White House communications director Hope Hicks leaves the US Capitol after attending the House intelligence committee closed-door meeting on February 27 2018. Picture: REUTERS
White House communications director Hope Hicks leaves the US Capitol after attending the House intelligence committee closed-door meeting on February 27 2018. Picture: REUTERS

Washington — Hope Hicks, one of President Donald Trump’s longest-serving advisers and closest aides, will resign, the White House said a day after she testified to congressional investigators probing Russia’s meddling in the 2016 election.

Hicks was named White House communications director in September, but was on Trump’s staff from the beginning of his presidency.

Prior to joining the Trump campaign, she had worked in public relations for the Trump Organization.

"I wish the president and his administration the very best as he continues to lead our country," 29-year-old Hicks said in a statement released by the White House.

She would not leave the White House immediately, Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said. The New York Times reported earlier that she was resigning.

"Hope is outstanding and has done great work for the last three years," Trump said in a statement.

She is the latest of several recent high-profile departures from Trump’s White House.

Another communications aide, Josh Raffel, said on Tuesday he would resign. A top technology aide, Reed Cordish, said earlier this month he would leave.

Staff secretary Rob Porter resigned earlier this month after reports that he had been accused of domestic violence by two ex-wives.

Hicks is telling friends she has been mulling her future for months and began discussing her post-White House options with some confidantes as early as November, well before the Porter news broke, two people said.

While some inside the White House have been concerned about the emotional toll that the Porter revelations had taken on Hicks, two people said that situation was not pivotal in shaping her decision to leave.

Hicks had told friends she was frustrated with the constant barrage of unattributed rumours and negative news stories that she said made it hard for officials to concentrate on long-term projects.

She privately prepared some White House aides in recent days for the news of her departure, but wanted to wait until Wednesday after her testimony to the House intelligence committee to make it public.

Hicks told Trump of her plans this week. Trump told her he did not want her to leave, but accepted her decision, according to the people.

Two White House officials said the timing of her departure was awkward for Trump, who is dealing with the fallout of a controversy over security clearances, as well as ongoing probes into Russian meddling in the US election.

Hicks testified for about nine hours in private to the House intelligence committee on Tuesday.

She told the panel that if Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, had gone through the same level of background checks as other Trump campaign aides, he would never have got the campaign’s top job, a House official familiar with the testimony said.

She also told the panel that she occasionally was required to tell "white lies" in her job, but later clarified that that did not apply to substantive matters, the official said.

Hicks was involved in the reporting of a damaging book on the White House, Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury, published earlier this year.

Hicks and another senior aide, Kellyanne Conway, were the first officials to consider a pitch from the author in February 2017, though they did not commit to officially participate in the book.

Hicks later told other Trump aides to speak with Wolff as long as they made positive comments, and some of the most senior White House staff believed Hicks had authorised their co-operation with the book, according to people familiar with the matter.

She was also romantically linked to Porter before the revelations of his history with his ex-wives.

The administration has not named a successor to Hicks, but Mercedes Schlapp, the White House’s director of strategic communications, has been discussed as a possible replacement, according to several people familiar with those discussions.

Schlapp served in the administration of President George W Bush and has also been a political consultant and a commentator on Fox News.

Her husband, Matt Schlapp, is the chairman of the American Conservative Union and was the organiser of last week’s Conservative Political Action Conference.


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