Hope Hicks

  

On Thursday, the House Judiciary Committee released the transcript from its day-long interview of former Trump communications director Hope Hicks. The day-long hearing covered a lot of ground, with congressmen quizzing Hicks on all aspects of the Trump campaign and transition period.

The breadth of the topics covered might seem surprising given her title, but Hicks’s responsibilities involved her in all aspects of Trump’s campaign since the political novice launched his exploratory committee in 2015. From Hicks’s performance under fire last week, it is understandable that Trump placed such trust in the 30-year-old.

Here are the top eight takeaways from the hearing transcript.

1. It Was a Dog and Donkey Show

With Democrats back in control of the House, the Judiciary Committee, now chaired by Rep. Jerry Nadler, summoned Hicks to testify a third time about her involvement with the Trump campaign, transition team, and administration. It soon became clear the Democrats’ goal was purely political: to embarrass the president and keep pushing the debunked Russia-collusion narrative.

Republicans exposed Democrats’ oversight façade early, with one committee member pointing out that although the parties had agreed to limit staff during Hicks’s testimony, “the majority’s press staff was in here for the majority of the first round of questioning,” for no apparent reason. Later, as staffer cell phone cameras continued unabated. Hicks’s personal attorney finally complained.

“There are a number of people taking pictures here, and I just want to say that I think it’s making the witness uncomfortable,” he said, asking the chairman to end the unwelcome photo op. Then there was Democrat Rep. Ted Lieu’s live-tweeting of the proceedings, in blatant disregard of Nadler’s admonishment that the proceedings were to remain confidential until the release of the transcript.

The pageantry became even more apparent as Democrat after Democrat asked Hicks to read from portions of the Robert Mueller report, as if a dramatic reading might change the outcome of the special counsel’s investigation. Republican Rep. Andy Biggs pointed out the ploy:

The majority keeps wanting you to read what you were quoted as saying in the Mueller report or other quotations from the Mueller report. This is really a farce, quite frankly. It’s a waste of your time, it’s a waste of our time. Because what we see here is the majority wants to re-litigate the Mueller investigation. And they believe that the extensive resources that were expended on the Mueller investigation, including the 22 months that it took, the countless interviews, the subpoenas, 1.4 million documents. . . They’re going to ask you questions that they know that you can’t answer. And it’s, quite frankly, it’s an abuse of process, quite frankly, an abuse of the congressional process. And so, I’ve called on my colleagues on the majority to get back to work.

By day’s end, Hicks, likely exhausted by the jousting, broke from her cordial demeanor when Rep. Madeleine Dean claimed congressional oversight demanded factual responses, not her opinions. “And everything that goes on in this committee is factual and not opinion-based?” Hicks scoffed. “We’re trying to get facts,” Dean claimed.

“That is not the purpose of today’s hearing or anything that has gone on concerning this committee’s work and this investigation,” Hicks bit back. “So if you all wanted to get facts, you know, I would say that those are available in this report, of which most of this session has consisted of repeating, which I’m happy to do. We can do a reading of that.”

After regrouping, Hicks reframed her comments, noting she was “more than happy to show up here and answer questions… I don’t believe that I’ve provided any new information that I haven’t provided to multiple different bodies investigating this very same thing. Hopefully you all feel differently and you got something out of this.”

She left unsaid what Democrats clearly got out of the proceedings: soundbites and political theater.

2. The Media Lapped Up Democrats’ Narrative, Of Course

The Democrats succeeded in their show hearing because the press regurgitated their preferred narrative on cue. It charged the administration refused to cooperate with the House’s oversight and prevented Hicks from answering basic questions. Press reports focused on her number of objections to the questions and refusal to respond to simple inquiries, such as where her desk was located during her time at the White House.

But, as usual, the media’s coverage distorted the reality. All of the questions Hicks refused to answer involved events that occurred after Trump was sworn in as president and before Hicks left the White House. Hicks freely testified about events that occurred during the campaign and transition period, as well as after her employment in the Trump administration ended.

Democrats knew Hicks would not answer any questions concerning her time as a Trump administration employee: The day before the hearing, the White House sent Nadler a letter informing him that based on longstanding executive branch precedent and Department of Justice practice and advice, the administration believed Hicks could not be compelled to speak about events that occurred during her service as a senior adviser to the president. Accordingly, Hicks would refuse to answer such questions the hearing. As the White House’s attorneys explained during the hearing, “both Republican and Democratic administrations dating at least to the 1970” relied on such immunity to keep employees from being forced to testify.

So the 155 questions Hicks didn’t answer were ones Democrats posed knowing they would get no response from Hicks. They knew full well how the press would respond.

3. More Proof Against Trump Collusion

However, had the MSM bothered to read the entire transcript, instead of showcasing Democrats’ preferred narrative, there was a significant story to report: There was no Russian collusion.

Although the Mueller report already reached this conclusion, House Democrats sought to re-litigate the question. But Hicks’s testimony devastated the Russia collusion hoax in a way the 400-plus page special counsel’s tome couldn’t.

Hicks spent all but four days with the president or his top advisors during both the primary and general campaign seasons. Had there been a hint of Kremlin influence, Hicks would have known.

While Hicks did not answer any questions concerning events after Trump’s inauguration, she fully answered all of the committee’s questions about the primary and general campaigns and the transition period. Those questions focused on Russia, and Hicks’s answers should have been a huge story. But the press predictably ignored the extensive testimony she gave confirming the Russia collusion claims are a hoax.

4. Much Questioning Unconnected to Congress’s Oversight

The Democratic-controlled committee also waded into an array of issues wholly beyond the committee’s oversight role. For instance, several members questioned Hicks about alleged Trump paramours Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal and “hush payments.”

Both women claim affairs with Trump, with McDougal maintaining that her relationship with Trump began in 2006 and lasted for about ten months. McDougal reportedly sold her story to the owner of the National Enquirer, which later opted not to publish it.

Hicks’s answers-that she was not aware of any hush payment agreements and that Trump had told Hicks he did not have an affair with McDougal-again provided no fodder for Trump’s opponents, other than what they likely expected: reputation-damaging rumors designed to embarrass the president.

Hicks was also forced to detail the campaign’s response to the “Access Hollywood” tape that showed Trump crudely discussing grabbing women by their private parts. “What was your reaction to it?” “Did you discuss it with Mr. Trump?” “Tell me about those discussions?” “How did he react?” “Was he upset?” the questions came. To imagine any of these questions fall within the House Judiciary Committee’s oversight functions is laughable!

Less salacious, but equally irrelevant, were questions concerning Jill Stein’s candidacy. Stein, who ran as an independent, siphoned votes from Clinton and in some states potentially affected the outcome. “There was no concerted effort to capitalize on her candidacy, but certainly, yes, there was an awareness that that could play into the results of the election,” Hicks told the judiciary committee members supposedly questioning her about abuse of power by the Trump administration.

Also unconnected to oversight were questions concerning the Trump campaign’s position on immigration. Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell asked whether any conversations addressed an “anti-immigration campaign messaging?” Hicks pushed back, “I don’t believe any of Mr. Trump’s messaging is anti-immigrant. I believe he’s very pro-legal immigration. I believe he’s opposed to illegal immigration. And I think he’s made that distinction.”

Then there were questions about whether Hicks kept a diary while working with Trump, as reported by the media. No, Hicks responded, adding to the list of Trump-connected fake news stories.

Other irrelevant questions concerned the fact that the Republican National Committee was paying Hicks’s attorneys to represent her during her testimony and that Hicks currently works as the executive vice president and chief communications officer for the Fox Corporation. Neither fact, frankly, is the business of the House Judiciary Committee.

Most bizarre, though, was Nadler’s obsession with Hicks’s interactions with Corey Lewandowski. On three occasions Nadler called Hicks “Ms. Lewandowski,” until she corrected, “My name is Ms. Hicks.” While Nadler didn’t repeat the “error,” he did want to know how often Hicks spoke with Lewandowski during the campaign and after he left it. Nadler then demanded to know if Hicks had seen or spoke with Lewandowski following her departure from the Trump administration. “No,” Hicks told the over-inquisitive congressman.

This was particularly offensive given the tabloid treatment Hicks received in Michael Wolff’s book, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House. In his book, Wolff claimed Hicks had an affair with the married Lewandowski.

5. Hope Wasn’t About to Jump Through Their Hoops

While Democrats may have scored a few political points from the hearing, Hicks’s savvy handling of the gotcha questions limited the damage. She continually refused to accept the Democrats’ false framing of facts or to give the left damaging sound bites.

For instance, Hicks threw a hiccup in Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee’s questioning about a “Russian strategy,” and “Who specifically was engaged with the Russian strategy, messaging strategy, post the convention, late summer 2016?”

Hicks countered: “I’m sorry. I don’t understand the question. I’m not aware of a Russian messaging strategy.” Jackson Lee tried again, but Hicks held firm: “I’m sorry. I’m just not understanding the question. You’re talking about a Russian strategy. The campaign didn’t have a Russian strategy. There was an effort made by the campaign to use information that was publicly available, but I’m not aware of a Russian strategy, communications or otherwise.”

Democrats also tried to paint Trump’s victory as tied to Russia’s leaking of information: “Would you agree that the campaign benefited from the hacked information on Hillary Clinton?” Jackson Lee asked. Hicks pushed back, noting “This was publicly available information,” and adding that she didn’t “know what the direct impact was of the utilization of that information.”

Jackson Lee continued: “Did this information help you attack the opponent of Mr. Trump?” “I take issue with the phrase ‘attack,'” Hicks responded. “I think it allowed the campaign to discuss things that would not otherwise be known but that were true.”

“So the campaign-is it your position the campaign benefited from the hacked emails of Ms. Clinton?” Jackson Lee pushed. “It is not my position that we benefited from those emails,” Hicks responded. “It’s my position that we used publicly available information in the course of the campaign – to differentiate between candidates,” and many factors explain Trump’s victory. “I think he gave people who lost faith a reason to keep fighting for what they believed in, and I think he offered change, because he was an outsider and he was going to come here and shake up the system.”

Hicks also didn’t take any guff from Democrats. When one inquired whether there were any discussions with Trump about Russian sanctions, and Hicks noted the only context she knew of involved Michael Flynn and the Russian ambassador, he pushed, “You’re sure of that? Think about it.” An unaffected Hicks retorted, “I am thinking. Thank you.”

Another exchange saw Democrats corning Hicks, by asking if Trump told her to lie during the campaign. Hicks said never about anything of “substance or consequence.” Looking for a soundbite, they pushed, until Hicks shut down the interruption: “Could you let me finish? I would appreciate it. As I’m sure the press person that was in here earlier would attest to,” Hick snarked, a reminder to the committee that she was well-aware of the political motivation of the questions, “we’re often asked to put a positive spin on things, present the best possible version of events. But I believe I always did so with integrity.”

Hitting her stride, Hicks continued:

And I’d like to also note that, just a few minutes after I was warned about the confidential natures of the session in which I shared that information, that information was being discussed on cable news, and it was my integrity that was up for debate. So I stand by my earlier characterization of telling white lies, which I believe to be things like ‘No, the President is not available right now,’ when he is. I’ve said that the President was busy when he wasn’t. I’ve said that he had a conflict when he didn’t. I’ve said that he would love to participate in an interview when I know that that would not be his first choice. But, no, I’ve never been asked to lie about matters of substance or consequence.

At several points, Hicks also rebuffed Democrats’ attempts to elicit a harmful soundbite by simply noting she would not “speculate or hypothesize.” For instance, when asked whether Trump trusted his personal attorney Michael Cohen, Hicks countered, “I am not going to speculate about the feelings or motivations of others.”

When asked whom she thought responsible for the Democratic National Committee email hack, Hicks said she didn’t have an opinion at the time, and that she was not here now “to discuss my opinions.”

Hicks further refused to allow the left-leaning committee members to misrepresent her testimony. “That’s not what I said,” “That is not what I said at all,’ “I didn’t say that. You’re putting words in my mouth,” the former Trump insider retorted throughout the hearing, before then repeating what she had said.

Hicks also wisely used her attorneys to her advantage, not being bullied into answering questions framed unfairly, “Sorry. I’d like to confer with my counsel,” the former communications director would say when cornered by Democrats.

6. Democrats Were Too Dense to Notice Hicks Threw Lots of Shade

Not only did Hicks hold her own during the daylong onslaught, but she also hit back when humor allowed her to hold the higher ground. For instance, when asked whether she had ever met two of the women who had accused Trump of misconduct years prior, Hicks retorted, “No, sir. I was in high school in 2005.” She hit her mark, with the inquisitor noting “that hurts.” In a lighthearted rejoinder, Hicks then succeeded in highlighting the difference between her attitude and the lawmakers: “I had to get one in. You guys have been at me all day.”

Several of Hicks’s barbs went unnoticed by her clueless questioners. After one congressman apologized if any of his questions were redundant, Hicks assured him that she understood, while reminding everyone that her entire testimony was repetitive. Don’t worry, Hicks responded: after all, “this is one of many repetitions over the last several years.”

Hicks also landed a solid hit on Lieu, who claimed to be asking questions to illustrate the “absurdity” of the administration’s claim that immunity allowed it to keep Hicks from testifying about her interactions with the president while she worked in the White House.

“On your first day of work at the White House, was it a sunny day or a cloudy day?” Lieu asked. “It was a cloudy day,” Hicks replied, before noting “that’s probably not helping my reputation much, by the way. I think people are going to laugh at this.” Completely oblivious to the obvious-that Lieu asked the ridiculous question and it was his reputation that would suffer-the liberal congressman posed several sillier questions.

Lieu’s questioning also her to ridicule Hillary Clinton and John Podesta. Lieu asked Hicks about an email Jared Kushner had forwarded her concerning WikiLeaks supposedly contacting Donald Trump Jr. with information about PutinTrump.org and a pro-Trump PAC. That email included a link, which Hicks noted to Lieu was why she had shared it with Lewandowski, to bring “a moment of levity amongst an intense set of circumstances.”

Hicks explained, “Clicking on a link from an unknown sender amidst a presidential election, given that there had already been information about hacks,” seemed a red flag. The subtext of Hicks’s testimony was that they weren’t as dumb as Podesta, who fell for a phishing campaign and clicked on a link to a fake Google page, where he then inputted his password, reportedly allowing the Russians access to his emails, including those exchanged with the Clinton campaign.

Other times, Hicks’s pointed replies left her Democratic inquisitors aware of the damage done, but with no recourse. Such was the case when Rep. David Cicilline asked Hicks whether “the Trump campaign benefited from the hacked information on Hillary Clinton.” “No more so than the Clinton campaign benefited from the media helping them and providing information about Mr. Trump,” Hicks replied.

Hicks similarly stung the committee’s staff attorney when he asked whether, based on her experience and expertise, she should “would take foreign opposition information from a foreign government if that were offered when working on a political campaign.” “You know, knowing how much chaos has been sowed as a result of something like the Steele dossier, no, I would not,” Hicks replied.

When asked about the DNC’s opposition research on Trump that Eric Trump somehow accessed, Hicks noted that the information in the document was all publicly sourced. But wouldn’t that be helpful to have, the Democrats quizzed: “Well, you know, we have this thing called Google now,” Hicks quipped. But would it be helpful, they demanded to know.

“Yeah, look, maybe if the candidate wasn’t Donald Trump, someone who had been in the arena for 40 years and just gone through a year-long primary where he defeated 17 professional politicians, this might be more helpful. But at that point in time, we were pretty familiar with the kinds of criticisms and attacks that any opponent would put to Mr. Trump,” Hicks replied.

7. Hope Hicks Is Hilarious

In addition to her expert handling of the “gotcha” questions, Hicks demonstrated a devastating sense of humor. When quizzed about why various emails raised a red flag, Hicks noted she had learned the hard way about links in emails.

“Early on in the campaign, in 2015,” Hicks noted, “I clicked on a link in my personal email and, you know, compromised my personal email. So, somewhere in the dark corners of the internet, there’s lots of pictures of my family dog.”

Another solid comeback came when she was asked whether she had “any plans to write a memoir of your time with Mr. Trump?” “It depends how many more of these sessions we have to do,” quipped Hicks, who had already been questioned on the Hill two other time. “These guys are expensive,” she added, in a nod to her high-priced attorneys.

But her best one-liner came in response to Cicilline’s question, “You’ve read the Mueller report, I take it?” “No, sir,” Hicks dead-panned. “I lived the Mueller report.”

8. Hope Hicks For Congress

Hicks’s testimony also proved that, in addition to being beautiful, smart, and funny, she’s patriotic. Although the Republicans yielded the majority of their time so as not to waste Hicks’s time, Rep. Louis Gohmert posed an interesting question:

Now you’ve been through a great deal on behalf of your country. I can’t help but be curious, if you had known the hell that you would be put through as a result of the Clinton campaign hiring a foreign agent to get information from Russians and that people within the FBI and the DOJ and potentially intel would be working against the president, would you still have gone to work for the president?

You could almost hear the refrain for the “Battle Hymn of the Republic” in the background as Hicks replied: “I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity I had to serve, and yes, I would do it all over again. . . . I would do anything to make a positive contribution for our country, and I’m very grateful I had that opportunity. I’m proud of my service, and I thank all of you for your service as well.”

If she means it, I have no doubt Hicks would be a show in the political arena. Her testimony proves that.

Margot Cleveland is a senior contributor to The Federalist. Cleveland served nearly 25 years as a permanent law clerk to a federal appellate judge and is a former full-time faculty member and current adjunct instructor at the college of business at the University of Notre Dame. The views expressed here are those of Cleveland in her private capacity.