Democrats fume, say Hicks declines to answer questions

Democrats are fuming after Hope HicksHope Charlotte HicksWhite House says Hope Hicks ‘immune’ from compelled congressional testimony White House says Hope Hicks ‘immune’ from compelled congressional testimony Democrats banking on Hicks testimony to advance Trump probes MORE declined to answer questions about her time in the Trump administration during a closed-door interview before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday.

Democrats blasted the argument made by White House lawyers that the president’s former communications director is “absolutely immune” from giving compelled congressional testimony.

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“I’ve been watching obstruction of justice in action,” Rep. Ted LieuTed W. LieuDemocrats ask OSC to review whether Kushner violated Hatch Act Democrats ask OSC to review whether Kushner violated Hatch Act Overnight Defense: Trump doubles down on claim Iran attacked tankers | Iran calls accusations ‘alarming’ | Top nuke official quietly left Pentagon | Pelosi vows Congress will block Saudi arms sale MORE (D-Calif.) told reporters after two hours of questioning. “You have their White House serving ‘absolute immunity,’ which is not a thing — it doesn’t exist.”

Democrats emerged from the hearing room throughout the first three hours of her testimony, with some claiming she would not even answer questions about where her office was located in the White House.

When asked if he has learned anything new, Lieu and other Democrats pointed to the release of the interview transcript expected to be made public on Friday.

Rep. Val DemingsValdez (Val) Venita Demings2020 Democrats mark three years since Pulse nightclub shooting 2020 Democrats mark three years since Pulse nightclub shooting Florida lawmakers propose making Pulse nightclub a national memorial MORE (D-Fla.) said Hicks had answered some questions, presumably those about her work on the Trump campaign, which the White House was not expected to limit. Demings, however would not get into the details of her testimony.

“She’s answered some,” Demings said.

Hicks is testifying as part of the Judiciary Committee’s sprawling investigation into alleged abuses of power and obstruction.

Her decision to follow orders of both the White House and her private lawyer and limit her testimony delivered a forceful blow to Democrats who are eager to highlight the episodes of potential obstruction by President TrumpDonald John TrumpGOP senator introduces bill to hold online platforms liable for political bias Rubio responds to journalist who called it ‘strange’ to see him at Trump rally Rubio responds to journalist who called it ‘strange’ to see him at Trump rally MORE as laid out in special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerKamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have ‘no choice’ but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have ‘no choice’ but to prosecute Trump for obstruction Dem committees win new powers to investigate Trump MORE’s report.

Republicans blasted the hearing as a complete waste of time, with some stating after roughly two hours of questioning that the interview has failed to yield any new information and served as nothing more than a public relations stunt for Democrats.

“[The interview] is simply to have y’all something to write about because there’s nothing new here,” Rep. Doug CollinsDouglas (Doug) Allen CollinsDemocrats banking on Hicks testimony to advance Trump probes Democrats banking on Hicks testimony to advance Trump probes Tensions between Democrats, Justice cool for a day MORE (Ga.), the top Republican on the committee, told reporters after 2 1/2 hours of questioning. “This has been another time that they can get a press release as the Democrats try to keep relitigating the Mueller investigation.”

While Democrats declined to elaborate about details of the substance of Hicks’s testimony, some members like Rep. David CicillineDavid Nicola CicillineCracks form in Democratic dam against impeachment Cracks form in Democratic dam against impeachment Overnight Defense: Trump doubles down on claim Iran attacked tankers | Iran calls accusations ‘alarming’ | Top nuke official quietly left Pentagon | Pelosi vows Congress will block Saudi arms sale MORE (D-R.I.) suggested that they would have to go to court to enforce the congressional subpoena, voicing concern that this treatment cannot become a precedent.

Demings also said the committee is “prepared to do whatever we need to do” to get the information they are after.

Some GOP members dodged when asked if the White House was acting appropriately in blocking Hicks’s testimony, either declining to comment or stating that an opinion on the matter is outside their lane. Collins, however, said he had no issue with how the interview is going.

The committee and the White House clashed over Hicks’s slated testimony on the eve of her return to Capitol Hill. White House counsel Pat Cipollone wrote to House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerWant the truth? Put your money on Bill Barr, not Jerry Nadler From abortion to obstruction, politicians’ hypocrisy is showing Watergate figure John Dean earns laughter for responses to GOP lawmakers MORE (D-N.Y.) in a Tuesday letter that Trump had instructed Hicks not to answer questions about her time in the administration, arguing hat she is “absolutely immune” from compelled congressional testimony about her work as a senior adviser to the president.

“Because of this constitutional immunity, and in order to protect the prerogatives of the Office of the President, the President has directed Ms. Hicks not to answer questions before the Committee relating to the time of her service as a senior adviser to the President,” Cipollone wrote Tuesday.

Cipollone also indicated the White House, which sent at least one lawyer to accompany Hicks on Wednesday, would prevent the former aide from discussing some of her work on the presidential transition.

Meanwhile, Trump ridiculed Democrats for attempting a “redo” of Mueller’s investigation by bringing in Hicks as a witness in a series of tweets Wednesday morning. Trump also accused Democrats of ignoring what he termed the “real obstruction” by his 2016 Democratic opponent Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonFive takeaways from Trump’s 2020 kickoff rally Five takeaways from Trump’s 2020 kickoff rally Trump jokes he’d get ‘electric chair’ if he deleted even one ‘love note’ email to Melania MORE.

Hicks arrived shortly before 9 a.m. for the closed-door interview. It stretched into the early afternoon Wednesday. The committee is expected to release a transcript soon after it is concluded.

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