- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 20, 2019

Former White House Communications Director Hope Hicks told lawmakers she was unaware of any hush payments made to two women who said they had affairs with President Trump, according to a transcript of testimony released Thursday.

“I wasn’t aware of anything — I wasn’t aware of a hush payment agreement,” Ms. Hicks told members of the House Judiciary Committee Thursday.

Ms. Hicks also defended the use of the Trump campaign’s use of emails stolen from Hillary Clinton’s campaign and WikiLeaks during the 2016 presidential election, saying it was “public information” by that time.

Pressed by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, Texas Democrat, on whether the hacked emails boosted Mr. Trump’s campaign, Ms. Hicks called the assertion “a big jump.”

“I think that is a — I think that’s a big jump,” she replied. “I think there are many other reasons that Mr. Trump won that election. I’m not sure that you can attribute it to one factor.”

“I think it allowed the campaign to discuss things that would not otherwise be known, but were true,” she continued.

Ms. Hicks was the first member of Mr. Trump’s inner circle to testify before the Judiciary Committee as it ramps up its investigations into the president. While Democrats viewed her testimony as a coup, the transcript revealed that she was unaware of key events discussed in special counsel Robert Mueller’s 448-page report.

She did shed some light on one episode in the Mueller report. She described Mr. Trump’s pressuring former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski to convince Attorney General Jeff Sessions to unrecuse himself from the Russia investigation as “odd.”

When asked for a followup, she was cut off by White House attorney Patrick Philbin, who objected to the question.

In a strange incident, Ms. Hicks‘ attorney, Robert Trout, asked lawmakers to stop taking selfies during the hearing.

“There are a number of people taking pictures here and I just want to say that I think it’s making the witness uncomfortable,” Mr. Trout said, calling it “a courtesy.”

The committee’s ranking Republican, Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, and Rep. Ted Lieu, California Democrat, also engaged in a testy exchange. Mr. Collins called out his colleague for live-tweeting the hearing in defiance of Chairman Jerrold Nadler’s order that the hearing must remain confidential.

“I want it noted for the record that the Member of the Democratic Party in this committee is live-tweeting what his own chairman had asked him to keep confidential,” Mr. Collins said. “We’ve now proven this is nothing but a political stunt.”

Mr. Lieu fired back that he was tweeting because objections raised by attorneys representing Ms. Hicks and the White House were “so absurd.”

“Do you have trouble understanding the chairman?” Mr. Collins shot back.

Ms. Hicks also told lawmakers she has spoke to the president between five and 10 times since she left the White House in February 2018. She said they most recently saw each other in April, when they met for dinner and reminisced about the campaign.

Mr. Philbin and Mr. Trout did object more than 150 times to questions posed to Ms. Hicks, including where her office was located and whether Mr. Trump ever stopped by while she was eating lunch.

But she was also stopped from answering questions about weightier issues, including the firing of former FBI Director James Comey and the resignation of former national security advisor Michael Flynn, among other matters.

Republicans on the committee slammed the hearing as “a farce” and “preposterous.”

“We are now through the majority’s first hour and they have not uncovered a single fact from Ms. Hicks that was not evident in the Mueller report, it seems indicative that his is largely about posturing and not about any development of any facts,” Rep. Matt Gaetz, Florida Republican, said.

Mr. Collins accused Democrats of orchestrating a publicity stunt rather than seeking relevant information.

“This is more for a press availability than it is for actual information, and I do, you know, object to that.”

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