J. Scott Applewhite/AP
- Former White House communications director Hope Hicks has agreed to testify before the House Judiciary Committee next week.
- Hicks is the first material witness connected to the former special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe to appear before the panel.
- Her decision is especially noteworthy given that the White House instructed her — and all other witnesses who have been called to testify regarding the Mueller report — not to comply with the committee’s subpoena for documents and testimony.
- Hicks may refuse to answer some questions relating to her time in the White House because of executive-privilege issues.
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The former White House communications director, Hope Hicks, has agreed to testify before the House Judiciary Committee in a closed-door session next week, the panel’s chairman, Rep. Jerry Nadler, announced in a statement.
The interview will include questions related to the former special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, as well as "efforts by President Trump, his associates, and other Administration officials to obstruct justice and investigations into Presidential misconduct," the statement said.
Hicks is the first material witness connected to the Mueller probe to agree to testify before Congress. Her decision is especially significant given that the White House instructed her — as well as all other witnesses who have so far been called to testify — earlier this month not to comply with the committee’s subpoena for documents and testimony.
Nadler’s statement left open the possibility, however, that Hicks may refuse to answer certain questions due to issues of executive privilege. Should that case arise, Nadler said, "we will attempt to resolve any disagreement while reserving our right to take any and all measures in response to unfounded privilege assertions."
A transcript of Hicks’ testimony will be made available to the public as well.
Hicks has long been a central figure in Trump’s orbit and is one of his closest confidants. She left the White House last year, but prior to that, she was also witness to several episodes Mueller examined as part of his obstruction case.
The Mueller report documented, in particular, Hicks’ involvement in the White House’s internal debate over how to handle revelations that Donald Trump Jr., then campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and senior adviser Jared Kushner met with two Russian lobbyists offering dirt on the Hillary Clinton campaign at the height of the 2016 election.
The New York Times first reported on the meeting in July 2017. Trump Jr. said in an initially misleading statement responding to the story that the meeting had nothing to do with campaign business and instead dealt with the Magnitsky Act. But it later surfaced that the meeting was pitched to Trump Jr. in an email chain as "part of Russia and its government’s support" for Trump’s candidacy.
The president and his lawyers, meanwhile, said they didn’t learn of the meeting until The Times published its story in July. But Mueller’s revealed that Trump, Hicks, and Ivanka Trump found out about the meeting as early as June 22.
Hicks told prosecutors that around that date, she had a meeting with Kushner, Ivanka Trump, and the president to discuss the emails setting up the meeting. But Trump "stopped Kushner and said he did not want to know about it, shutting the conversation down," the report said.
Less than a week later — on June 28 — Hicks viewed the emails in the office of Kushner’s lawyer. Mueller wrote that Hicks was "shocked" by the messages because they "looked really bad," and that she privately met with the president the next day to discuss them.
On June 29, Trump told Hicks that he was upset that so many people knew about the emails and said that the emails wouldn’t leak unless "everyone had access to them."
Later that same day, Hicks, Kushner, and Ivanka Trump all met with the president. Hicks argued that Trump Jr. should "get in front of the story" by releasing the emails to the press as part of an interview with "softball questions."
But Trump said no, according to the report.
"Hicks warned the President that the emails were ‘really bad’ and the story would be ‘massive’ when it broke, but the President was insistent that he did not want to talk about it and they should not go to the press," prosecutors wrote.
Trump directed Hicks and other aides not to publicly release the emails.
Hicks was also one of several Trump campaign officials who were aware that Trump Jr. was in touch with the radical pro-transparency group WikiLeaks at the height of the election.
She will likely be asked about both episodes when she testifies before the judiciary committee, as well as about her knowledge of other events central to Mueller’s obstruction and conspiracy case.
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