Friday, 23 August, 2019

Hope Hicks Won't Answer Questions About Trump White House

Democrats plan to ask Hope Hicks about hush money schemes to silence affair allegations against Trump Trump Instructs Hope Hicks Not To Testify About White House Work
Patty Aguilar | 19 June, 2019, 21:47

While Donald Trump called in a favor from Rupert Murdoch to score former White House communications director Hope Hicks a top job at Fox Corporation, the president's once-closest confident - who he affectionately referred to as "Hopey" - is reportedly now ignoring his calls.

"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.

Democrats told Newsweek that White House lawyers, several of which they said were present for the closed-door deposition, in addition to private attorneys for Hicks, objected to all questions regarding Hicks' time working as White House communications director, but did not do so for questions regarding her role as a campaign aide.

The White House has asserted immunity over testimony by Hicks involving her 14 months in the Trump administration, according to a knowledgeable source, continuing its strategy of not co-operating with House investigations.

Cipollone said Hicks, as one of Trump's former senior advisers, 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.

Democrats emerged from the room visibly frustrated and openly discussing the possibility of having to take Hicks to court to force her to answer questions.

It's not clear whether Hicks will also refuse to answer questions about the transition period between the election and Trump's inauguration. He said the topic of Trump ordering hush-money payments be made to women in the run-up to the 2016 election with whom he allegedly had extramarital affairs with came up but that it had not yet been explored in depth.

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

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Her name is peppered throughout Mueller's report. Although she declined to hand over documents from her tenure in the Administration - her attorney explained in a letter to Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler that the White House instructed her not to - she did provide information from the campaign, and agreed to sit for the closed interview.

It was unclear how much new information Hicks will provide.

Before that letter was publicized, committee aides said they would negotiate with Hicks as the interview transpired. Hicks was a key witness for Mueller, delivering important information to the special counsel's office about multiple episodes involving the president. The report examined several situations in which Trump attempted to influence or curtail Mueller's investigation, including the drafting of that statement.

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.

The interview marks the first time lawmakers are hearing from a person linked to Trump's inner circle since the release of Mueller's report.

Republicans have strongly criticized the investigations and say they are unnecessary after Mueller spent two years reviewing the same material and talking to the same witnesses. The aides spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss their plans for the closed-door meeting.

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 has denied the allegations. They emphasized, however, that they would not accept assertions of executive privilege unless it was officially entered into the record, which they believe is a losing battle for the White House. Cohen is now serving three years in prison partly for campaign violations related to the payments.

Democrats also wanted Hicks to testify about an effort by the president to mislead the public about a June 9, 2016, meeting at Trump Tower in NY, where the Mueller report said campaign officials, including the president's son Donald Trump Jr., met with Russians offering "dirt" on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton.

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