SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX) — A Bay Area congressman’s questioning of the White House communication director compelled her to admit she had told “white lies” on behalf of the president.
California Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-Dublin) revealed some details about his line of questioning of Hope Hicks during a portion of a closed-door hearing of the House Intelligence Committee Tuesday.
Hicks, one of President Trump’s longest-serving advisers, announced her resignation a day after her testimony; she will be stepping down over the next few weeks, the latest in a string of White House departures. The New York Times reported multiple White House aides saying Hicks’ decision to resign was unrelated to her appearance before the House committee.
Swalwell said Hicks’ refusal to answer certain questions during more than eight hours of testimony was revealing.
“Now, to me, if your response to the question, ‘Have you ever been asked to lie for your boss?’ is to take a time-out, we already know the answer,” said Swalwell, who sits on the committee.
Hicks told committee members she and the president were unusually close because of all the time they spent together, said Swalwell.
A former model and public relations consultant, Hicks joined the Trump campaign in 2015 after originally working for Ivanka Trump, helping her expand her fashion line. Hicks became one of Mr. Trump’s most trusted confidantes and was his longest-serving aide when she announced her resignation.
Her working relationship with the president was far from typical, according to her testimony. “She described it in her own words, ‘There’s nothing typical about it.’ This was not a typical employer-employee relationship,” said Swalwell. “And so I asked her if she saw herself as loyal to him and she asked, ‘Well what do you mean by loyal to him?’ I said, ‘Well how do you define it?’ and Miss Hicks said that she defined loyalty as ‘committed.’ So I asked her if she thought she was committed to him and she said ‘fully.'”
Then Swalwell asked what he says is a standard question.
“I thought the next natural question was to ask her if she’d ever been asked by Mr. Trump to lie for him and, to me, that seems like a pretty straightforward question,” said Swalwell. “And from there she conferred with her lawyers, took a pretty long time-out, stepped outside the room and came back and said that she had never been asked to lie for him with respect to the Russia investigation … I asked her if she’d been asked to lie around anything else. And she refused to answer.”
The congressman asked for a subpoena to force Hicks to answer the question.
“Again, we saw more time-outs, more conferring with her lawyer and then finally she said that she had never knowingly lied for Mr. Trump but that sometimes white lies were told,” said Swalwell. “And then I went on to ask her if other individuals on the campaign and within the family had asked her to lie, including Donald Trump Jr., Ivanka Trump, Steve Bannon, Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner, Michael Cohen and others and she went from there to refuse to answer. I also asked her if she had ever seen Mr. Trump in her presence ask anyone else to lie and she also refused to answer.”
On Thursday, Rep. Tom Rooney (R-Florida), who also sits on the intelligence committee, blasted Swalwell.
“The whole line of questioning was a trap … They sent her down a rabbit hole that she could not get out of and it was completely unfair.”
Congressman Swalwell said Rooney was not in the room for part of the questioning and that Swalwell asked similar questions to other people close to the president.
As to why the public is learning details from this closed-door hearing, Swalwell said he is talking about this particular part of the hearing because it has become the subject of controversy.