Hope Hicks’ Very Well Lawyered Efforts to Protect Trump

Last week, Hope Hicks sat for a mostly tactical interview with the House Judiciary Committee. Democrats used her testimony to establish a record of just how ridiculous the White House claims to absolutely immunity are by getting her on the record refusing to answer both utterly pertinent questions and innocuous ones, like where her desk in the White House was.

While she dutifully refused — on the orders of White House Counsel — to answer questions about her time in the White House, she actually slipped in two answers: revealing that after Trump had his own people in charge of the Intelligence Community, he “he had greater confidence in their assessments” that Russia hacked the DNC and that she learned of the Letter of Intent to build a Trump Tower Moscow in fall 2017. Those are questions White House lawyers would have otherwise prohibited; I’m not sure how it’ll change the use of this hearing as evidence in the lawsuit to get her to actually testify.

Her answers with regards to the period prior to inauguration reveal what she would (and will) be like if she ever actually testifies. In those exchanges, Hicks comes off like a very well lawyered witness who was willing to shade as aggressively as possible to protect Trump.  That was most obvious in her answers about WikiLeaks, first in response to questions from Sheila Jackson Lee. In that exchange, the press secretary of a presidential campaign claimed not to have a strategy surrounding messaging the campaign engaged in on a daily basis.

Ms. Jackson Lee. I’m going to have one or two questions and — I’ve done it again — one or two questions in a number of different areas. Let me first start with the report. According to the report, by late summer of 2016 the Trump campaign was planning a press strategy, a communications campaign and messaging, based on the possible release of Clinton emails by WikiLeaks. Who was involved in that strategy?

Ms. Hicks. I don’t recall.

Ms. Jackson Lee. I thought you were intimately involved in the campaign.

Ms. Hicks. I was. It’s not something I was aware of.

Ms. Jackson Lee. What about the communications campaign, who was involved there? Do you not recall or do you not know?

Ms. Hicks. To my recollection, it’s not something I was aware of.

[snip]

Ms. Jackson Lee. Who specifically was engaged with the Russian strategy, messaging strategy, post the convention, late summer 2016?

Ms. Hicks. I’m sorry. I don’t understand the question. I’m not aware of a Russian messaging strategy.

Side note: She would later admit that there was a group of people during the Transition responding to allegations of Russian interference and a somewhat different group of people responding to allegations they tried to make contact with Russia. But that covered the Transition and, with the exception of Jason Miller (who deleted his Twitter account the other day after attacking Jerry Nadler), didn’t include communications people.

Back to her exchange with Jackson Lee, who persisted in finding out how the campaign responded to WikiLeaks’ releases. That’s when Hicks described the campaign’s daily focus on optimizing WikiLeaks releases as using publicly available information, even while insisting it was not part of a strategy.

Ms. Jackson Lee. So specifically it goes to the release of the various WikiLeaks information. Who was engaged in that?

Ms. Hicks. So, I mean, I assume you’re talking about late July?

Ms. Jackson Lee. Late July, late summer, July, August 2016.

Ms. Hicks. So there were several people involved. It was — I think a “strategy” is a wildly generous term to describe the use of that information, but —

Ms. Jackson Lee. But you were engaged in the campaign. What names, what specific persons were involved in that strategy of the impact of Russia and the issuance of the WikiLeaks effort late summer?

Ms. Hicks. Again, you —

Ms. Jackson Lee. Were you involved? Were you part of the strategy? You have a communications emphasis.

Ms. Hicks. I’m sorry. I’m just not understanding the question. You’re talking about a Russian strategy. The campaign didn’t have a Russian strategy. There was an effort made by the campaign to use information that was publicly available, but I’m not aware of a Russian strategy, communications or otherwise.

Ms. Jackson Lee. Well, what names were engaged in the strategy that you remember, messaging based on the possible release of Clinton emails by WikiLeaks, which is what I said?

Ms. Hicks. Sorry. I’d like to confer with my counsel. Thanks.

Ms. Jackson Lee. Thank you.

[snip]

Ms. Jackson Lee. Yes. I’m going to read from my earlier comment. According to the report, by late summer of 2016 the Trump campaign was planning a press strategy, a communications campaign, and messaging based on the possible release of Clinton emails by WikiLeaks, volume 1, 54. Were you involved in deciding how the campaign would respond to press questions about WikiLeaks?

Ms. Hicks. I assume that I was. I have no recollection of the specifics that you’re raising here.

Ms. Jackson Lee. With that in mind, would you agree that the campaign benefited from the hacked information on Hillary Clinton?

Ms. Hicks. This was publicly available information.

Ms. Jackson Lee. Were you — would you agree that the campaign benefited from the hacked information on Hillary Clinton?

Ms. Hicks. I don’t know what the direct impact was of the utilization of that information.

Ms. Jackson Lee. Well, let me follow up with, did this information help you attack the opponent of Mr. Trump?

Ms. Hicks. I take issue with the phrase “attack.” I think it allowed the campaign to discuss things that would not otherwise be known but that were true.

Hicks never did answer Jackson Lee’s question about how the campaign optimized the releases, but Norm Eisen (who was hired for precisely this purpose) came back to it. Ultimately Hicks described integrating WikiLeaks releases into Trump speeches.

Q Okay. Ms. Hicks, you were asked by Ms. Jackson Lee about a statement in the Mueller report that by late summer of 2016 the Trump campaign was planning a press strategy, a communications campaign, and messaging based on the possible release of Clinton emails by WikiLeaks, and you answered to the effect that it was wildly inaccurate to call it a strategy. Do you remember that answer?

A I believe I said that I wasn’t aware of any kind of coordinated strategy like the one described in the report and quoted by Ms. Jackson Lee. Regardless, the efforts that were under way, to take publicly available information and use that to show a differentiation between Mr. Trump as a candidate and Mrs. Clinton as a candidate, I would say that it would be wildly generous to describe that as a coordinated strategy.

Q How would you describe it? A I would describe it just as I did, which is taking publicly available information to draw a contrast between the candidates.

Q What do you remember about any specific occasions when that was discussed?

[snip]

Q Tell me what you remember, everything you remember about that.

A The things I remember would be just the days that — that news was made, right? That there was a new headline based on new information that was available, and how to either incorporate that into a speech or make sure that our surrogates were aware of that information and to utilize it as talking points in any media availabilities, interviews, and what other opportunities there might be to, again, emphasize the contrast between candidates.

Q Did you ever discuss that with Mr. Trump during the campaign?

A Again, I don’t recall a — I don’t recall discussions about a coordinated strategy. But more specifically, to your last point about when there were moments that allowed for us to capitalize on new information being distributed, certainly I’m sure I had discussions with him.

She would go on to admit that the communications team discussed the WikiLeaks releases on a daily basis. But she maintained that — in spite of the evidence that Trump, with whom she spent extensive amounts of time, knew of the emails ahead of time — she did not

EISEN When is the first that you remember learning that WikiLeaks might have documents relevant to the Clinton campaign? A Whenever it became publicly available. I think my first recollection is just prior to the DNC Convention. Q And what was your reaction when you learned that?

A I don’t recall. I think before I described a general feeling surrounding this topic of not happiness, but a little bit of relief maybe that other campaigns had obstacles to face as well.

Q And I know we’ve touched on this but I just want to make sure we get it into the record. What’s your first recollection of discussing this issue with Mr. Trump?

Eisen did get her to admit that Eric Trump sent her the oppo research file on his father, though she claimed to be uncertain about when that happened. Once again, when asked a substantive question about something embarrassing to Trump, she conferred with her lawyer, Robert Trout, before answering.

Q And did Eric Trump ever discuss anything relating to WikiLeaks or other releases of hacked information with you? A May I confer with my counsel, please.

[Discussion off the record.]

Ms. Hicks. Can you repeat the question, please?

Mr. Eisen. Can I have the court reporter read back the question, please?

Reporter. Did Eric Trump ever discuss anything relating to WikiLeaks or other releases of hacked information with you?

Ms. Hicks. I believe I received an email from Eric or some written communication regarding an opposition research file that was, I guess, leaked on the internet. I believe it was publicly available when he sent it to me. It was about Donald Trump.

BY MR. EISEN: Q And do you know if it was publicly available when he sent it to you?

A I don’t recall. That’s my recollection.

Q What’s the basis for your belief that it was publicly available?

A I believe there was a link that was included, and I was able to click on that and access the information.

Q How did he transmit that to you?

A I don’t remember if it was an email or a text message.

Q Was there also a document attached to that transmission?

A I don’t remember.

Q Do you remember the date?

A Spring of 2016.

Q Spring of 2016.

Note, the oppo file was first released publicly on June 15, 2016. That’s still spring, but barely.

In any case, while most of the coverage has focused on the White House efforts to prevent Hicks from answering questions, her responses on WikiLeaks make it clear she herself was unwilling to answer basic questions as well.

Which is why this exchange about the Joint Defense Agreement as part of which her attorney got paid half a million dollars by the RNC is telling.

Ms. Scanlon. Okay. Do you now or have you had any joint defense agreements with anyone in connection with your activities either during the campaign or since then?

Mr. Trout. Objection.

Ms. Hicks. Be privileged with my counsel.

Mr. Trout. I’m not going to answer that.

Ms. Scanlon. I believe you’re not going to answer, but is she going to answer it?

Mr. Trout. No.

Ms. Scanlon. Okay. On what basis?

Mr. Trout. On privilege.

Ms. Scanlon. What kind of privilege.

Mr. Trout. Joint defense privilege.

Ms. Scanlon. The fact of having a joint defense agreement is not —

Mr. Trout. I will — it will be privileged

Hicks is absolutely entitled to keep details of her legal representation secret. But this — like some of the questions she refused to answer about her time in the White House — is public information. As such, her non-responsiveness about the degree to which she has compared answers with Trump is as obvious an obstruction tactic as the White House absolute immunity effort.

As I disclosed last July, I provided information to the FBI on issues related to the Mueller investigation, so I’m going to include disclosure statements on Mueller investigation posts from here on out. I will include the disclosure whether or not the stuff I shared with the FBI pertains to the subject of the post. 

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32 replies
  1. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Having covered BushCheney and the Scooter Libby trial extensively, you would know better than anyone how an administration can put out sensitive information, and then comment extensively on it as part of a communications strategery, because it’s already “out there.” Parallel construction 2.0.

  2. Rugger9 says:

    Hope Hicks is not going to be able to dodge this for too much longer, and I wish that Nadler was correct in his message that she was a test case to assess how cooperative the Palace and Kaiser Quisling would be. Force these clowns into court to defend “absolute immunity” and their abuse of executive privilege which doesn’t include commission of conspiracy. While Barty and Neil and Sam and Clarence would only be too happy to sign off on it, I’m not so sure Roberts would want the blatant destruction of the Constitution on his legacy. He prefers to nibble.

    Let’s also remember that the Palace minions have been repeatedly busted using communication methods intended to bypass the PRA (or in some cases just blew off keeping the documents) so would any privilege attach to records hidden in violation of the Presidential Records Act?

  3. bmaz says:

    “Tactical interview”? That is being far too kind. It was a display of pathetic cowardice by Nadler, HJC and, obviously, Pelosi who is driving the cowardice. The thought that this was some kind of controlling and important test case to win other arguments and cases is laughable, at best.

    If HJC, in their relentlessly feckless action, tries to argue this as significant in other cases, the initial defense could be written in a Twitter comment: “Hope Hicks’ case stands on its own, it has different facts and actors than this one, and therefore her case is irrelevant to the one at bar. Furthermore, being so differentiated, it is inadmissible for being more prejudicial than probative under Rule 403”. There would be far more defenses if the matter is only under “legislative purpose” purview instead of an impeachment inquiry Constitutional basis.

    Seriously, if people cannot grok why having all these disparate items under the umbrella of a Constitutionally based impeachment inquiry, I just can’t help you. The current path is insane and feckless.

    • MattyG says:

      Amen. Well past time to get this show on the road. What we have now isn’t even early round sparring

    • P J Evans says:

      Unscientific poll this morning at Kos (numbers as of 9:45 PDT):
      Is the House moving too slowly toward an impeachment inquiry of Trump? (3411 votes)
      Yes: 58% (1987)
      Lean yes: 24% (817)
      Not sure/No opinion: 5% (186)
      Lean no: 8% (280)
      No: 4% (141)

    • earlofhuntingdon says:

      The defense that Pelosi is “staging” an impeachment inquiry for the Fall or later (“No one introduces a new product in August.”) to achieve “maximum political effect” seems wishful thinking. She shows no sign that that’s true.

      There’s no “if, then,” about her approach. Repeated statements about the need for facts to “be there,” are belied by her doing nothing in the face of Trump zealously closeting the facts. No programmatic engagement or education of the electorate, nothing. She offers a calm business-as-usual demeanor.

      Another argument is that the Blue Dogs are not with her. That’s a way of saying – despite having a nominal majority in the House – she hasn’t the votes. Like Biden, though, the BDs are Republicans in sheep’s clothing. The argument avoids discussing what she might offer the Blue Dogs to be with her, the flip side of threatening consequences for being too far ahead of her on an impeachment inquiry.

      I’m more convinced that she doesn’t want a formal inquiry of leadership – public or private – because it is anathema to her and her patrons. She might be moved to start one, but it will take more than a groundswell to move her. And no behavior by Trump seems to fit that description.

      • earlofhuntingdon says:

        I don’t think this response by Ms. Pelosi to Trump about his imprisoning children at the border says as much as the MSM thinks it does: “You’re scaring the children,” with your border imprisonment policies.

        [https://www.rawstory.com/2019/06/youre-scaring-the-children-nancy-pelosi-says-she-got-in-trumps-face-with-terms-he-can-understand/]

        The claim is that those are words “Trump understands.” Not. This is a guy who punched out a son at college for not dressing in a suit and tie when daddy came for a rare visit. He engaged in serial adultery – and illegally paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to hush it up – when his latest wife was recovering from her pregnancy with their only child, Barron.

        Trump doesn’t give a shit that he’s scaring the children. Be they American or would be immigrants. Abusing them is the point. It is collective punishment he is using for what he calls “negotiating” with Congress to get it to fund his border fence is the point.

        If that’s all the Democrats have, they’ve already lost 2020.

        • P J Evans says:

          I recall reading that he got mad at one of his sons for not wearing a suit and tie to a baseball game. I thought that kind of dress at games went out back in the early 60s. Certainly no one I’ve seen at the few games I’ve been to was wearing a suit and tie (1968 and a few in the 80s).

          • earlofhuntingdon says:

            That’s the example I had in mind. Trump picked his son up at his dorm. When he answered the door in the casual clothing a student would wear to a sports event, Trump punched him in the face, went in, closed the door. He threatened to do something worse if he ever again “embarrassed” daddy by not dressing properly when he came to call.

            A well-known story, it does not suggest that “scaring the children” is a concept Trump understands as something a parent should not do.

            • P J Evans says:

              All the stories indicate he’s been violent when angry – and he gets angry easily – since early childhood. I suspect his father’s parenting style – and possibly his mother’s – contributed.

        • hester says:

          wtf are the democrats so scared of? Trump’s voters aren’t going to vote for democrats, so why not come out swinging? I dunno. I’m losing hope.

          • P J Evans says:

            I don’t know, but I just emailed the Speaker again, urging that she get the investigative hearings going before it gets any later.

        • Mooser says:

          Pelosi is giving Trump ‘image’ advice? (“You’re scaring the children”)
          Very nice of you, Nancy.

          • Tom says:

            It’s more than just scaring; it’s physical, emotional, and mental abuse. These kids will have attachment problems for the rest of their lives and never fully trust anyone again. They represent a cohort of children who will likely be the subject of longitudinal studies for decades to come by sociologists, child psychologists, and others in related disciplines. I’m not familiar with how child protection services operate in the States, but I can’t imagine why there seems to have been no intervention apart from what the kids’ lawyers have reported. Is there not a duty to report child abuse and neglect, and is the onus to do so not higher for the professions?

            • earlofhuntingdon says:

              Agreed. “Scary” is how you describe something short-lived, with a quick return to normalcy. It suggests a temporary high that soon fades. It might be entertaining or cruel, but it’s not permanent.

              Trump is scaring the shit out of these kids, their parents, and society at large. He is also inflicting lasting emotional and physical damage on these kids and their parents. Some of them will die. I think public figures owe them a more accurate debate, especially as their lives are being held hostage to a made-up crisis.

            • Frank Probst says:

              Child Protective Services (CPS) is a state-level organization, so each state has its own agency (which is usually called CPS, but there have been other names in other states in the past). Just looking at the Texas Department of Family and Protective Service’s website, it looks like the law has done away with the idea of “mandatory reporters”, and the website says: “Texas law says anyone who thinks a child, or person 65 years or older, or an adult with disabilities is being abused, neglected, or exploited must report it to DFPS.” That being said, I would discourage people from calling the hotline to report this, because they’re probably already being deluged with calls, so you’re ultimately having a negative effect by calling them, because their resources are limited, and you should really keep the line open for other cases of abuse in the state. You can also report abuse online, but I would discourage this, too, because it looks like they’ve suspended anonymous and guest-reporting due to high volume. You can still register with a user name and password to report abuse online, but again, someone is eventually going to have to sort through all of the online reports, so this is going to put a strain on their resources. Law enforcement is already aware of the situation, and it looks like they’re taking steps to move kids out of the facility. Please don’t put any more strain on the system by reporting a complaint.

              • earlofhuntingdon says:

                Moving victims around is not the same as resolving a problem. The Trump administration has no track record that it would be so here.

                • Eureka says:

                  And in any other circumstances, these children– as individuals and regardless of citizenship status– would be followed by a CPS/DFS, and any transfer to another (here, proximate) guardian or location would be closely watched (obviously there can be instances where these moves are beneficial, but the situation here reminds more of ‘passing off’ of custody).

                  But these places are gray zones of laws and rules, it seems (the kids shouldn’t have been there past 72h anyway– what are a few other laws/rules/dignities), which is what everybody is worried about…

        • earlofhuntingdon says:

          Another problem these imprisoned kids are reporting is lice. Lice are endemic in crowded filthy conditions, especially where a population is stressed and immune systems are compromised.

          Informed and conscientious adults have a hard time ridding their children of lice. That’s because thorough washing with anti-lice shampoo and combing can remove adult lice. But it often leaves behind their eggs and detritus, such as feces. Sharing combs spreads them from child to child. Asking frightened young children to do it themselves is begging for an epidemic.

          But ICE apparently chose to give at least one group of kids shampoo and two combs, which they were to share. (One comb was lost, and the children were punished for it.)

          A famous bacteria that lives in lice feces causes epidemic typhus. [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epidemic_typhus]

          • Geoff says:

            It’s just a matter of time…

            I can’t believe this is happening in America. We creep closer and closer to abyss.

          • harpie says:

            Third Geneva Convention
            file:///C:/Users/Owner/Downloads/GC-III-EN%20(1).pdf

            ART. 31. — Medical inspections of prisoners of war shall be held at least once a month.

            They shall include the checking and the recording of the weight of each prisoner of war.

            Their purpose shall be, in particular, to supervise the general state of health, nutrition and cleanliness of prisoners and to detect contagious diseases, especially tuberculosis, malaria and venereal disease.

            For this purpose the most efficient methods available shall be employed, e.g. periodic mass miniature radiography for the early detection of tuberculosis.

      • Mongoose says:

        I have said before that something is suspicious about Pelosi’s behavior since Barr’s involvement in the coverup. Ordinarily, subpoenas should be flying out from the House committees, but she has obviously squelched further action. Trump must be up to his old blackmailing tricks. Blackmail can be effective even in the absence of a basis for it.

    • Troutwaxer says:

      I wrote my congress-critter this weekend and told him he should come out for impeachment.

  4. earlofhuntingdon says:

    WTF is Ali Velshi doing interviewing Arthur Laffer for anything but comic relief?

    • Areader2019 says:

      I just saw that! What is next, bring on the flat earthers so we can ‘show both sides?’

      Good think I had it on mute.

  5. jay graham says:

    Steven A Engel refers to the constitution as the basis for the immunity from testimony.He manages to make the constitution his bedrock three times before we even get to page 2. Then he launches into a series of OLC opinions that are no replacement for the constitution as much as he would like us to believe they are.

    From Engel:

    “Because Congress may not constitutionally compel the former Counsel to testify about his official duties, he may not be civilly or criminally penalized for following a presidential directive not to appear”

    “Testimonial immunity is rooted in the constitutional separation of powers and derives from the President’s independence from Congress”

    Separation of powers as described in either Article1or Article 2 is noticeably quiet on the matter of allowing total immunity from testimony by any advisor or executive branch employee. Where is Steven Engel finding this justification for testimonial immunity in the Constitution?

    The only predicate he quotes specifically is previous OLC policy which is not the constitution. It is opinion and not law. It can just as easily be unwritten as written.

    I find the OLC opinion on indictment of a sitting president as unpalatable as all of Steven Engel’s arguments for total immunity. There comes a time when decades old opinions fail us and we need to have the courage to undo the old and rewrite them to fit the extreme outliers on the far edges of the bell curve we are stuck with today. The comfortable normalcy found in the middle of the curve no longer applies and the weaknesses in these opinions begin to show their wear, their obsolescence and their tendency to allow total and complete obstruction–not the intended effect.

    The OLC opinions cited by Engel cherrypick incidents where witnesses successfully avoided testifying.. In a long 2008 memo, Wm Rehnquist noted the strategy was variably successful and nowhere does he make a case for Constitutional law. Several times he does cite the inconvenience of appearing for testimony and/or providing documents taking the advisor away from his important work for the president and preventing the executive from operating efficiently.

    I think we can safely say Hicks and McGahn will not cause any inconvenience since they no loner work at the WH.

    Engel’s argument is weak and I think they know that

  6. CD54 says:

    This just amplifies BMAZ’s insistence for impeachment inquiry. With the complete Mueller files, including grand jury testimony, this kind of FU testimony would never happen. Perjury risk is the only way to the truth.

  7. Rapier says:

    Musings that don’t belong here but cripes.

    Hope Hicks is weird. Read her bio at Wiki. I would offer another but there doesn’t seem to be another. There is no there there.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hope_Hicks

    A blank slate. A beautiful denizen of Greenwich CT. A Ground zero for wealth in the modern age with gigantic portions of seeming class. And she throws in with the grubby garish profane Trump’s? It’s weird.

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