Former White House communications director Hope Hicks testified before the House Judiciary Committee earlier this week in a closed-door, nearly eight hour session to answer questions about her time in the White House.
But, according to a transcript of her testimony, lawmakers learned little from the session: rather, White House lawyers blocked Hicks from answering questions 155 times throughout the interview. Some of the questions she didn’t answer:
“Would the president ever come in while you’re having lunch?”
“How often would you talk to the president on a given day?”
“In the White House, where is your office located?”
Throughout the hearing, Hicks, a longtime confidante of the president, was blocked from discussing what seemed to be insignificant details about her time in the White House. Three White House lawyers, one Justice Department attorney, and two private lawyers joined her in the session.
The reason why Hicks couldn’t answer? “Absolute immunity,” according to the White House lawyers.
“Your contention is that as a result of absolute immunity she cannot state anything about her knowledge of anything during the period of time in which she was employed in the White House?” asked House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, who grew noticeably frustrated by the White House’s stonewalling tactics.
“For the purpose of this hearing, yes,” responded Michael Purpura, the deputy counsel to the president. A question that Purpura did allow Hicks to answer: “on your first day of work at the White House, was it a sunny day or a cloudy day?” (it was cloudy).
As a result of the immunity claims, the House Judiciary Committee was unable to glean any new information from Hicks regarding topics such as obstruction allegations against the president, the resignation of former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, and Trump’s firing of former FBI director James Comey.
She did acknowledge, when asked about Trump’s recent ABC interview in which he said he wouldn’t alert the FBI if a foreign government provided information about an opponent, that she disagreed with the president. “Knowing how much chaos has been sowed as a result of something like the Steele dossier, no, I would not [accept that information],” she said.
Hicks was the first current or former Trump administration official to testify before the Judiciary Committee as it continues its investigation into obstruction of justice.
The hearing is the latest example of the White House’s efforts to block House Democrats’ investigations into the president. While the Trump administration didn’t use executive privilege to block Hicks, who was subpoenaed, from testifying, the White House lawyers told the committee that “Ms. Hicks may not be compelled to speak about events that occurred during her service as a senior adviser to the president.”
“With all due respect, that is absolute nonsense as a matter of law,” Nadler said in response.
Several members of the House Judiciary Committee expressed their disappointment following the session. “We’re watching obstruction of of justice in action,” Rep. Ted Lieu, a Democratic committee member, told Politico.
“She made clear she wouldn’t answer a single question about her time unless the White House counsel told her it was OK,” added Rep. Ted Deutch, another Democratic committee member. “She couldn’t even characterize her testimony to the special counsel.”