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WASHINGTON — Lawyers for the Trump administration blocked Hope Hicks, a former top aide to President Donald Trump, from answering questions posed by lawmakers 155 times during her closed-door interview Wednesday on Capitol Hill this week, according to Democrats who released a transcript of the session Thursday evening.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerry Nadler, D-N.Y., released the 273-page transcript a day after Hicks testified for roughly seven hours before his committee as part of the panel’s investigation into possible obstruction of justice by the president.
Hicks, 30, was accompanied by two private attorneys, three lawyers from the White House and a lawyer from the Department of Justice, Nadler said.
During the interview, Rep. Ted Deutch, D-Fla., asked Hicks about Trump’s effort to push former White House counsel Don McGahn to remove special counsel Robert Mueller from the Russia investigation.
“On the evening of June 14th, 2017, The Washington Post reported the special counsel was investigating the President's conduct for possible obstruction of justice. Were there any discussions that took place with the President about his refusal to cooperate with the special counsel on obstruction-of-justice claims?” Deutch asked.
“Objection,” said White House attorney Michael Purpura.
Deutch continued, “Were you in any meetings where there were any discussions with the President of the United States about his refusal to answer any questions about obstruction of justice?”
“Objection,” Purpura said again.
There were a number of similarly made objections by the lawyers throughout the interview, such as when Democrats asked Hicks about the recusal of Attorney General Jeff Sessions from the Russia probe and the firing of James Comey as FBI director, Democrats said, pointing to the transcript.
Democrats said that White House lawyers even prevented Hicks from sharing where her desk was in the West Wing in relation to the Oval Office, citing their claim of her immunity when discussing her time working in the White House.
"I'm going to object here, Mr. Chairman," her lawyer said when Nadler asked about the location of her White House office.
During the interview, Hicks was also asked by Rep. David Cicilline, D-R.I., whether the Trump campaign was “happy” about the WikiLeaks release of hacked information from Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
“I think that "happy" is not — I don't think that's a fair characterization. I think 'relief that we weren't the only campaign with issues' is more accurate,” Hicks said.
She also said that she would not accept information from a foreign government today and that she would report such an offer to the FBI if she “felt it was legitimate enough to have our law enforcement dedicate their time to it, sure.”
One question referenced the recent interview Trump did with ABC News in which he said he would take information about a political opponent from a foreign adversary.
Hicks was asked if she thought his comments were a joke. "I don't know. I have not discussed that remark with the president," she said. "I didn't — I didn't see the entire interview, so I saw the clip you're referencing. I don't know if there was additional context. I don't think that was a joke, based on what I saw."
Asked about the extent of the contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia and the number of contacts made, Hicks said, “I think someone mentioned upwards of 100 earlier today. I don't know if that's accurate or if that's an accurate recollection.” She added that she was “very surprised” to learn that fact, because she “wasn't aware of any contacts during my time on the campaign.”
Rep. Doug Collins, R-Ga., the top Republican on the panel, said after the transcript’s release Thursday that Congress had learned nothing new from Hicks’s testimony.
“Ms. Hicks testified there was no collusion. She noted clearly when Democrats mischaracterized her words, and ultimately, Ms. Hicks testified she doesn’t believe she provided any new information that she hadn't already provided to multiple different bodies investigating the president,” Collins said in a statement. “If Chairman Nadler were truly interested in gathering new facts, he would issue a subpoena to Robert Mueller, since no privileges or immunities would apply to his appearance or testimony, and Congress has yet to hear from him.”
Nadler has said he has not ruled out issuing a subpoena for testimony from the former special counsel.
Hicks previously served as White House communications director and the White House director of strategic communications after a stint as a senior aide on Trump's 2016 campaign.
The White House directed Hicks and another former White House aide this month not to hand over any documents to the House Judiciary Committee related to their time at the White House.