Democrats fume, say Hicks declines to answer questions

Democrats are fuming after Hope HicksHope HicksUPDATED: McEnany, Fox News talks on pause Trump selects Hicks, Bondi, Grenell and other allies for positions Trump lawyer Jenna Ellis tests positive for coronavirus 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.

ADVERTISEMENT

“I’ve been watching obstruction of justice in action,” Rep. Ted LieuTed W. LieuPost-Trump, Biden seeks to restore US relations with Holy See California Democrats clash over tech antitrust fight Tech antitrust bills create strange bedfellows in House markup 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 DemingsThe Hill's Morning Report - Surging COVID-19 infections loom over US, Olympics Six takeaways: What the FEC reports tell us about the midterm elections Cuba, Haiti pose major challenges for Florida Democrats 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 TrumpCuban embassy in Paris attacked by gasoline bombs Trump Jr. inches past DeSantis as most popular GOP figure in new poll: Axios Trump endorses Ken Paxton over George P. Bush in Texas attorney general race MORE as laid out in special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) MuellerSenate Democrats urge Garland not to fight court order to release Trump obstruction memo Why a special counsel is guaranteed if Biden chooses Yates, Cuomo or Jones as AG Barr taps attorney investigating Russia probe origins as special counsel 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 CollinsLoeffler meets with McConnell amid speculation of another Senate run Georgia agriculture commissioner launches Senate campaign against Warnock Poll shows tight GOP primary for Georgia governor 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 CicillineLobbying world Progressive fighting turns personal on internal call over antitrust bills Top Democrat leads bipartisan trip to Middle East 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 NadlerBritney Spears's new attorney files motion to remove her dad as conservator Here's what Congress is reading at the beach this summer Activists see momentum as three new states legalize marijuana 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 ClintonA path to climate, economic and environmental justice is finally on the horizon Polling misfired in 2020 — and that's a lesson for journalists and pundits Biden flexes presidential muscle on campaign trail with Virginia's McAuliffe 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.