Politics: Hope Hicks Declines to Answer Lawmakers’ Questions on Transition, White House - PressFrom - US

PoliticsHope Hicks Declines to Answer Lawmakers’ Questions on Transition, White House

20:31  19 june  2019
20:31  19 june  2019 Source:   nytimes.com

Democrats plan to ask Hope Hicks about hush money schemes to silence affair allegations against Trump

Democrats plan to ask Hope Hicks about hush money schemes to silence affair allegations against Trump Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee plan to question President Donald Trump's long-time confidante Hope Hicks Wednesday about her knowledge of the hush-money scheme to silence Trump's extramarital affairs in the run-up to the 2016 elections, according to a committee aide. require(["medianetNativeAdOnArticle"], function (medianetNativeAdOnArticle) { medianetNativeAdOnArticle.

Hope Hicks Declines to Answer Lawmakers’ Questions on Transition, White House© Gabriella Demczuk for The New York Times Hope Hicks, the former White House communications director, testified in a closed hearing on Capitol Hill.

WASHINGTON — After weeks of simmering frustration, House Democrats took their first shot on Wednesday at questioning a key figure from Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation into whether President Trump obstructed justice. They were not entirely happy with the results.

Behind closed doors, lawmakers on the House Judiciary Committee pressed Hope Hicks, one of Mr. Trump’s closest former aides, on her recollections of episodes documented by Mr. Mueller, the special counsel, in which Mr. Trump tried to assert control over investigations of his campaign’s ties to Russian election interference. They also resurrected an older accusation against Mr. Trump: the president’s role in an illegal scheme to make hush payments to two women during his 2016 campaign.

White House says Hope Hicks 'immune' from compelled congressional testimony

White House says Hope Hicks 'immune' from compelled congressional testimony The White House is arguing that former aide Hope Hicks is “absolutely immune” from being compelled by Congress to testify about her time working in the Trump administration in an effort to limit her closed-door interview Wednesday. require(["medianetNativeAdOnArticle"], function (medianetNativeAdOnArticle) { medianetNativeAdOnArticle.getMedianetNativeAds(true); }); White House counsel Pat Cipollone sent a letter to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.

But if the hearing had the potential to kick-start Democrats’ stalled investigations into Mr. Trump, it quickly veered toward an increasingly familiar outcome. Under the direction of White House and her private lawyers, Ms. Hicks declined to answer questions about her time working in the administration and on the presidential transition, citing instructions from the president that she was “absolutely immune” from answering, lawmakers from both parties said.

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She even refused, Democrats said, to identify the location of her West Wing office. But Ms. Hicks did engage in queries about her work on the campaign, which is not subject to executive privilege or claims of immunity. The Judiciary Committee said it intended to release a full transcript of the interview within 48 hours.

Hicks told House panel Trump is serious about foreign help in elections

Hicks told House panel Trump is serious about foreign help in elections Hope Hicks told the House Judiciary Committee that the president was serious in saying there was nothing wrong in accepting derogatory information about political opponents from a foreign government, panel Chairman Jerrold Nadler said.

Democrats were displeased, if not altogether surprised. Even as the interview went on, several lawmakers emerged threatening to take Ms. Hicks to court to enforce a subpoena for her full testimony. “I’m watching obstruction of justice in action,” said Representative Ted Lieu, Democrat of California. “We’re going to go to court. We’re going to win and just make Hope Hicks come back again and actually answer the questions about her tenure in the White House.”

Others said later that it had been “productive” at least on the topic of Ms. Hicks’ campaign work.

Republicans, for their part, called the session “a complete waste of time,” given Ms. Hicks’ extensive past statements to other congressional committees and Mr. Mueller’s investigators. They accused Democrats of refusing to accept Mr. Mueller’s decisions not to charge Mr. Trump or his campaign for either conspiracy with the Russians or obstruction of justice — ignoring the special counsel’s conclusion that he could not exonerate the president of obstruction, either.

Lawmakers spar at testy Mueller hearing

Lawmakers spar at testy Mueller hearing A House Judiciary Committee hearing turned heated.

“They are just trying to continue to make some hay out of the whole Russian collusion and obstruction of justice,” said Representative Steve Chabot, Republican of Ohio. “They seem to be bound and determined to keep this story alive about the president getting impeached.”

Mr. Trump seethed on Twitter. He called House hearings “#Rigged” and accused Democrats of “presidential harassment” and seeking to conduct a “Redo, or a Do Over” because they were dissatisfied with Mr. Mueller’s conclusions.

The president’s view has bedeviled House Democrats for weeks, as his aides have systematically tried to cut off potential witnesses and contain evidence that Democrats have requested. The stonewalling has prompted a growing number of lawmakers — nearly a quarter of the Democratic caucus — to support opening an impeachment inquiry.

Hope Hicks refused to answer 155 questions from Dems during House testimony

Hope Hicks refused to answer 155 questions from Dems during House testimony Hicks refused to answer repeated questions about the president’s actions or her conversations with him.

Video by Associated Press

Some Democrats on the committee have begun arguing that they should reach down the witness list to Trump associates who may figure less prominently in Mr. Mueller’s report but whom the White House cannot shield from testifying because they never worked in the administration.

One such possibility is Corey Lewandowski, Mr. Trump’s former campaign manager whom the president ordered in June 2017 to deliver a message to the attorney general at the time, Jeff Sessions, to reassert control over the special counsel investigation and drastically limit its scope, according to the Mueller report. Another is Christopher Ruddy, a friend of Mr. Trump’s, who recounted to the special counsel about being told during a White House meeting the same month that Mr. Trump was thinking hard about firing Mr. Mueller.

But both men, and others like the former governor of New Jersey, Chris Christie, are also political allies of the president and savvy messengers capable with the help of House Republicans of upending a hearing to undermine Democrats.

Under an agreement forged last week with the Justice Department, Judiciary Committee members have begun to get access to F.B.I. summaries of witness interviews and notes and other communications that Mr. Mueller collected. The documents could influence where the committee goes next.

Jerry Nadler Repeatedly Called Hope Hicks ‘Ms. Lewandowski’ in House Hearing

Jerry Nadler Repeatedly Called Hope Hicks ‘Ms. Lewandowski’ in House Hearing The apparently accidental reference to Hicks as Lewandowski was during intense questioning about Lewandowski's relationship with both the President and with Hicks herself.

Democrats are more likely to try to call Jody Hunt, Mr. Sessions’s former chief of staff who kept detailed notes of White House and Justice Department meetings; and Rick Dearborn, a White House aide whom Mr. Lewandowski enlisted to help him deliver Mr. Trump’s message to Mr. Sessions. But both men could try to claim that Mr. Trump’s right to assert executive privilege keeps them from disclosing information about those episodes.

Ms. Hicks has already made such an assertion once. When she appeared for private questioning by the House Intelligence Committee in February 2018, she declined to answer questions about her work on the Trump presidential transition or in the White House. On Wednesday, she came armed with a letter from the White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, saying that she is “absolutely immune” from being forced to testify.

“The longstanding principle of immunity for senior advisers to the president is firmly rooted in the Constitution’s separation of powers and protects the core functions of the presidency,” he wrote in a letter to the committee’s chairman, Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York. But the president stopped short of trying to assert executive privilege over his conversations with Ms. Hicks.

The White House made the same argument to stop the former White House counsel Donald F. McGahn II, another key Mueller witness, from testifying before the Judiciary Committee.

The claim of absolute immunity is separate from the concept of executive privilege. The Justice Department under both Republican and Democratic administrations has taken the position that the president’s closest advisers have such immunity from congressional subpoenas so they cannot be forced to comply with demands for testimony. But the theory has not been fully proven in court and Democrats believe it is unlikely to stand up when tested.

Hope Hicks, former Trump aide, didn't answer 155 questions during testimony. Here's what they are.

Hope Hicks, former Trump aide, didn't answer 155 questions during testimony. Here's what they are. Throughout her marathon testimony, Hicks didn't answer many questions related to her time in the Trump Administration. Two White House lawyers were present during the testimony and often interjected with a quick "objection" to lawmakers' questions. In total, 155 questions went unanswered. The queries she refused ranged from where her desk was in the White House to the president's actions raised in Mueller's report, according to a transcript published by the Judiciary Committee.

In the closed hearing room, Democrats protested that stance. They have argued that any claims of executive privilege or immunity over information that Ms. Hicks had already shared with Mr. Mueller and was subsequently released in his redacted 448-page report were unlikely to stand up to scrutiny. Lawmakers also typically argue that communications from presidential transition periods are not subject to presidential protections.

Democrats asked anyway about a litany of episodes Ms. Hicks knew about or witnessed given her proximity to Mr. Trump. They include a 2016 meeting at Trump Tower between campaign officials and a Russian lawyer offering damaging information on Hillary Clinton and the drafting of a misleading statement about the meeting. Mr. Mueller’s report also mentioned Ms. Hicks’s role in discussions of the firing of James B. Comey as F.B.I. director, the appointment of Mr. Mueller as special counsel and later attempts by Mr. Trump to fire the special counsel or curtail his inquiry.

Because executive privilege does not apply to conversations and events that took place during Mr. Trump’s campaign, there were signs that lines of questioning around the hush payments to a former Playboy model and pornographic film actress were at least somewhat more productive. Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s former personal lawyer who arranged the payments, pleaded guilty to related campaign finance charges and other felonies and has told prosecutors that Mr. Trump was involved in the scheme.

Democrats are expected to cover the same topics at a public hearing on Thursday before the Judiciary Committee. They have called legal experts from both parties to discuss the implications of the hush payments and Mr. Trump’s boast last week to ABC that “I’d take it” if Russia again offered his campaign assistance in 2020.

Annie Donaldson: House Judiciary cuts deal to allow former WH aide to answer written questions.
The House Judiciary Committee appears to have reached a deal with former White House aide Annie Donaldson that would allow her to not appear before the committee by a Monday deadline and answer written questions instead, according to sources familiar with the matter. require(["medianetNativeAdOnArticle"], function (medianetNativeAdOnArticle) { medianetNativeAdOnArticle.getMedianetNativeAds(true); }); The testimony of Donaldson, who was chief of staff for then-White House counsel Don McGahn, has been of high interest to House Democrats given her first-hand knowledge of key events.

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