National Security

Judiciary chair demands Hope Hicks clarify closed-door testimony

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) is demanding that former White House communications director Hope Hicks clarify her testimony before the committee after he said new court filings suggested there were "inconsistencies" between her words and evidence collected by federal investigators about payments Michael Cohen made to women who alleged affairs with President Trump before the 2016 election.

"We write regarding your testimony before the House Judiciary Committee on June 19, 2019, which appears to be inconsistent with evidence unsealed this morning by a federal judge in New York," Nadler wrote in a letter released Thursday evening.

"As I reminded you at the outset of your interview, anything other than complete candor can have very serious consequences. Accordingly, I would expect you to clarify this matter before the Committee in very short order-but no later than August 15, 2019," he wrote.

Nadler threatened to use the compulsory process if Hicks does not clarify her testimony voluntarily. 

In a statement Friday, Hicks's attorney Bob Trout said his client stands by her "truthful testimony" and dismissed suggestions she was involved in conversations about the hush-money payments.

Nadler's letter comes after court filings showed Hicks participated in a phone call with then-candidate Donald Trump and Cohen, his former longtime lawyer, at a time when Cohen was trying to prevent the details about an alleged affair with adult-film star Stormy Daniels from becoming public knowledge.

Cohen is currently serving prison time for campaign finance violations stemming from payments made to Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal during the 2016 contest. Both women alleged affairs with Trump, which the president has denied. 

Hicks told the House Judiciary Committee during closed-door testimony in June that she was never "present" when Trump discussed Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, with Cohen and that she had no direct knowledge of payments made to Daniels, according to a transcript of the closed-door interview.

The newly unsealed filings have led some to cast doubt on her statements.

An April 2018 affidavit justifying search warrants in Cohen's case states that, after an "Access Hollywood" tape of Trump boasting about grabbing women by the genitals was released in October 2016, Cohen exchanged several communications with Keith Davidson, Daniels's then attorney, executives at American Media Inc., as well as Trump and Hicks.

"Based on the timing of these calls, and the content of the text messages and emails, I believe that at least some of these communications concerned the need to prevent Clifford from going public, particularly in the wake of the Access Hollywood story," the affidavit states. 

The document states that Cohen received a call from Hicks on the evening of Oct. 8, 2016, and that Trump joined the call 16 seconds into it.

The call continued for more than four minutes. The document states that the call was the first Cohen had made to or received from Hicks in at least several weeks. The document also states that after the call ended, Hicks and Cohen spoke again for roughly two minutes. Cohen then called David Pecker, the president of American Media Inc., immediately after he got off the phone with Hicks, according to the documents.

Nadler's letter points to multiple exchanges during which Hicks was asked during the June 19 interview about her knowledge of the hush money payments or participation in interactions with Cohen or Trump about them.

In one exchange, Hicks was asked by Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas): "Were you ever present when Trump and Cohen discussed Stormy Daniels?"

"No, ma'am," Hicks replied. 

"I'm going to say it again. Were you ever present when Trump and Mr. Cohen discussed Stormy Daniels, since it was all over the news that that occurred?" Jackson Lee pressed. 

White House attorney Patrick Philbin interrupted to clarify that Jackson Lee was referring to the time during the Trump campaign.

When she said it was, Hicks replied, "So, no is my answer." 

Nadler on Thursday offered Hicks the opportunity to clarify her closed-door testimony on a "voluntary basis," before the committee considers the "compulsory process." 

"In your testimony, you suggested that any knowledge you may have had about the President's arrangement with Ms. Daniels during the campaign was limited to information relayed to you from the press. The record now seems to suggest that you obtained additional information directly from Mr. Cohen prior to any public reporting on the matter," Nadler wrote. 

Trout, Hicks's attorney, said that his client would be responding formally to the committee in time. 

"Reports claiming that Ms. Hicks was involved in conversations about 'hush money' payments on October 8, 2016, or knew that payments were being discussed, are simply wrong. Ms. Hicks stands by her truthful testimony that she first became aware of this issue in early November 2016, as the result of press inquiries, and she will be responding formally to Chairman Nadler's letter as requested," Trout said.

The documents - which include search warrants, warrant applications and supporting affidavits tied to raids on Cohen's properties - were ordered released Thursday by U.S. District Judge William Pauley III, who wrote in an order Wednesday that federal prosecutors' investigation into the campaign finance violations tied to the hush money payments had ended.

"The campaign finance violations discussed in the Materials are a matter of national importance. Now that the Government's investigation into those violations has concluded, it is time that every American has an opportunity to scrutinize the Materials," Pauley wrote Wednesday.

Cohen is currently serving a three-year prison term for the campaign finance charges and various other crimes that he pleaded guilty to last year. 

Cohen has implicated Trump in the scheme to suppress the revelations about his alleged affairs before the 2016 election. However, the president has denied any wrongdoing and labeled Cohen, his onetime attorney and "fixer," a liar.

-Updated Friday at 11:10 a.m.

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