White House Communications Director Hope Hicks met with lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee for nine hours Tuesday for a closed-door interview as part of the committee’s investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Hicks did not respond to questions from reporters as she left the Capitol, but one of the Republican members of the committee, Rep. Tom Rooney of Florida, said she had declined to answer questions about her time in the Trump administration.
Others who have worked in the White House, including former strategist Steve Bannon, also have declined to talk about that time in interviews with the committee.
Rooney did say that Hicks was willing to discuss her time on the Trump campaign and the transition, after being told she had answered similar questions by the Senate Intelligence Committee several months ago. Hicks was Trump’s spokeswoman during the 2016 campaign, and is considered a key eyewitness to Trump’s actions over the period prior to his inauguration.
Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., the committee’s ranking member, told reporters that Hicks had been “instructed by her employer at the White House not to answer any questions about events and meetings after the transition.”
Schiff described it as a “breathtakingly broad claim of privilege that I don’t think any court would sustain.”
“My understanding was that Hope Hicks would be willing to answer everything,” another Republican committee member, Rep. Peter King of New York, told Fox News’ “The Story.” “But the White House asked her only to answers up to the end of the campaign, because that was really in the scope of the hearing.”
Republicans and Democrats were divided on whether the committee would subpoena Hicks for more answers. The panel subpoenaed Bannon last month after he refused to answer questions, but he has yet to cooperate. The House now is considering whether to hold Bannon in contempt.
“She’s answered questions on the transition. Mr. Bannon was claiming a privilege based on the transition [where] we were asking what the privilege was and we weren’t comfortable that there was such a privilege,” Rooney said. “Since she has decided to answer questions based on that transition, then she cannot be compared to Mr. Bannon.”
Schiff disagreed, saying that the committee was using “one rule for Bannon and one for everyone else.”
Hicks also has been interviewed by special counsel Robert Mueller, according to published reports, along with other White House officials. Mueller is investigating matters related to the Russian meddling and potential obstruction of an ongoing federal inquiry.
While the investigation is focused on Russian interference during the campaign, House investigators also had questions about her time in the White House, including her role in drafting a statement about a 2016 meeting between Trump campaign officials and Russians. That statement has been of particular interest to Mueller.
The White House has said the president was involved in drafting the statement after news of the meeting broke last summer. The statement said the meeting primarily concerned a Russian adoption program, though emails released later showed that Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump, Jr., enthusiastically agreed to the sit-down with a Russian lawyer and others after he was promised dirt on Trump’s presidential rival, Democrat Hillary Clinton. Hicks was with the president on Air Force One, while they were writing the initial statement.
“All of our questions about what went into that statement went unanswered,” Schiff said.
Fox News’ Chad Pergram and The Associated Press contributed to this report.