Thursday, 22 August, 2019

Hope Hicks Appears for Closed-Door Testimony Amid Executive Privilege Fight

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Patty Aguilar | 20 June, 2019, 07:21

The White House has similarly cited broad executive privilege with respect to numerous Democrats' investigative demands, using the president's power to withhold information to protect the confidentiality of the Oval Office decision-making process. But they agreed to the private interview after negotiations.

Testimony from witnesses such as Hicks is one step in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's methodical approach to investigating Trump.

"Chair: Where was your office located?"

They also want Hicks to talk about five examples of potential obstruction of justice by Trump that are laid out in U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian election interference in the 2016 presidential election, as well as the president's efforts to impede the Mueller investigation.

Democrats say her appearance could help undermine Trump's strategy of stonewalling congressional investigators by encouraging others to co-operate with them and by giving investigators the chance to challenge any executive privilege assertions, possibly in federal court. The top Republican on the panel, Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, said they were "simply talking about things that are already out there in public or getting the same answers over and over".

Politicians wanted to ask the 30-year-old publicist about six instances in which Democrats believe Trump may have broken the law during the 2016 presidential campaign and while in the White House.

Congressman Ted Lieu (D-CA) is blaming the Dept. of Justice for preventing Hicks from answering questions, calling it "obstruction of justice".

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"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. Hicks has provided some records to the committee related to her time working for the Trump campaign.

Cipollone added that White House counsel would accompany Hicks as she testifies "to preserve the President's ability to assert executive privilege" concerning the presidential transition.

Democrats are likely to ask Hicks whom she spoke to before issuing the denial of the Journal's reporting and whether Trump was involved in the release of false information. At least one representative from the White House will be in attendance, a committee aide said.

Trump tweeted as the hearings opened that "the Dems are very unhappy with the Mueller Report, so after nearly 3 years, they want a Redo" and "now they bring back Hope Hicks". "They were unhappy with result so they want a Do Over". Obtaining the testimony Wednesday from Hicks, former White House communications director and a close and trusted former Trump aide, was a victory for the committee, given that Trump has broadly stonewalled their investigations and said he will fight "all of the subpoenas". She acted as a gatekeeper of sorts and was often at Trump's side, often a witness to Trump's most unvarnished impulses.

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. He has denied the affairs.

Democrats asked Hicks to testify as part of their ongoing investigation into whether Trump obstructed justice as almost 70 Democrats have called for launching impeachment proceedings.

Earlier Wednesday, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., declined to comment on the substance of the interview: "All I'll say is Ms. Hicks is answering questions put to her and the interview continues". Cicilline said she was asked about the president's alleged relationship with Playboy model Karen McDougal, though he did not say how she answered. "In other words, if the goods are there, you must impeach, and censure is nice, but it is. a day at the beach for the president, or at his golf club, or wherever he goes".

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