- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 28, 2018

White House Communications Director Hope Hicks, who has been at President Trump’s side since before the 2016 campaign, announced her resignation Wednesday.

The exit of Ms. Hicks, 29, a former model who has been a key player but mostly stayed behind the scenes both on the campaign trail and at the White House, shocked Washington.

“There are no words to adequately express my gratitude to President Trump,” she said in a statement released by the White House. “I wish the President and his administration the very best as he continues to lead our country.”

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Her departure, first reported by the New York Times and then confirmed by administration officials, is the latest in a series of shakeups for the White House communications team.

The startling announcement came a day after Ms. Hicks testified before the House intelligence committee’s Russia probe, saying she had told “white lies” to the president but denying the campaign in any way colluded with Moscow.

In a statement, Mr. Trump commended her work and called her “outstanding.”

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“She is as smart and thoughtful as they come, a truly great person. I will miss having her by my side, but when she approached me about pursuing other opportunities, I totally understood. I am sure we will work together again in the future,” the president said.

White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly also praised Ms. Hicks.

“I quickly realized what so many have learned about Hope: She is strategic, poised and wise beyond her years,” Mr. Kelly said in a statement. “She became a trusted adviser and counselor, and did a tremendous job overseeing the communications for the president’s agenda including the passage of historic tax reform. She has served her country with great distinction. To say that she will be missed is an understatement.”

Ms. Hicks was the fourth communications director for Mr. Trump, following Mike Dubke, Sean Spicer — who temporarily served in an acting capacity — and Anthony Scaramucci.

Ms. Hicks held the post for the longest duration — more than six months. Mr. Scaramucci lasted just 10 days.

On Tuesday, Ms. Hicks underwent almost nine hours of closed-door testimony on Capitol Hill, answering queries about the presidential campaign and certain aspects of the transition period after Mr. Trump’s November 2016 victory.

She declined to discuss her work after the inauguration.

According to multiple lawmakers, Ms. Hicks‘ unwillingness to answer questions represented the latest in a pattern of Trump aides alluding to the legal concept of executive privilege — which protects the confidentiality of presidential decision-making by allowing the president, and at times his staff, to keep certain information from the courts, Congress and the public.

“This is not executive privilege; this is executive stonewalling,” Rep. Adam B. Schiff of California, the committee’s top Democrat, told reporters when the hearing broke up.

Ms. Hicks reportedly has been interviewed by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and special counsel Robert Mueller’s team regarding the Russia investigation.

Interest in the Russian investigations into her activities revolved around her role in crafting the White House communications response to a 2016 meeting between members of the Trump campaign — including the president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr. — and a Russian lawyer at Trump Tower in New York.

When news of the meeting broke last summer, Donald Trump Jr. released a statement saying that the meeting had been about Russian adoptions. Later, he acknowledged that he took the meeting because the Russian lawyer had offered damaging information about his father’s rival for the presidency, Hillary Clinton.

Speculation had swirled on Capitol Hill for months over what Ms. Hicks knew about the original, misleading statement about adoption.

• Dan Boylan contributed to this article.

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