On Wednesday, former White House communications director Hope Hicks appeared before the House Judiciary Committee in a closed-door session. Hicks was there to answer questions related to the over 100 mentions she collected in the report from former special counsel Robert Mueller, including her knowledge of some of the most notorious elements of Donald Trump’s attempted cover-up. Unfortunately, that cover-up continued on Wednesday, as Hicks was accompanied by lawyers from the Department of Justice there to ensure that not a single question was answered about her time in the White House. That included objecting to such critical questions as whether Hicks had actually spoken with the special counsel, and where her office was located in the White House.
Overall, the feeling emerging from the room where Trump’s “surrogate daughter” appeared was one of extreme frustration. Even Republican representatives out to throw Hicks a lifeline found their efforts cut off by a quick “Objection!”
It wasn’t just that the DOJ was there to execute the protection-by-potential-privilege theory that Trump has exercised since his first days in office. For Hicks, the lawyers introduced the idea of “absolute immunity,” declaring that she couldn’t be asked anything about her government service. The implication seemed to be that Hicks wasn’t just due executive privilege in her communications with Trump, but that, as a former member of the executive branch, she was immune from being asked anything about … anything. This is not only a wholly new expansion; it’s one that, if left unchallenged, would extend over the vast majority of people who work for the government, dragging almost all of their actions behind a cloud of unlimited protection.
While most of what emerged from Hicks’ visit appears to have been frustration, farcical objections, and the jaw-dropping implications of “absolute immunity,” House Judiciary Chair Jerry Nadler has indicated the day wasn’t totally without a response. As Politico reports, Hicks did “break from Trump” by declaring that “foreign assistance should be rejected and reported to the FBI.” Which is … No. Wait. That’s still nothing.
Eight. Long. Hours. Of nothing.
It wasn’t just DOJ lawyers running interference for Hicks. There were also lawyers from the White House Counsel’s Office. And Hicks had her own lawyers. The result was that “Objection!” was the most common word heard in the room, and every question became a multi-lawyer conversation before Hicks was allowed to make the slightest response.
The end result appears to have been no information, no congressional oversight, and an enormous expansion of executive power. And no, Hicks “breaking” from Trump in making a theoretical statement about what should be done with data from a foreign government doesn’t score as a win.
The transcript of Hicks’ appearance, such as it is, should be available for eye-rolling review sometime on Thursday.
Meanwhile, Trump was off to Hannity to explain that former White House counsel Don McGahn was lying when he said that Trump had made multiple efforts to fire Robert Mueller. “I wanted to be totally open because I knew there was nothing there,” said Trump.
And then Trump said that he wanted to “let everybody testify.”