President Donald Trump’s White House attorneys objected more than 130 times this week as House lawmakers attempted to question his former aide Hope Hicks about her work for the Trump administration and behavior outlined in Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation.
The Trump administration has stonewalled the congressional investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and Trump’s attempts to intervene in the FBI’s investigation and Mueller’s subsequent probe. White House attorneys took the position that Hicks, as a former senior adviser to Trump, could not be compelled to answer Congress’ questions about her work in the administration.
A transcript of the interview released Thursday evening shows Michael Purpura and Patrick Philbin, both deputy White House counsels, objected to questions at least 130 times. (The precise number of objections may be higher: HuffPost avoided counting instances where both attorneys simultaneously objected or when they were reasserting a standing objection.)
Hicks was one of Trump’s closest aides during the timeframe outlined in the Mueller report, and was a witness to a number of questionable episodes outlined in the 400-plus-page report. The objections came to questions posed by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Rep. Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.), who is leading the charge, as well as other Democrats on the committee.
Where did Hicks sit in relation to the West Wing? Objection. Did Corey Lewandowski visit Trump at the White House? Objection. Did she tell Mueller’s team the truth? Objection. Did she perjure herself? “Same objection.”
The spectacle of White House lawyers objecting dozens of times as House Democrats asked basic questions about Hicks’ work would have made compelling television, and could have had an impact on public opinion. But with only a dry transcript to go on, it’s unlikely that Hicks’ testimony will seize Americans’ attention the way a public hearing would have.
The House Judiciary Committee did hold a sparsely attended hearing on the Mueller report on Thursday morning, but the testimony of several expert witnesses without personal knowledge of the facts described in the report didn’t draw much attention. The Trump administration has refused to allow current officials to testify, and it’s unclear whether House Democrats will allow future fact witnesses to testify behind closed doors.
Hicks did tell House members that she found Trump’s decision to tell Lewandowski to deliver a message to Attorney General Jeff Sessions directing him to un-recuse himself from the Mueller report “odd.”
Hicks also told lawmakers that she personally agreed with the “assessment of the intelligence community” that Russia was behind the hacking of the Democratic National Committee’s emails, not Trump’s prior statements that it could have been China or a “guy sitting on their bed who weighs 400 pounds.”
Read the full transcript below.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.