White House Communications Director Hope Hicks, who has spent more time with President Trump than anyone, today stonewalled the House Intelligence Committee investigating the Russian interference in the 2016 election and the coverup afterward while testifying behind closed doors, leaving legislators exasperated and frustrated with her refusal to cooperate.
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Rep. Denny Heck (D-WASH) is said to have exclaimed to reporters afterward, “We got Bannoned!”
Heck is of course referring to former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon, who appeared before the same committee and refused to answer most questions making the same excuse that Hicks apparently brought up – the fact that the president may want to invoke executive privilege in this matter.
The reporter who covers Congress for Fox News tweeted:
Colleague Jenny Buchholz rpts GOP UT Rep & Intel Cmte mbr Chris Stewart says "there are some questions she's not going to answer. Anything dealing with the Administration from the Inauguration on" when asked about WH Comms Dir Hope Hicks appearing before the cmte today
— Chad Pergram (@ChadPergram) February 27, 2018
Hopes had been high before the session that Hicks might be forthcoming. Although she is only 29 years old, the former model and actress has emerged as a close Trump confidant even before she was appointed as the youngest person ever to serve as White House Director of Communications.
Before her appearance, Rep Mike Conaway (R-TX) told CNN he expected Hicks to answer all of their questions, and that he was not aware of any agreement limiting the scope of her testimony.
— CBS News (@CBSNews) February 27, 2018
Hicks has already spoken to the Senate Intelligence panel and to investigators for Special Counsel Robert Mueller, but it is not known what- if anything – she told them.
If she continues to refuse to answer most questions, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) is likely to demand that she be issued a contempt citation, as he has requested in the wake of the refusal to testify by Bannon and former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski.
The Republican majority who control both the House and the committee has so far not been responsive to Schiff’s request, while the White House has warily watched the proceedings without making any formal request for executive privilege for anyone.
When Bannon testified, however, it was reported that his attorney was in constant touch with the White House about what questions to answer, and ultimately he did not provide much information of substance.
Hicks is especially interesting to the committee because of her close relationship with Trump. She was present on Air Force One, for instance, when Trump drafted a misleading statement about his son Donald Jr.’s meeting with a Kremlin-linked Russian attorney in June 2016.
Although she is in charge of communications, Hicks does not like to communicate directly with the press or other outsiders. Her role is more like an executive secretary to Trump who literally takes dictation when he wants to get a message out.
Hicks, like Bannon and Lewandowski, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions when he refused to provide a House Committee the information they requested, are not likely to face severe consequences as long as the Republicans are in charge.
— The Daily Beast (@thedailybeast) February 27, 2018
As much as the Republicans want the truth, they seem more interested in protecting Trump and his administration, and their own parties position.
Ultimately, Special Counsel Mueller remains the best bet to get to the truth, and that is because he can use his power to indict those in the spotlight and squeeze them for what Trump and his close allies will never reveal.