How Hope Hicks went from Trump confidante to key prosecution witness

Hope Hicks was known as Donald Trump’s gatekeeper, a calming force for the former president who has been by his side for years as a loyal confidante.

She is now playing a key role as a witness in his trial. On Friday, Hicks took the stand as a witness for the prosecution in the New York criminal trial, where she testified against her former boss.

Earlier in the trial, former publisher of the National Enquirer tabloid David Pecker testified about a conference call set up by Trump with Hicks and Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who at the time was serving in the Trump administration and is now the governor of Arkansas. The call centered around Playboy Playmate Karen McDougal and an agreement with her to prevent her from speaking about the alleged affair with Trump.

“They thought that it was a good idea,” Pecker testified of Hicks and Huckabee Sanders.

On the witness stand Friday, Hicks testified that she crafted several possible responses to a Wall Street Journal story about McDougal’s hush money and shared them with Trump’s former fixer Michael Cohen. When she started her testimony, her voice wavered and she said she was nervous.

She also told the jury about how the notorious “Access Hollywood” tape was a “damaging development” during the 2016 election cycle.

Hicks became — along with former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski — one of the two main staffers during the earliest days of his 2016 campaign. Trump at the time was regarded as a sideshow by the media, before becoming the dominant leader in the primary and, later, the Republican Party nominee. While there were multiple shakeups throughout Trump’s successful bid, Hicks always survived — an indication of her closeness with Trump.

Hicks joined Trump’s White House as a top adviser. She was frequently in the Oval Office with the president, and maintained a close relationship with Trump’s daughter Ivanka and son-in-law Jared Kushner, both of whom were also senior figures in the White House. While other aides were locked in infighting and turmoil, Hicks largely managed to stay above the fray.

While Trump cycled through a number of top advisers, who rose and fell in his favor, Hicks was a near constant. Her title was senior communications adviser, but that belied her importance. Her real job, those who worked with her say, was to manage Trump. Her office was right outside the Oval Office, a reflection of her importance to the former president.

“Hope was one of the president’s most loyal and dedicated advisers,” said Raj Shah, a former Trump White House official. “What separated her from others was that she was among few very savvy operatives who’d been with him from the beginning. The president instinctively trusted her judgment.”

While many of those in the Trump White House were motivated to drive a policy or personal agenda, those who worked with Hicks say she had one interest: Trump himself.

But that closeness also led to her getting wrapped up in his legal issues. Hicks, for example, appeared before the grand jury last year before Trump was indicted.

She also drew attention in 2018, when it emerged she reportedly had a romantic relationship with a fellow White House adviser, Rob Porter.

That year, she left the White House for the West Coast, and moved to Los Angeles to work for the Fox Corporation. Friends said she did not like being so far away from her family, and once again returned to Washington in March of 2020 as a counselor to the president. Her vision for the job was to travel with him and provide strategic advice — but it was the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, and her attention was pulled toward helping manage communications for the incoming public health crisis.

Hicks left the White House on Jan. 12, 2021, six days after the deadly Capitol siege and eight days before Trump left office. Hicks said at the time that her departure was planned before the riot.

Hicks, it later emerged, had been highly critical of Trump’s conduct around the Capitol riot. The House committee investigating the attack later released text messages Hicks sent to Ivanka Trump chief of staff Julie Radford in which she wrote that “in one day [Trump] ended every future opportunity that doesn’t include speaking engagements at the local proud boys chapter.”

More recently, Hicks has done strategic communications consulting for controversial fast-fashion retailer Shein, which has attracted recent attention in Washington for its ties to China. During the 2022 midterm election, Hicks served as an adviser to unsuccessful Pennsylvania Senate candidate David McCormick, who is married to former Trump White House official Dina Powell.

“Hope is extremely smart, politically savvy and strategic,” said Hogan Gidley, a former Trump White House official. “She has an incredible ability to read people and read the room at any split second and when you’re dealing with global catastrophes or domestic political fights she has a very strong skill set and ability to offer strong advice and do so unselfishly with Donald Trump’s interest at heart.”


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