Hope Hicks Out as Communications Director

The 29-year-old was one of President Trump's most trusted aides but she had an impossible job.

<> on February 27, 2018 in Washington, DC.

Maggie Haberman reports for the NYT (“Hope Hicks to Leave Post as White House Communications Director“):

Hope Hicks, President Trump’s communications director and one of his longest-serving advisers, said Wednesday that she planned to leave the White House in the next few weeks.

Ms. Hicks, 29, a former model who joined Mr. Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign without any experience in politics, became known as one of the few aides who understood Mr. Trump’s personality and style and could challenge the president to change his views.

Her title belied the extent of her power within the West Wing — after John F. Kelly was appointed White House chief of staff, she had more access to the Oval Office than almost any other staff member. Her own office, which she inherited after the departure of another Trump confidant, Keith Schiller, was just next door.

Most significantly, Mr. Trump felt a more personal comfort with Ms. Hicks than he has established with almost any of his other, newer advisers since coming to Washington. And for a politician who relies so heavily on what is familiar to him, her absence could be jarring.

Ms. Hicks said that she had “no words” to express her gratitude to the president, who responded with his own statement.

“Hope is outstanding and has done great work for the last three years,” Mr. Trump said. “She is as smart and thoughtful as they come, a truly great person. I will miss having her by my side, but when she approached me about pursuing other opportunities, I totally understood. I am sure we will work together again in the future.”

Her resignation came a day after she testified for eight hours before the House Intelligence Committee, telling the panel that in her job, she had occasionally been required to tell white lies but had never lied about anything connected to the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.

[…]

In recent weeks, her personal life drew unwanted attention when it was reported that she had dated Rob Porter, the White House staff secretary who resigned under pressure over allegations that he had abused his two former wives.

Multiple White House aides said Ms. Hicks’s decision to leave was unrelated to her appearance before the House committee. They said she had told a small group of people in the days before the session that she had planned to resign, partly because she never liked Washington and chose not to try to pretend to.

Business Insider‘s Bryan Logan has a rather different take (“Trump reportedly berated Hope Hicks over her testimony to the House Intel Committee“):

President Donald Trump berated Hope Hicks, his White House communications director, for testimony she gave to US lawmakers this week during which she admitted to telling white lies on behalf of Trump, CNN reported on Wednesday, citing an ally of the president.

CNN’s source described Hicks as Trump’s “last emotional crutch,” suggesting that her admission to the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday aggravated an already tense situation.

Hicks had been under scrutiny since at least early February for her role in the White House’s handling of the scandal surrounding Rob Porter, the former staff secretary who was accused of physically and emotionally abusing two of his ex-wives.

Hicks had been romantically involved with Porter was said to have helped write a White House statement defending him amid the allegations.

“What happened yesterday just put the nail in the coffin for her,” said April Ryan, a White House correspondent and CNN contributor. Citing her own sources in the West Wing, Ryan said Hicks had given a tentative resignation after the Porter incident. She suggested that what happened on Wednesday “was a forced resignation.”

The CNN link goes to a “live updates” page that no longer has the story in question, or I’d have simply used it instead. The current CNN story (“Hope Hicks is resigning from the White House“) emphasizes her irreplaceability.

Her resignation will undoubtedly reverberate for months to come inside the West Wing, where Trump will find himself for the first time in more than three years without the constant presence of his most loyal aide — who is among the handful of aides who worked with Trump at his company, during the rollicking campaign and into the White House.

[…]

It was not immediately clear who will replace Hicks as White House communications director — a position that has now been filled by four individuals — but some of Hicks’ duties have increasingly been filled over the last two months by Mercedes Schlapp, the senior adviser for strategic communications. While Hicks was busy fighting the crisis of the day at the President’s side or meeting with her lawyers, Schlapp stepped in to lead the communications team, sources told CNN earlier this month.

Regardless of who replaces her, the White House will be hard-pressed to find another aide who understands the President and knows how to work with him as well as Hicks does. Trump allies digested the news with surprise, finding it hard to imagine Trump without Hicks at his side.

“I’m just floored,” one Trump ally said. “I don’t think it’s possible to overstate the significance and just the importance of her role within the White House. She’s an invaluable team member and one of the originals.”

Multiple sources insisted Wednesday that Hicks was in no way forced out of her position, but Hicks’ close relationship with Trump at times chafed at the strict protocols Kelly has sought to impose. But Hick’s access to Trump was never really in question, despite Kelly’s efforts to streamline the access of other top officials, the people said.

But Hicks and Kelly enjoyed an amiable working relationship and did not feud in the way the retired Marine general has with other top officials, people familiar with their dynamic said.

A related CNN story (“What Hope Hicks meant about white lies“) addresses the controversy that broke out just before Hicks’ announcement.

White House communications director Hope Hicks, who on Wednesday announced she plans to leave the White House, testified to the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday that she has told what amounted to white lies for President Donald Trump.

Three sources from both parties with knowledge of her testimony told CNN that she was talking about small matters — like telling people Trump was in a meeting when he wasn’t. Hicks’ larger point was that she argued she didn’t lie on bigger substantive issues like those involving the Russia investigation, the sources said.

When Rep. Pete King, R-New York, asked her if those white lies meant spinning news favorably for her boss, as any press secretary does, she concurred, according to the sources.

The back-and-forth over lies started when a lawmaker pressed Hicks on whether she had ever lied for the President. Her acknowledgment apparently caused some concern among her attorneys, with whom she consulted for roughly 20 minutes during that line of questioning, the sources said.

As one who has watched very little of this on television, it’s been hard to keep straight all of the various people representing Trump to the press. But the bottom line is that, if the President has no discipline or regard for the truth, it’s simply impossible to serve as a credible spokesman.

FILED UNDER: US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Mark Ivey says:

    Hope Hicks quit because she knows the NRA is gonna nuke the White House after what Trump said about grabbing guns.




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  2. HarvardLaw92 says:

    Her acknowledgment apparently caused some concern among her attorneys

    LOL, I would like to congratulate whoever wrote that on his/her mastery of the understatement.




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  3. CSK says:

    I still can’t figure out precisely what her role was. What did she do? Did she somehow control Trump? Keep him sort of calm and at last semi-rational some of the time? How? Was she the one who brought him his a.m. and p.m. folders of carefully vetted news stories that were favorable to him?

    Some of the White House staff who’ve anonymously (what else) commented on her departure appear to be terrified that in her absence, dealing with Trump will require him to be straitjacketed.




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  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    That makes 7 Directors of Communication in 13 months. That has to be some kind of record.




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  5. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @CSK:

    I still can’t figure out precisely what her role was.

    Pretty much the same as Stormy Daniels.




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  6. EddieInCA says:

    Everything you need to know about Hope Hicks is revealed by the fact that her last two romantic relationships were with Corey Lewandowski and Rob Porter, both men credibly accused of Domestic Violence or assaulting women.




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  7. michael reynolds says:

    Trump’s White House is collapsing. The big pig decided to scream at just about the last person still sufficiently deluded to take him seriously. Evidently she located some tiny shred of human dignity – it’s always in the last place you look – and walked. Now the man-baby is down to Nazi Stephen Miller, Kellyanne ‘Alternative facts’ Conway and his crooked, idiot family.

    The current president of the United States is not Donald Trump, it’s General John (the Baby-wrangler) Kelly. Kelly is building a Cask of Amontillado wall around Trump, excluding the Trump Tower people, excluding the Trump family.

    It’s a Deep State coup from within the White House! It is clearly time for the Trumpaloons to MAGA by storming the White House with their pop-guns and rescue the King from the evil General Jafar Kelly.

    I blame Hillary.




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  8. James Joyner says:

    @michael reynolds: I mean, none of this would be happening if she’d paid more attention to Wisconsin.




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  9. KM says:

    CSK:

    Some of the White House staff who’ve anonymously (what else) commented on her departure appear to be terrified that in her absence, dealing with Trump will require him to be straitjacketed.

    Frankly, he treated her more like a wife / significant other in public then he ever did Melania and that’s incredibly telling on where she fits into his emotional landscape. Her leaving is a BAD sign for anyone that’s ever dealt with people with NPD, BPD or any other similar personality disorder. They generally don’t have adequate coping skills and rely on others to be the brakes. When an anchor disappears from their lives is generally when individuals like this spiral rapidly and exponentially. Without someone who can interrupt the process, we’re about to see just how ugly this WH can get.

    To give you an example, one of my patients had an amicable breakup with an ex and was doing great, only to spiral down into suicidal depression days later when her expected promotion didn’t come through. Without the BF to interrupt the process organically like normal, she went from smiling at 11am to being pulled out of the river a little after noon. Thank god she survived but it rather left an impression on her family that she *needed* a minder and her “histrionics” weren’t just for show like they had been dismissing.

    I’m fairly sure Hope’s not his only anchor. She was, however, the one conveniently on hand at all times. If the other staff is concerned about how to quickly calm him, we should probably be too.




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  10. rachel says:

    @KM: So we can expect him to decompensate even more rapidly? Great. I hope they’re keeping the football away from him.




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  11. CSK says:

    @michael reynolds:
    Hicks took the kind of abuse from Trump that you wouldn’t expect any mentally stable, self-respecting woman to take. After she broke up with Lewandowski, she and he were in Trump’s office with him. Trump said to Lewandowski, indicating Hicks, that “she’s the best piece of tail you’ll ever have.” Hicks burst into tears and fled the room. I’m thinking she should have spit in his face and quit.

    @KM:

    She was the buffer between him and reality, I suppose. But how did she do that?




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  12. Slugger says:

    How did she get an important job in the White House in the first place? She was educated at SMU, went to work at Ivanka’s fashion company (highly qualified
    for this work), and suddenly she is a close advisor to our President. This seems like a whirlwind career to me. Next, she finds herself talking to serious guys in suits who have the power to charge her with perjury and obstruction of justice. It might be smart to go back to Greenwich and get a nice job handling PR for a high-end department store.




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  13. Kathy says:

    @michael reynolds: I do blame Hillary. And Jeb, Marco, Ted, John, Carly, and all the others who were in a position to stop the orange menace and failed to do so.




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  14. Hal_10000 says:

    Best comment I saw was a caption for that photo at the top: the new season of Pretty Little Liars if off to a great start.




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  15. al-Ameda says:

    “I’m just floored,” one Trump ally said. “I don’t think it’s possible to overstate the significance and just the importance of her role within the White House. She’s an invaluable team member and one of the originals.”

    Still … Why would anyone go to work at the Trump White House?
    Trump diminishes every person who works for him.




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  16. PJ says:

    @al-Ameda:

    Still … Why would anyone go to work at the Trump White House?
    Trump diminishes every person who works for him.

    She’s into it.
    Or she was hoping that she’d become the next Mrs Trump.




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  17. CSK says:

    @Slugger:

    It’s never really made sense. First she was a model. Then she did PR for Ivanka’s fashion line. Then she moved to the Trump organization to do PR for it. Then, in 2016, she joins the Trump campaign. And suddenly she’s his righthand woman who knows him better than anyone else on earth. Better, presumably, than his three wives, kids, and siblings, all of whom have been thisclose to him a heck of a lot longer.




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  18. Daryl's other brother Darryl says:

    @CSK:

    After she broke up with Lewandowski

    Wait…so she was bonking Lewandowski, Porter, and Trump?
    Do you think it was at the same time?




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  19. CSK says:

    @Daryl’s other brother Darryl:

    Apparently she was having an affair with Corey; they had an acrimonious and very public break-up on a Manhattan sidewalk in the summer of 2016. I have no idea when she hooked up with Porter.

    Lewandowski was and still is married with four kids, so clearly she doesn’t have an issue with bonking married men.

    I don’t know about Trump. He’s said to think of her as a daughter, but since he’s made it obvious that he lusts after his biological oldest daughter, that symbolic relationship with Hicks could be an added attraction for him.

    The only conclusion to be drawn is that she likes abusive men.




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  20. dmichael says:

    Let’s see: Hicks was a model who befriends Trump and stays with him (“by his side”) for around three years, then has a “romantic relationship” with Corey Lewandowski who was videotaped shoving a reporter, then has a “romantic relationship” with Rob Porter who was a wife beater. Anyone see a pattern? (I see that “EddieInCA” does). Trump has now turned on Hicks for admitting to “white lies” she made on his behalf, some of them which could constitute obstruction of justice.
    Finally, why the “fluff job” from Maggie Haberman who has taken over as head of the Access Journalism Department at the NY Times from Judith Miller and Michael Gordon? Perhaps because Hicks was one of her sources? Hmmm.




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  21. KM says:

    @CSK:

    She was the buffer between him and reality, I suppose. But how did she do that?

    The professional answer: Operant conditioning. I’d wager a ton of positive reinforcement, likely in the form of flattery, TV and favorable articles. We know for a fact he gets “executive time” and flattering articles delivered daily – that feels like a management strategy for someone who needs the carrot and not the stick. Create positive association with certain words/ objects/ actions during good times and when spirals occur, break them out for maximum effect. Reinforcement from a hot 29yr also has the added bonus of keeping a leech like Trump far more invested then if it was delivered by a 50yr male.

    The cynical answer: She’s got excellent gold digger skills. They get a bad rap but really, they know their trade and the toolset needed. She knows how to manage an older male’s attention via her looks, her charm and/or sheer manipulation of the environment and events to keep him happy. She instinctively understands operant conditioning on a pig like Trump and can play him effortlessly. She knows what he needs to hear, when he needs to hear it to short-circuit a tantrum. A touch of flattery, a bit of manipulated wordplay to lead him to the conclusion she wants. Another who tries the exact same tactics would not nearly be so successful and so people are afraid they can’t contain him.




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  22. KM says:

    @CSK

    The only conclusion to be drawn is that she likes abusive men.

    She likes men with power who happen to be abusive – for her, one might naturally lead to the other. The second they are out of favor she dumps their asses though so she’s not a Anastasia Steel wannabe.




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  23. CSK says:

    @KM:

    Your professional and your cynical answers make perfect sense.




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  24. MarkedMan says:

    This is totally just based on impressions of his general creepiness, but my take is that Hope Hicks and Ivanka served the role of beautiful young woman who dotes on him and joshes him out of self destructive behavior. Only this type of person could pull it off as he needs someone he is in no way threatened by (leaving a very small pool) but that gives him a tingle when they “approve” of him. I also get the impression that Melania is absolutely done with that kind of nonsense. And no offense to Kelly Ann Conway, but she’s simply no longer young enough to serve this role.




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  25. wr says:

    @michael reynolds: As Emily Dickinson famously said “Hope is the thing with feathers but without an immunity deal… yet.”




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  26. CSK says:

    @MarkedMan:

    Trump has said that his official cut-off age for women is 35, though he may make an exception for Ivanka.

    Melania and Kellyanne are, respectively, 51 and 48.




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  27. MarkedMan says:

    @Kathy: I blame the voters.




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  28. michael reynolds says:

    @MarkedMan:
    Exactly. Republican voters could have picked Jeb or Rubio. And the third party voters are almost as bad.

    It was really very simple. Voters had a choice: a phony but qualified and competent woman no one liked, or the worst, dumbest, crookedest, most incompetent buffoon on planet earth. And could not figure out which one could be trusted with nuclear weapons. Any HR department at any corporation anywhere would have gotten it right, but 46% of American voters are cretins.




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  29. dmichael says:

    Andy Borowitz whose satire is essential for getting through the Trump era: “I believe in the Mendacity of Hope.”




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  30. Jen says:

    Both her father and grandfather are very well-known PR professionals, of the hard-charging type model. I have no doubt she gleaned some knowledge and understanding of the work from them. Part of PR work is understanding your client, which she clearly did.

    This White House is very clearly unraveling.




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  31. Hal_10000 says:

    You know … I hate to go there … but I think that Vox may have a point that there’s a bit of sexism going with the commentary on Hicks. Yes, she was a model … as a teenager. Yes, she worked for Ivanka … and was apparently good at it. But, in general, there has been reasonable praise for her skills and acumen in politics. It can’t be easy doing press relations for Trump and she managed to survive that madhouse for three years.

    I’m not entirely convinced of Vox’s point but I do know that if a woman who’d managed Clinton’s press relations for three years was continually described as “former model” and every comment was about who she’d slept with, we’d have no problem calling it sexism.

    I’d prefer not to focus on her modeling or her relationships. There’s enough garbage with this White House and her willingness to lie for the Idiot in Chief to go around.




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