Hope Hicks arrives for closed-door House testimony

Hope HicksHope Charlotte HicksJustice Dept releases another round of summaries from Mueller probe Former White House official won't testify, lawyer says Trump: 'Top shows' on Fox News, cable are 'Fair (or great)' to me MORE arrived Wednesday morning for closed door testimony before the House Judiciary Committee, the panel’s first major witness to testify as part of the committee’s sprawling investigation into President TrumpDonald John TrumpRepublicans aim to avoid war with White House over impeachment strategy New York Times editorial board calls for Trump's impeachment Trump rips Michigan Rep. Dingell after Fox News appearance: 'Really pathetic!' MORE.

Hicks arrived shortly before 9 a.m. flanked by her attorney Bob Trout and others. She did not respond to questions yelled by reporters as she walked in, and Judiciary members remained tight-lipped as they entered the committee room.


Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerJudiciary members battle over whether GOP treated fairly in impeachment hearings Live coverage: House Judiciary to vote on impeachment after surprise delay House passes bill that would give legal status to thousands of undocumented farmworkers MORE (D-N.Y.) followed closely behind Hicks and also did not speak as he entered the closed-door space.

Drama is likely to explode after the White House signaled on the eve of the interview that it would block Hicks, the president’s former communications director, from answering questions about her time in the White House, arguing she is immune from compelled congressional testimony.

White House counsel Pat Cipollone in a Tuesday letter to Nadler said Trump instructed Hicks not to answer questions about her time in the administration, which stretched until February of last year.

“Ms. Hicks is absolutely immune from being compelled to testify before Congress with respect to matters occurring during her service as a senior adviser to the President,” Cipollone wrote Tuesday.

“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,” he continued.

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.

Democrats, who are eager to question the former administration and Trump campaign aide, are likely to be furious by the move as they accuse the White House of going to unprecedented lengths to stonewall their investigations.

Hicks was mentioned more than 180 times in special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerJeffries blasts Trump for attack on Thunberg at impeachment hearing Live coverage: House Judiciary to vote on impeachment after surprise delay Trump says he'll release financial records before election, knocks Dems' efforts MORE’s report, and she is seen as a key witness for Democrats as they move forward to investigate the episodes of potential obstruction of justice by Trump that are laid out in the report.

If Hicks declines to answer such questions, it could further escalate the already tense showdown between House Democrats and the White House. Democrats could also look to go to court to enforce the subpoena for documents and testimony from her.