Hope Hicks might be the bravest person in Washington.
Hours after President Trump surprised advisers by taking questions from reporters and reigniting criticism of his response to violence in Charlottesville — which he had just begun to quell a day earlier — the Daily Caller reported that Hicks would step into the role of White House communications director. The Washington Post and other news outlets confirmed the report Wednesday but noted that Hicks will serve in an interim capacity.
Trump's impromptu news conference Tuesday was a smack-you-in-the-face reminder that he does not take instruction — not that Hicks needed to be reminded. She has been part of Trump's communications team since he launched his campaign more than two years ago.
Hicks has seen one communications director after another make quick exits since Trump was elected: Jason Miller (two days), Sean Spicer (55 days), Mike Dubke (90 days), Spicer again (64 days), Anthony Scaramucci (10 days).
Hicks saw Trump ignore her advice, last month, to be more forthcoming when the New York Times first learned about a meeting involving Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort and a Kremlin-connected Russian lawyer.
Hicks knows what she is getting into — or, at least, she should. She will be nominally responsible for directing the communications of a president who is so determined to control his own messaging that he sometimes used to pose as his own spokesman in telephone interviews, under the assumed name John Barron or John Miller.
The Washington Post last year published a recording of one such interview, with a reporter from People magazine in 1991. Hicks, now 28, turned 3 that year.
Trump's tendency to freelance and even undermine his advisers' strategies makes the communications director's job a frustrating one. In one memorable example, the president in a May interview with NBC News contradicted Spicer and other aides who had spent the previous two days pushing the narrative that Trump had acted on the recommendation of Deputy Attorney General Rod J. Rosenstein when firing James B. Comey as FBI director.
Trump lit that narrative on fire when he told Lester Holt that he “was going to fire regardless of recommendation.”
Dubke was the White House communications director at the time; he resigned one week after Trump's interview with Holt.
On a team whose members' standing with Trump is subject to wild fluctuations, Hicks's has remained remarkably steady. In a July article entitled “The untouchable Hope Hicks,” Politico's Annie Karni wrote that Hicks “is protected, in a world of rival power centers, by the deep bond she shares with the man at the top.”
He affectionately refers to her as “Hopester.” She still calls him “Mr. Trump.” And she views her job, ultimately, as someone who is installed where she is to help, but not change, the leader of the free world.
It seems that Hicks harbors no illusion about wielding enough power to control Trump. But a person who holds the communications director's title generally expects the power to do what the title suggests — direct the day-to-day messaging of the White House.
There is little in Trump's history to suggest that he is willing to grant such authority to Hicks or anyone else.