We were just speculating as to why President Trump seemed particularly agitated over the past 24 hours, reaffirming his reelection plans and then lashing out at his attorney general. Now we learn (coincidence?) from a New York Times report that longtime confidante Hope Hicks is leaving the White House. When one leaves to pursue other opportunities, but doesn’t identify any, chances are there is a backstory to the departure.
The timing is curious, to say the least. She told the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday that she’s told “white lies,” but not on anything “substantive” for Trump. Whether that remark or something else she said in the presence of Trump’s favorite errand boy, Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), may have triggered her departure is unknown, nor is it clear on what topics she declined to provide answers. Her resignation also comes the day after Jared Kushner’s day from hell, when it was learned he had been stripped of his top security clearance and The Post reported four foreign government have spoken about using his financial interests (recall, he’s heavily in debt) to gain influence with the administration. (Might this have been an effort to draw attention away from that fiasco?)
It is hard to believe that Trump, who’s depended on her assistance for years — well before the 2016 campaign — wanted her to go. It’s also very unlikely that Chief of Staff John F. Kelly would have much to gain by the departure. We may learn differently, but chances are it was she who wanted to leave, not anyone in the White House who wanted her to go.
Now, the reason for her decision, if it was her choice, may be innocuous. It’s exhausting working in the White House, especially this one. Her involvement in the Rob Porter matter, wherein she helped draft a memo defending someone she was dating, may have been an indication that the personal strain of working in this White House simply isn’t worth it. She was never a political operative and never seemed entirely at ease shifting from the private sector to the White House. (She remained largely invisible to the press, which is highly unusual for a White House communications director.)
Will her departure matter? On a political level, likely not. Trump is not one to be contained, be it by his chief of staff or his daughter and son-in-law. In other words, she didn’t seem to have mystical powers to manage him. Trump, we have learned, remains Trump regardless of who is around him.
Her departure, however, may be bad news for Trump from a legal standpoint. She is a direct witness to much of the day-to-day goings on in the White House. She was present on Air Force One for a critical episode in the Russia affair. She reportedly was involved in the drafting of a memo that did not accurately recount the reason for the Trump Tower meeting in June 2016. Beyond that we do not know what more she has heard or has knowledge of regarding either “collusion” or Trump’s repeated attempts to throw the Russian investigation off track.
Now, she has already spoken to special counsel Robert S. Mueller III, but freed from the White House, she may be just a tad more inclined to disclose information or to help guide the special prosecutor through the events of the past year. She also, and this is key, worked with Trump in his real estate business — in fact she knew very little about politics before the 2016 campaign. As Mueller begins to delve deeper and deeper into Trump’s financial affairs and his connection to Russian money, she may have an unusual inside account as to how he operated and the people with whom he interacted.
If not for the Porter incident, Hicks might have made it through the administration utterly unscathed. For that she deserves credit — more so than Ivanka Trump or many of Trump’s advisers. She was not compelled to go out to sing his praises; she did not present herself as defender of women and children. She did not publicly fawn over Trump. In other words, she kept her dignity, which is no small accomplishment in this White House. I have no doubt that whatever impact her departure has on Trump it will be beneficial to her. She’s out — and really does have a wealth of opportunities ahead of her.