White House Communications Director Hope Hicks is scheduled to speak with investigators in Congress on Tuesday about Russia's meddling in the 2016 presidential election. But why is Hicks testifying in the Russia investigation? As a trusted aide of President Trump's, Hicks's testimony could potentially have a big impact on the investigation — that's if she chooses to speak at all.
Rep. Mike Conaway of Texas, who is running the House Intelligence Committee's Russia investigation, said Monday that he "would not be surprised" if Hicks, like other close advisers to Trump, chose not to answer certain questions when they meet behind closed doors. Aides can say that they think the president will want to invoke executive privilege in the future over their answers to investigators' questions. It's especially likely that Hicks will remain silent, as she very rarely speaks in public. It's been reported that Trump and Hicks became so close because she prefers to stay out of the spotlight and is fiercely loyal.
If she does talk, Hicks's testimony could change the course of the investigation, since she's so close to Trump family. The New York Times reported that Hicks is involved with the Russia investigation because a comment she made left a former spokesperson for Trump's legal team concerned about obstruction of justice.
The former spokesman, Mark Corallo, has agreed to an interview with Robert Mueller, who's heading up the FBI investigation into Russia's meddling in the election. Corallo reportedly plans to tell Mueller about a previously undisclosed conference call with Trump and Hicks. According to the Times, Corallo recalled that Hicks said incriminating emails written by Donald Trump Jr. about a Trump Tower meeting — in which he said he would "love" to get political dirt on Hillary Clinton from the Russians — “will never get out.”
This apparently left Corallo to believe that Hicks may attempt to obstruct justice in order to protect the Trumps, who she's worked with for years. Ivanka Trump hired Hicks at the Trump Organization in 2014, after they met while Hicks was working for a public relations firm affiliated with Ivanka's own brand. The next year, Trump brought her onto his presidential campaign, making her the longest serving campaign staffer from the president's initial "inner circle," according to Business Insider.
Hicks' lawyer, Robert P. Trout, released a statement denying Corallo's allegations. "As most reporters know, it’s not my practice to comment in response to questions from the media. But this warrants a response,” Trout said. “She never said that. And the idea that Hope Hicks ever suggested that emails or other documents would be concealed or destroyed is completely false.”
Hicks also was involved in the drafting of a statement to the New York Times about the Trump Tower meeting, during which Trump Jr., Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and then-campaign manager Paul Manafort met with a Russian lawyer. The statement she helped write has led to speculation about whether the campaign deliberately tried to obstruct justice.
Hicks and Trump reportedly worked on the response to that Times story while aboard Air Force One on their way back from the G-20 summit in Germany. Sources told the newspaper Hicks was frequently texting Trump Jr., whose emails she claimed would "never get out" because only a few people had access to them, on that flight.
Corallo, who previously worked as a Justice Department spokesman during the George W. Bush administration, told colleagues at the time that was concerned with what Hicks said, according to the report. He also expressed concern about the fact that she said it in front of the president without a lawyer either present or on the phone, meaning that their conversation couldn't be protected by attorney-client privilege.
Hicks may hold key details to Mueller's investigation, but it's still unclear if she'll choose to answer the House Intelligence Committee's questions. And she wouldn't be the first of Trump's aides to refuse to do so. When he sat in front of the Senate Intelligence Committee last year, Attorney General Jeff Sessions declined to answer several questions, citing Trump's executive privilege. Conaway apparently believes Hicks is likely to do the same.