Hope Hicks to testify behind closed doors before House Judiciary next Wednesday
Former White House aide Hope Hicks has agreed to testify next Wednesday behind closed doors, the House Judiciary Committee announced Wednesday.
The committee plans to release a transcript of the interview afterward.
The scheduled interview with Hicks, a longtime Trump campaign aide and former White House communications director, is the first case where a member of Trump's inner circle will appear before the committee as part of its investigation into possible obstruction of justice. The first official to be subpoenaed by the panel, former White House counsel Don McGahn, did not appear before the committee last month, prompting a vote in the House this week to go to court to enforce the subpoena.
The Judiciary Committee plans to ask questions about Hicks' time at the White House and during the campaign, according to two sources, but it remains to be seen whether the White House will assert executive privilege to prevent her from answering about her time at White House. Hicks is expected to address executive privilege issues on a question by question basis, one of the sources said.
"It is important to hear from Ms. Hicks, who was a key witness for the Special Counsel," Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler said in a statement. "Ms. Hicks understands that the Committee will be free to pose questions as it sees fit, including about her time on the Trump Campaign and her time in the White House. Should there be a privilege or other objection regarding any question, we will attempt to resolve any disagreement while reserving our right to take any and all measures in response to unfounded privilege assertions."
Last week, the White House directed Hicks and former White House deputy counsel Annie Donaldson not to provide any documents to the committee involving their time at the White House, in what could be a sign of how the White House will respond to questions from the committee next week.
The White House cannot claim executive privilege over Hicks' time in the campaign, so those questions are likely to be fair game without executive privilege issues.
Hicks' testimony, which was first reported by The Washington Post, comes after she was one of five former White House officials the committee authorized subpoenas for earlier this year.
The subpoenas, which also went to McGahn and Donaldson, were part of the panel's sweeping investigation into possible obstruction of justice, corruption and abuse of power, which began with letters requesting documents from 81 individuals and entities.
The five officials who were subpoenaed were all significant figures in the Mueller report, and the Judiciary Committee has sought to highlight the special counsel's findings with hearings as it mulls whether to begin an impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump. On Monday, the committee held a hearing with experts, including former Watergate witness John Dean.
Until Wednesday, however, it wasn't clear whether any of the officials would agree to testify amid the President's stated intention to fight "all the subpoenas," although Nadler expressed confidence at Monday's hearing that his committee would eventually get the witnesses it's seeking — even if it took going to court to do so.
"It is true that fact witnesses have been ordered by the White House not to appear before this committee, but we'll get them," Nadler said.
Following the House vote Tuesday on a resolution to take the McGahn subpoena to court, Nadler pledged to do the same thing with Hicks and Donaldson if they didn't comply.
But Wednesday's agreement is the second time this week that the Judiciary panel has struck a deal as part of its probe into Mueller's findings on obstruction of justice.
On Monday, the Justice Department agreed to begin providing the committee with special counsel documents it's seeking, including FBI notes of interviews and notes from White House officials. The White House will be able to review the materials for executive privilege issues, however, before the committee gets access to them.
It's unclear whether Hicks' agreement will also lead to an appearance for Donaldson, who was a deputy to McGahn. Unlike Hicks, Donaldson did not work on the Trump campaign and only worked in the White House. The committee included a June 24 deadline in her subpoena.
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