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Who is Hope Hicks, longtime Trump aide who is testifying in NY hush money case?


By Michelle Shen, CNN

Washington (CNN) — Hope Hicks, once a longtime trusted aide in Donald Trump’s inner circle, is testifying Friday in the New York hush money trial after being subpoenaed.

“I’m really nervous,” Hicks said while looking at the jury. She looked visibly uncomfortable after taking the stand.

As CNN reported previously, Hicks appeared before the grand jury last year before Trump was indicted, as did Trump counselor Kellyanne Conway. Hicks was Trump’s press secretary during the campaign and could shed light on what was happening inside the political operation in the final weeks before the 2016 election, as Cohen says he was paying off adult film star Stormy Daniels to remain quiet about an alleged affair that Trump worried could upend his presidential campaign. Trump allegedly reimbursed Cohen after he took office and has since been charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records to hide the true nature of those payments.

The former president has pleaded not guilty and denied the affair.

Hicks has a long shared history with Trump, starting with her time working in communications for the Trump Organization and was one of the first staffers to join his 2016 campaign. During Trump’s presidency, Hicks eventually rose to become White House communication director and was one of the longest-lasting aides in a White House that was frequently marked by a series of acrimonious departures.

She thrived in an environment where loyalty was paramount, consistently defending Trump amid criticism, and the president nicknamed her “Hopey.”

Hicks’ proximity to Trump has at times put her under a media microscope.

She testified in 2018 before the House Intelligence Committee about Russian interference in the 2016 election and admitted that she occasionally had to tell white lies on Trump’s behalf, according to a source with direct knowledge of her testimony.

After facing scrutiny for both the testimony and her relationship with Rob Porter, Trump’s former staff secretary who was accused of domestic abuse, Hicks decided to leave the White House for a gig as chief communications officer at Fox News. Porter denied the allegations and ultimately resigned.

Hicks returned to the White House in March 2020 ahead of Trump’s reelection effort but received pushback for not believing the election had been stolen, according to multiple books that came out about the final months in the Trump White House.

According to reporting from “The Divider: Trump in the White House, 2017-2021,” Trump is quoted as saying, “Well, Hope doesn’t believe in me.”

“No, I don’t,” Hicks replied, according to the book. “Nobody’s convinced me otherwise.”

In October 2022, Hicks testified before the House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, Capitol riot.

In a video clip played by the committee, Hicks testified about a conversation she had with Trump after the election, regarding his baseless claims of election fraud.

“I was becoming increasingly concerned that … we were damaging his legacy,” she told the committee.

She testified that Trump “said something along the lines of, you know, ‘Nobody will care about my legacy if I lose, so that won’t matter. The only thing that matters is winning,’” Hicks said in the clip.

Politico reported in March that Hicks has been running a small consulting shop doing communications with a variety of global clients, including fashion retailer Shein.

An attorney for Hicks did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

Questions around involvement in Daniels’ payment

The crux of the present case against Trump centers around the alleged scheme to falsify company records to hide a $130,000 payment to Daniels to buy her silence. Cohen has previously testified that Trump directed him to make the payments “for the principal purpose of influencing the election.”

Cohen said he paid Daniels himself. Prosecutors say Cohen later met with Trump in the Oval Office to map out how Trump would repay him through a series of false invoices for legal services.

Trump has maintained he has no knowledge of any payments to Daniels.

Trump has tweeted that Cohen was paid a monthly retainer, apart from the campaign. During jury selection in his trial, he said, “I was paying a lawyer and marked it down as a legal expense — some accountant, I didn’t know — marked it down as a legal expense, that’s exactly what it was — and you get indicted over that?”

Federal search warrants released in 2019 showed that prosecutors with the US Attorney’s office in the Southern District of New York found there was a mad scramble inside the Trump campaign to do damage control and suppress additional allegations of a sexual nature from becoming public after the “Access Hollywood” tape surfaced – and upended Trump’s campaign – in October 2016.

The day after the tape came out, Hicks called Cohen and Trump joined, according to the documents. From there, Cohen, acting as a middleman, was involved in at least 10 telephone calls that day, some involving Trump or Hicks and others involving American Media Inc. executives David Pecker and Dylan Howard. At the time, AMI owned the National Enquirer tabloid.

Some of those conversations, FBI officials believed, were about Daniels, an adult film actress whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, according to the documents — but the substance of the calls is not revealed in the documents.

Cohen spoke with Hicks at least two other times that day, including just before and after he spoke with AMI executives, the affidavit supporting the warrant alleged.

In a footnote in the warrant’s affidavit, an FBI agent wrote that Hicks told a different FBI agent that, to the best of her recollection, she first learned of the allegations made by Daniels in November, one month later.

Hicks told CNN at the time that the early October conversations with Cohen were regarding the “Access Hollywood” tape.

“He was clearly motivated to do something that I wasn’t aware of,” Hicks said. “Nothing contradicts what I’ve said.”

Prosecutors have not accused Hicks of taking part in Trump’s alleged scheme to influence the election.

When Hicks testified before the House Judiciary Committee shortly before the documents’ release, she answered “no” when asked multiple times by Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee whether she was ever present when Trump and Cohen discussed Daniels, according to a transcript released of the closed-door interview.

Hicks also said she had no information about Daniels other than what she learned from reporters.

“Again, I had no knowledge of Stormy Daniels other than to say she was going to be mentioned in the story amongst people that were shopping stories around,” Hicks testified. “There were no specifics offered by the reporter, and I didn’t have any other information other than what was being relayed to me by the reporter.”

After the documents were released, Rep. Jerry Nadler, a New York Democrat who was then chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, wrote a letter to Hicks asking her to voluntarily come back before the committee to clarify her testimony.  Nadler cited “apparent inconsistencies” between Hicks’ testimony and the unsealed evidence regarding the telephone calls.

Her attorneys responded, saying their client stands by her testimony that none of her October 8 calls with Cohen related to payments to Stormy Daniels.

“The material in the affidavit relating to Ms. Hicks is simply a chronology of phone calls, without any information about their contents. The fact that various phone calls happen on the same date does not mean they were about the same topic,” a letter stated at the time.

“Whatever else Mr. Cohen was dealing with that day,” the letter from Hicks’ attorneys continued, “his conversations with Ms. Hicks were not about Stormy Daniels or any agreement relating to ‘hush money.’”

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Article Topic Follows: CNN - US Politics

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