Democrats release transcript of interview with White House adviser Hope Hicks
President's lawyers blocked Hicks from answering questions more than 150 times
U.S. President Donald Trump's lawyers blocked former top White House adviser Hope Hicks from answering questions more than 150 times in an interview with the House judiciary committee this week, according to Democrats who released a 273-page transcript of the closed-door hearing on Thursday.
The transcript shows administration lawyers went as far as blocking a question about where Hicks's desk was located in the White House — but eventually allowed her to answer a question about the weather on her first day of working for Trump.
"It was a cloudy day," Hicks told the committee, adding the question wouldn't help her reputation. "I think people are going to laugh at this."
The committee subpoenaed Hicks in May as part of its investigation into special counsel Robert Mueller's report on Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election and potential obstruction of justice. But the panel's hopes of gathering new information about the president were dashed when Hicks repeatedly refused to share details about her time working for Trump after he was elected, with the lawyers present declaring "Objection."
"As a former senior adviser to the president, I'm following the instructions from the White House," Hicks replied.
Committee chairman Jerry Nadler, a Democrat, said the group plans to take the administration to court over its assertion that Hicks is "absolutely immune" from discussing her time working at the White House because of separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches.
Hicks did discuss a June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer, one of the key events Mueller examined in the part of his report dealing with Russian election interference. Emails leading up to the meeting had promised dirt on Democrat Hillary Clinton. Hicks said she learned of the meeting in June 2017, weeks before it became public in the news media.
Hicks also said she discussed with Trump his comment on the campaign trail that openly encouraged Russia to find Clinton's missing emails. She counselled him on the plane on their way to the next stop "that some in the media had taken the expression quite literally" and considered it inappropriate.
"You know, it was my understanding from both the way he made the remark, and the discussions afterwards, that this was a little bit tongue-in-cheek," Hicks said in the interview.
"This was not a comment that was intended as an instructive or a directive to a foreign government. It was a joke. And that was the intent, based on my conversation with him, and that was it."
Wouldn't accept dirt on opponent
Appearing to break with the president, Hicks at one point said she would not accept dirt on a political opponent from a foreign government and would not advise someone on a campaign to do so.
Trump last week said "of course" he'd listen to foreign dirt on an opponent. Later, after coming under heavy criticism, Trump said he would report the offer to the FBI.
During the interview, Hicks said she had no discussions during the campaign about Trump confidant Roger Stone, who was charged earlier this year with lying to Congress about his efforts to alert the Trump campaign to WikiLeaks's plans to release damaging information on Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign.
Hicks said she also had no discussions about possible connections with Julian Assange, the founder of WikiLeaks. She said that although she was with the president every day during the campaign, "the information I knew about WikiLeaks was what was publicly available."
In addition to looking at Russia, Mueller's report examined several situations in which Trump attempted to influence or curtail Mueller's investigation. Democrats asked Hicks about several of those episodes, including efforts to remove Mueller from the investigation, pressure on former attorney general Jeff Sessions and the firing of FBI director James Comey.
They also asked Hicks about her knowledge of hush-money payments orchestrated by former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen to two women who claimed to have had affairs with Trump — the porn actress Stormy Daniels and model Karen McDougal. Trump has denied the allegations. Cohen is now serving three years in prison partly for campaign violations related to the payments.
Asked whether she had ever met Daniels or McDougal, Hicks replied, "No, sir. I was in high school in 2005."
With files from CBC News