How much will she answer? That’s what Russia-probe watchers are wondering as longtime Trump ally Hope Hicks meets with the House Intelligence Committee behind closed doors Tuesday as part of the committee’s ongoing investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. election.
The White House communications director is a crucial witness for the investigation because of her close ties to President Trump and the Trump family throughout the campaign, transition and presidency, and her involvement in drafting a misleading statement about the infamous June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between a Russian lawyer and top Trump campaign aides.
Committee members will surely ask her about the meeting and her role in its aftermath, but whether she will answer is still up in the air.
Texas Republican Rep. Mike Conaway has been leading the committee’s investigation since California Republican and head of the committee Rep. Devin Nunes recused himself in April 2017 after an ethics complaint was filed about his close proximity to the president. Conaway told the Washington Post Monday that he “would not be surprised” if Hicks followed the lead of other close Trump aides, such as Attorney General Jeff Sessions and former advisor Steve Bannon, who have refused to answer certain questions citing Trump’s right to claim executive privilege at a later date.
Hicks, together with Trump, drafted a statement in response to a New York Times story about the nature of the Trump Tower meeting, claiming the Russian lawyer met with Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and former campaign chairman Paul Manafort about international adoption. In fact, the meeting was organized to discuss possible dirt on Hillary Clinton the Trump campaign could use.
The House Intelligence Committee continues to suffer partisan turmoil as Republicans and Democrats fight for control over the investigation’s public narrative. Republicans wrote and released a memo earlier this year smearing the Department of Justice and FBI, saying investigators hold deep anti-Trump bias. Democrats wrote and released their own memo defending the agencies.
Hicks was originally supposed to testify in front of the committee in January, but the meeting was postponed amid negotiations with the White House about what kind of questions she would answer. At the same time Hicks was reportedly dating former White House staff secretary Rob Porter, who resigned in early February after two ex-wives publicly accused him of domestic violence.
Tuesday’s meeting is not Hicks' first formal interview about Russian meddling. Special Counsel Robert Mueller interviewed Hicks in December as part of the Department of Justice investigation. The June 2016 Trump Tower meeting has been a major focus for Mueller in his questioning of Trump aides, according to the New York Times.