A former top aide to President Trump told House investigators that officials on the 2016 campaign felt “relief” when WikiLeaks released hacked information damaging to rival Hillary Clinton, reaffirming Robert S. Mueller III’s conclusion that Trump associates welcomed Russia’s interference in the election. . . .
The question was among the few Hicks would answer during the seven-hour session. The White House barred her from answering 155 questions related to her time working in the Trump administration, claiming that Hicks had immunity since she worked in the White House.

In a statement accompanying the release of a transcript of Hicks’s interview, Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.), the chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, stated, “The White House refused to allow Ms. Hicks to answer any questions related to her time working for President Trump. She was blocked from responding to questions about the presidential misconduct detailed in the Mueller Report. . . . On one occasion, the Administration did permit Ms. Hicks to answer a single question about the weather on her first day of work for President Trump. . . . But the President’s lawyers refused to allow to answer basic questions, like where her desk was located in the White House.” Nevertheless, Hicks, for what it’s worth, defended use of the WikiLeaks hacked emails, “acknowledged that the Trump Campaign felt ‘relief’ at the release of hacked information damaging to the candidacy of Hillary Clinton," and knew you had to report foreign contacts to the FBI.

That was actually not the critical information. More from Nadler’s statement: “President Trump’s lawyers entered more than 150 objections on the basis of ‘absolute immunity’ for senior White House officials. These interruptions are a gimmick designed to interfere with the Committee’s investigation. . . . The Trump Administration’s claim of ‘absolute immunity’ has no basis in law.” He explained that courts have rejected absolute immunity claims in the past. Moreover, the “White House knows that it cannot invoke executive privilege — or any privilege — as to the information that was publicly released in the Mueller Report, which is why they are making this absurd claim.”

So what is this really all about? Surely, House Democrats knew that Hicks would be blocked from answering questions relating to her time in the White House. Rather, this was an evidence-gathering exercise for the House as it moves almost certainly to the courts to challenge the administration’s defiance of subpoenas, its refusal to allow witnesses to testify and its habit of making spurious objections to both document requests and live testimony. Now, they can do more than complain about stonewalling. (From The Post’s report: “Democrats called the [immunity] assertion bogus, accusing Trump officials of trying to stonewall their investigations into Trump, his finances, businesses and administration.”)

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Democrats now have specifics — 155 objections — which they can take to a federal court judge to force witnesses to testify. In addition, if the House ever does move toward impeachment, it will include this pattern of unwarranted objections in its articles of impeachment — just as the House Judiciary Committee did for President Richard M. Nixon: “In his conduct of the office of President of the United States, Richard M. Nixon, contrary to his oath faithfully to execute the office of President of the United States and, to the best of his ability, preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States, and in violation of his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, has failed without lawful cause or excuse to produce papers and things as directed by duly authorized subpoenas issued by the Committee on the Judiciary of the House of Representatives . . . and willfully disobeyed such subpoenas.”

We may have wished Hicks would have shown more spine than previous witnesses. Former prosecutor Joyce White Vance observes, "Hicks could have told the American people the truth about President Trump today. Instead, she hid behind her lawyers and his. She may only be a footnote in history, but it won’t be a kind one.” This is true for virtually all of Trump’s associates past and present, but we know those in the president’s orbit didn’t get there because of their sterling character.

Democrats advocating impeachment may be frustrated and disappointed with the results of the Hicks interview. However, if the hearings had the title “impeachment,” they would be in exactly the same position. Courts, so far, have not found that the absence of formal impeachment proceedings should be held against the House. The wheels of justice are moving oh so slowly, but at least they are moving.

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