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.
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.