Judiciary chair: Hicks broke with Trump on accepting foreign dirt on opponents

Former Trump aide Hope Hicks told lawmakers Wednesday that President Trump's statement about accepting political dirt on his 2020 opponents from foreign entities was troubling and that she believed he was "serious" when he said it, according to a written statement by House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.).

Nadler offered details about Hicks's closed-door interview - a transcript of which is expected to be released later this week - in his prepared opening remarks for a hearing Thursday focused on special counsel Robert Mueller's report.

"His invitation to foreign actors is so alarming that even one of his most loyal former aides, Hope Hicks, knew that the president's statement was troubling," read a copy of Nadler's prepared opening statement.

"Yesterday, during her transcribed interview, Ms. Hicks made clear that she understood the president to be serious when he said that he would accept foreign interference in our elections," Nadler continued. "She also made clear that even she knew that such foreign assistance should be rejected and reported to the FBI."

Nadler did not read the line from the statement when he delivered his remarks Thursday, however. 

"We heard some relevant testimony about this in the Hicks interview yesterday and we will be releasing that transcript soon," he said instead when referencing Trump's remarks on accepting foreign dirt. 

Trump told ABC's George Stephanopoulos in an interview last week that he would accept damaging information on his 2020 opponents from foreign powers and that he would not necessarily call the FBI about it. The remarks inspired bipartisan criticism.

Trump walked back his remarks the following day, saying he would call the FBI, but he also said he would still look at the information.

"Of course you have to look at it because if you don't look at it you're not going to know if it's bad," Trump said in an interview with Fox News on Friday. "If I thought anything was incorrect or badly stated I'd report to the FBI or law enforcement, absolutely."

Republicans have criticized Trump for the remarks, saying that outreach from a foreign nation about an election should be reported to the FBI.

Thursday's hearing came one day after Hicks testified before the committee behind closed doors as part of its investigation into allegations of obstruction and abuses of power by Trump.

Hicks testified for nearly eight hours privately, with committee staff and lawmakers questioning her about her time working for Trump on his 2016 campaign and later about her role as a trusted communications aide in the Trump White House.

Lawmakers from both parties said Wednesday that she refused to answer questions about her time working in the administration, adhering to instructions from White House lawyers. The White House argued she is immune from being forced to give congressional testimony, while Democrats expressed outrage at the White House's efforts to limit her testimony.

Republicans, meanwhile, described the private interview as a complete waste of time, accusing Democrats of attempting to relitigate issues already explored by Mueller in his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

"I hoped the John Dean hearing was the end to the circus, because no matter how many times we 'relive' the findings of the report, the conclusions will not magically change," the committee's top Republican, Rep. Doug Collins (Ga.), said in opening remarks Thursday, referring to the former White House counsel to President Nixon and key figure during the Watergate scandal that Democrats invited to testify earlier this month.

Thursday's hearing is expected focus on Volume I of the Mueller report, which catalogues well over a hundred contacts between members or associates of the Trump campaign and Kremlin-linked figures.

Mueller did not ultimately charge members of the Trump campaign with conspiring with Russia to meddle in the election. The special counsel also did not reach a conclusion on whether Trump obstructed justice.

Updated: 11:05 a.m.