski.

Committee Democrats complained that Bannon, the former White House chief strategist, gave scripted responses and refused to answer many questions, saying he’d been instructed by the White House to invoke executive privilege. 

Schiff has called for the committee to consider contempt action against Bannon.

Lewandowski, a former Trump campaign manager, told committee members in his voluntary appearance in January that he wasn’t prepared to answer questions about the period after he left the campaign, though he stopped short of asserting executive privilege.

He promised to return, but hasn’t.