Former White House Communications Director Hope Hicks has agreed to testify behind closed doors next Wednesday when she is to sit for an interview with the House Judiciary Committee regarding topics originating from the special counsel’s Russia investigation, the committee’s chairman has confirmed.
The hearing is very significant as it will represent the first time a close aide of President Trump’s has testified as part of the committee’s probe into whether Trump obstructed justice by trying to hinder investigations into communications between Russians and his campaign members.
The New York Times writes that the testimony could launch Democratic efforts to build a case against the President.
However, it is still unclear how forthcoming Hick will be and the former aide could use President Trump’s objections to Democrats’ requests for information about the special counsel’s findings as an excuse to avoid answering some questions. Trump had previously claimed executive privilege over the redacted parts of Robert Mueller’s report and the underlying evidence.
But, Representative Jerry Nadler, the panel’s chairman, said the executive privilege assertion would not stand up in court and could not be applied to Hicks’s work in the White House and on the campaign.
“Ms. Hicks understands that the committee will be free to pose questions as it sees fit, including about her time on the Trump campaign and her time in the White House,” Nadler said. “Should there be a privilege or other objection regarding any question, we will attempt to resolve any disagreement while reserving our right to take any and all measures in response to unfounded privilege assertions.”
Democrats had further sought a public hearing and will release a transcript of the testimony. Although not what they initially sought, the closed-door hearing will provide Democratic lawmakers with an opportunity to pose questions to someone “who witnessed the key events that they are scrutinizing,” the Times adds.
Last month, the House Judiciary Committee issued a subpoena for Hicks, requesting both her testimony and documents she possessed that were mentioned in the special counsel’s report. After being advised by the White House not to provide those documents so as not to implicate “significant executive branch confidentiality interests and executive privilege,” Hicks only shared documents pertaining to her time on the campaign.