Sunday, 19 January, 2020

Hope Hicks testifies on President Trump's potential obstruction of justice

Former White House communications director Hope Hicks arrives for closed-door interview with the House Judiciary Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington Wednesday Hope Hicks testifies on President Trump's potential obstruction of justice
Deanna Wagner | 19 June, 2019, 23:51

She already co-operated extensively with Mueller's probe, and a White House lawyer who will be in the room for the interview is expected to try and block her from answering certain questions.

The Democrats plan to use some of Hicks' answers to those questions to inform a committee hearing with experts to review Mueller's report on Thursday.

Cipollone said Hicks is "absolutely immune" from compelled testimony with respect to her service to the president because of the separation of powers between the executive and legislative branches.

White House Communications Director Hope Hicks stand by as President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting in the Oval Office at the White House, Feb. 9, 2018.

Nadler would say only that "Hicks is answering questions put to her".

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.

While Trump has continued to block their requests, Democrats have made some minor gains in recent weeks with Hicks' appearance and the Justice Department's agreeing to make some underlying evidence from Mueller's report available to committee members. It also described numerous attempts by Trump to impede Mueller's investigation but stopped short of declaring that he committed a crime. If executive privilege is invoked, they will engage in an "on-the-spot" negotiation over whether she can answer a particular question.

Democratic aides said they plan on asking Hicks about several of those episodes, including the drafting of the statement, efforts to remove Mueller from the investigation and the firing of FBI Director James Comey.

Nadler said a transcript of Hicks' interview will be made public.

"Because of this constitutional immunity and in order to protect the prerogatives of the Office of President, the President has directed Ms. Hicks not to answer questions before the Committee relating to the time of her service as a senior adviser to the President", White House counsel Pat Cipollone wrote. Before her roles as director of communications and strategic communications, she was the national press secretary for Mr. Trump's presidential transition team and his top spokeswoman during the 2016 campaign.

Trump used his Twitter account to chastise the Democrats, saying, "So sad that the Democrats are putting wonderful Hope Hicks through hell, for 3 years now, after total exoneration by Robert Mueller & the Mueller Report".

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The House Judiciary Committee has struggled to secure documents and testimony from key witnesses amid a feud with the White House.

Democrats say they disagree that Hicks' answers are covered by such immunity or privilege, especially since she has already cooperated with Mueller.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has supported letting multiple congressional investigations of Trump play out before moving to impeach him.

Hicks was subpoenaed by the House Judiciary Committee in May. The judiciary committee had issued a subpoena for Hicks last month for both documents and testimony from her time working for Trump.

This will not be her first closed-door appearance before a House committee - she appeared before the House Intelligence Committee for an eight-hour, closed-door session in February 2018 and told the panel her work for Trump occasionally required her to tell "white lies". A key question is whether Trump himself was aware of the meeting at the time.

Democrats on the committee wanted to press Hicks on the hush money payments President Trump's former personal attorney Michael Cohen made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels and key moments during the Russian Federation investigation, a Democratic committee aide told CBS News.

Trump appeared to take notice of Hicks' trip to Capitol Hill, taking aim at Democrats in a series of tweets.

Mueller wrote in his 448-page report released in April that there was not enough evidence to establish a criminal conspiracy between Trump's 2016 campaign and Russian Federation, but he said he could not exonerate Trump on obstruction of justice.

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.

Republicans who attended the interview, arranged and led by the majority-Democrat panel, said it revealed little or no new information and they accused Democrats of political harassment of Trump, a criticism the Republicans have long voiced.