In lengthy and sometimes contentious closed-door testimony on Capitol Hill on Wednesday, former top White House adviser Hope Hicks took a shot at the discredited Steele dossier, told the panel's Democrats that "we have this thing called Google now," and revealed new information about her knowledge of President Trump's supposed "hush-money" payments to two women.
And, Hicks, responding to a question about her widely reported remark that she occasionally told "white lies" for Trump, explained, "I stand by my earlier characterization of telling white lies, which I believe to be things like 'No, the President is not available right now' when he is. But, no, I've never been asked to lie about matters of substance or consequence."
Hicks also said to her knowledge, Trump never told anyone on the campaign to lie.
Hicks was, however, blocked by President Trump's lawyers from answering questions more than 150 times in her interview with the House Judiciary Committee, according to Democrats who released a 273-page transcript Thursday. Hicks refused to answer questions related to her time working for Trump after he was elected, following orders from White House lawyers.
Hicks, now the chief communications officer at Fox Corporation, did answer questions about her time before and after she worked in the White House.
Lawmakers pressed Hicks in particular about her knowledge of hush-money payments orchestrated by former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen to two women who claimed to have had affairs with Trump — the adult-film actress Stormy Daniels and model Karen McDougal. Trump has denied the allegations. Cohen earlier this year started serving a three-year prison sentence partly for campaign violations related to the payments.
"I had that knowledge [of the hush money payments] as [American Media CEO] David Pecker provided the statement that they planned to provide to The Wall Street Journal to me just before it was given to the reporter as a heads-up," Hicks said.
The transcript of Wednesday's interview served as a preview of a court battle that Democrats have said is certain. The Trump administration declared Hicks was "absolutely immune" from discussing her time working at the White House because of separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches.
During the interview, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., told White House lawyers who blocked Hicks from answering questions that the immunity assertion was "absolute nonsense as a matter of law."
On three occasions during the hearing, Nadler referred to Hicks as Ms. Lewandowski. Corey Lewandowski served as Trump's campaign manager for a period in 2016, and rumors swirled that he and Hicks had dated.
"My name is Ms. Hicks," the former Trump aide responded at one point.
"I'm sorry, Ms. Hicks. I'm preoccupied," Nadler said.
Republicans said Democrats' questions were, at times, inappropriate, with some saying Nadler had likely referred to Hicks as "Ms. Lewandowski" on purpose.
"My sources that were inside and did the interviewing said it was quite embarrassing to watch the Democratic congressmen essentially ask Hope Hicks about her love life," California GOP Rep Devin Nunes told Fox News on Thursday. "I think the American people would be ashamed if they knew what actually happened in that room."
The interview largely frustrated Democrats who hoped to get more information about several episodes that Special Counsel Robert Mueller reviewed for obstruction of justice.
Hicks was a key witness for Mueller, delivering important information to the special counsel's office about multiple episodes involving the president. Mueller wrote in his report released in April that there was not enough evidence to establish a criminal conspiracy between Trump's 2016 campaign and Russia, but said he could not exonerate Trump on obstruction of justice.
Hicks did discuss a June 2016 meeting in Trump Tower with a Russian lawyer, one of the key events Mueller examined in the part of his report dealing with Russian election interference. Emails leading up to the meeting had promised dirt on Democrat Hillary Clinton. Hicks said she learned of the meeting in June 2017, weeks before it became public in the news media.
Hicks at one point said she would not accept dirt on a political opponent from a foreign government and would not advise someone on a campaign to do so. Trump, speaking to ABC News’ George Stephanopoulos last week, indicated that he would not necessarily be opposed to receiving foreign opposition research. ("I think I'd want to hear it... I think you might want to listen, there isn't anything wrong with listening," he said.)
“You know, knowing how much chaos has been sowed as a result of something like the Steele dossier, no, I would not,” Hicks said, in a shot at the discredited opposition research document used to justify a surveillance warrant against former Trump aide Carter Page. The dossier was compiled by British ex-spy Christopher Steele and funded by the Hillary Clinton campaign and Democratic National Committee (DNC).
Numerous issues with the Steele dossier's reliability have surfaced, including several that were brought to the FBI's attention before it cited the dossier in its FISA application and subsequent renewals. Mueller's report made plain, for example, that Michael Cohen did not travel to Prague to conspire with Russian hackers seeking to access Democrat files, as the dossier alleged.
Mueller also was unable to substantiate the dossier's claims that Page had received a large payment relating to the sale of a share of Rosneft, a Russian oil giant.
Trump last week said "of course" he'd listen to foreign dirt on an opponent. Later, after coming under heavy criticism, Trump said he would report the offer to the FBI.
As Hicks spoke to the committee, Trump tweeted throughout the day. He said the interview was "extreme Presidential Harassment," and wrote that Democrats "are very unhappy with the Mueller Report, so after almost 3 years, they want a Redo, or Do Over."
He also tweeted that it was "so sad that the Democrats are putting wonderful Hope Hicks through hell."
On Thursday, Trump said he heard Hicks was "terrific" in the interview. The president has said he would fight "all of the subpoenas."
Fox News' Andrew O'Reilly, Catherine Herridge and The Associated Press contributed to this report.