Democrats fume, say Hicks declines to answer questions

Democrats are fuming after Hope HicksHope Charlotte HicksFormer White House official won't testify, lawyer says Trump: 'Top shows' on Fox News, cable are 'Fair (or great)' to me Trump criticizes Fox, which 'isn't working for us anymore' 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.


“I’ve been watching obstruction of justice in action,” Rep. Ted LieuTed W. LieuWyden urges FCC to secure 5G networks against cyber threats Democrat hits White House spokeswoman after Trump appointee changes testimony PETA asks DOJ to stop conducting training that harms animals 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 DemingsHaley: Giuliani should've been named 'special envoy' to Ukraine Sunday shows - Second whistleblower grabs spotlight House Democrat: Trump 'dangerously abused his oath of office' 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 TrumpMost Americans break with Trump on Ukraine, but just 45 percent think he should be removed: poll Judge orders Democrats to give notice if they request Trump's NY tax returns Trump's doctor issues letter addressing 'speculation' about visit to Walter Reed MORE as laid out in special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSpeier says impeachment inquiry shows 'very strong case of bribery' by Trump Gowdy: I '100 percent' still believe public congressional hearings are 'a circus' Comey: Mueller 'didn't succeed in his mission because there was inadequate transparency' 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 CollinsThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Former Ukraine envoy offers dramatic testimony GOP eager for report on alleged FBI surveillance abuse House to vote on bill to ensure citizenship for children of overseas service members 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 CicillineHillicon Valley: Federal inquiry opened into Google health data deal | Facebook reports millions of post takedowns | Microsoft shakes up privacy debate | Disney plus tops 10M sign-ups in first day Top antitrust Dem presses DOJ, FTC on Google's Fitbit acquisition Hillicon Valley: California AG reveals Facebook investigation | McConnell criticizes Twitter's political ad ban | Lawmakers raise concerns over Google takeover of Fitbit | Dem pushes FCC to secure 5G networks 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 NadlerHouse to hold markup Wednesday on marijuana decriminalization bill House to vote on bill to ensure citizenship for children of overseas service members As impeachment goes public, forget 'conventional wisdom' 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 ClintonThe Memo: Centrists change tone of Democratic race In 2020, democracy will be decided at the margins Michelle Obama presents Lin-Manuel Miranda with National Portrait Award 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.