Hope Hicks Agrees to Interview With House Panel

WASHINGTON — Hope Hicks, one of President Trump’s closest former campaign and White House aides, has agreed to participate next week in a transcribed interview with the House Judiciary Committee on topics stemming from the special counsel’s investigation, the panel’s chairman said on Wednesday.

The hearing will be the first time that an aide to Mr. Trump has taken the witness stand in the committee’s investigation into whether the president obstructed justice by trying to curtail inquiries into his campaign’s ties to Russia. It could theoretically kick-start Democrats’ efforts to build a case against Mr. Trump.

But there is no guarantee that Ms. Hicks will be forthcoming. Given Mr. Trump’s claims of executive privilege over the blacked-out portions of the report by the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, and the evidence underlying it, Ms. Hicks could choose to try to use the president’s objections as a shield to fend off questions she does not want to answer about her time at the White House.

Representative Jerrold Nadler of New York, the committee’s chairman, hinted at that possibility on Wednesday. In a statement, he reiterated Democrats’ views that Mr. Trump’s executive privilege assertion, made after the material in question was already shared with nongovernment lawyers and then Mr. Mueller’s investigators, would not stand up in court. Nor, they say, can it conceivably be applied to Ms. Hicks’s work on the campaign.

“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,” Mr. Nadler said. “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.”

Sorting that out could be further complicated by an agreement the Justice Department made this week to begin producing key evidence assembled by Mr. Mueller that Mr. Trump had previously declared privileged. Some of that material now available to Democrats could touch on topics pertaining to Ms. Hicks.

A lawyer for Ms. Hicks, Robert Trout, declined to comment on Wednesday. News of her planned testimony was first reported by The Washington Post.

The session’s format is not what Democrats had hoped for. Although the Judiciary Committee plans to “promptly” release a transcript of the interview, the arrangement is a far cry from the kinds of public hearings that Democrats had sought to convene after Mr. Mueller’s report in an effort to move public opinion against Mr. Trump.

Still, with the White House blocking witness appearances and attempts to stir public interest in the case falling flat — as did the testimony on Monday from John W. Dean, of Watergate fame — lawmakers are likely to embrace the opportunity to at least pose questions to someone who witnessed the key events that they are scrutinizing.

Indeed, Ms. Hicks, who served as White House communications director before leaving the government last year, is referred to on more than two dozen pages of Mr. Mueller’s 448-page report. She was also present for many of the Trump administration’s early pivotal moments.

The Judiciary Committee issued a subpoena for Ms. Hicks in May compelling her to testify on June 19 and produce by last week any documents she had that were mentioned in Mr. Mueller’s report or were related to key episodes of possible obstruction. Those include the firing of James B. Comey as F.B.I. director; efforts to get Jeff Sessions, then the attorney general, to reassert control over the Russia investigation; and any communications about the investigation.

Last week, the White House instructed Ms. Hicks not to comply with the document request included in the subpoena because it could implicate “significant executive branch confidentiality interests and executive privilege.” She did ultimately share a handful of documents with the committee, but they were limited to her time on the 2016 campaign.

By showing up next week, Ms. Hicks will decrease the chances that Democrats would take her to court, as they plan to do with the former White House counsel Donald F. McGahn II for defying a similar subpoena.


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