WASHINGTON – Democratic lawmakers accused President Donald Trump's former aide Hope Hicks of rejecting questions about her time in the White House during a marathon hearing on Wednesday.
While Democrats aimed to unearth new aspects of Hicks' role in the White House, which spanned some of the most controversial moments of Trump's presidency, both sides of the aisle seemed to agree that very little, if anything, was learned from the all-day testimony. But despite the roadblock, Democrats vowed that their fight was only beginning, one that would likely go to court, so key officials may testify before lawmakers.
Hicks, Trump’s former White House communication director and campaign spokeswoman, is the first senior administration official mentioned in special counsel Robert Mueller’s report to testify before Congress.
The House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed Hicks because of her proximity to Trump during several episodes that Mueller’s report described as attempts to thwart the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
The incidents include Trump helping draft the explanation about a Trump Tower meeting between top campaign officials and Russians and his firing of Attorney General Jeff Sessions and FBI Director James Comey.
Mueller’s report found no conspiracy between Trump’s campaign and Russia, despite repeated foreign attempts to influence the election on Trump’s behalf. Mueller said he didn't have the option to charge Trump with obstruction of justice despite 10 episodes of potential illegalities listed in the report.
Congressional Democrats on the committee said Hicks’ appearance amounted to her not complying with the subpoena. They claimed she did not answer questions about her time in the White House or the findings outlined in the Mueller report. Lawyers for the administration, who were at Hicks' side during her testimony, objected to question after question, claiming she was immune from answering anything related to her time in the White House, Democrats said.
But she did answer some questions about her time on the Trump campaign, and Democrats said every piece of information was helpful for their investigations into the president.
Hicks did not answer questions from reporters as she left the hearing after about eight hours testifying.
Judiciary Chairman Jerrold Nadler said he was satisfied in "some ways" with Hicks' testimony but said the blanket objection to answering questions about her time in the White House would "not stand."
"She answered some of our questions. We learned considerable information," said Nadler, D-N.Y. "The White House pleaded a non-existent, absolute immunity and that will not stand."
Some Democrats said her testimony felt more like a roadblock that only pushed them further down the path toward impeachment proceedings.
“This is an obstruction of Congress’ ability to do our job and uphold our oath. It’s unacceptable. We have to begin an inquiry soon,” said Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas. “They’re not even allowing her to comment on what’s in a publicly available report, the Mueller report. It’s unbelievable.”