Hope Hicks just testified before the House Intelligence Committee -- here's why she's such an important witness in the Russia investigation

  • White House communications director Hope Hicks testified before the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, and like former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, refused to answer questions about her time on President Donald Trump’s transition team and in the White House.
  • Hicks is a hugely important witness due to her closeness to the president and her proximity to several important events that are of interest in the Russia investigation.
  • Hicks was interviewed by special counsel Robert Mueller in December.

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White House communications director Hope Hicks testified before the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday as part of the congressional Russia investigation – and although she reportedly refused to answer a number of questions the panel asked her, Hicks’s closeness to a number of crucial events under scrutiny by investigators makes her one of the most important witnesses the panel has interviewed so far.

Hicks, a former model, actress, and public relations consultant, was one of the first people President Donald Trump chose to join his campaign in 2015. She has since been at his side throughout the transition and during his presidency – often acting as one of Trump’s closest advisers and allies.

It is no surprise, then, that both the House Intelligence Committee and special counsel Robert Mueller’s team had expressed interest in getting her to testify in each panel’s investigation into Russian election interference. Mueller interviewed her in December, according to ABC News.

But when she appeared before the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, she reportedly refused to give them answers to a number of questions about her role on Trump’s transition team and in the White House, mimicking former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon’s refusal to give up information.

Democratic committee member Rep. Denny Heck summed up her testimony.

“We got Bannoned!” Heck said after the hearing, according to Bloomberg.

Like Bannon, though, Hicks did answer a host of questions about her time on the Trump campaign.

Hicks was around for some of the Trump campaign’s communications with Russia

While it is unclear what exactly investigators asked Hicks, their questions were likely related to a couple of standout events she took part in during the campaign and during Trump’s presidency.

Last year it was revealed that Trump’s son Donald Trump, Jr., his son-in-law Jared Kushner, and his former campaign manager Paul Manafort met with a Russian lawyer in Trump Tower in June 2016 to discuss “dirt” the lawyer had offered Trump, Jr. via email. According to the New York Times, Trump, Hicks, and the spokesman for the president’s legal team, Mark Corallo, all took part in a conference call last year in which Hicks said the emails from the Russians to Trump, Jr. “will never get out.”

In the end they did – Trump, Jr. personally released them after the Trump administration put out a misleading statement claiming the meeting was about Russian adoptions.

Hope hicks steve bannonChip Somodevilla/Getty ImagesHicks with Steve Bannon (R).

Corallo quit shortly after this news broke, but has since sat down with Mueller, according to The Times. He reportedly planned to tell him and his team that the conference call had made him worried that Hicks would trying to obstruct justice in the Russia investigation.

Hicks was also in Trump’s company while he and policy adviser Stephen Miller wrote a letter explaining the administration’s reasoning for firing former FBI director James Comey, which was later withheld from the public in favour of a different letter penned by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. Hicks later attended an Oval Office meeting the day before Comey was fired in May during which Trump discussed Miller’s letter. The letter has since been obtained by Mueller’s office.

In early 2017, the FBI warned Hicks that Russian operatives had tried to reach out to her personally during the transition period, and advised her to be careful about any communication she might receive from Russia.

Amid this litany of deep involvement in sensitive matters, Hicks has retained a lawyer of her own to defend herself in the Russia investigation.

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