- REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
- Hope Hicks, the White House communications director, has come out relatively untainted as President Donald Trump’s administration continues dealing with the abrupt exit of two key aides accused of domestic abuse.
- The development comes amid reports that Hicks was instrumental in crafting White House chief of staff John Kelly’s response to allegations against Rob Porter, the former staff secretary whom Hicks is said to be dating.
- While Kelly and White House counsel Don McGahn have been roped into the controversy after reports surfaced that both men were aware of the allegations since last year, Hicks maintains strong support from Trump and other cabinet members.
The White House communications director, Hope Hicks, has emerged unscathed amid yet another West Wing shakeup following the sudden exit of two key staff members.
Former staff secretary Rob Porter and former White House speechwriter David Sorensen both left the administration this week, following reports detailing allegations of domestic abuse against the two men from their former wives. Hicks is reportedly dating Porter.
Colbie Holderness, who was married to Porter from 2003 to 2008, has provided photos to the FBI and news outlets of a black eye she says he gave her. Jennifer Willoughby, Porter’s wife from 2009 to 2013, provided a copy of a 2010 protective order she filed against him.
Hicks drew scrutiny earlier this week, when it was reported that she helped craft chief of staff John Kelly’s widely condemned response to the abuse allegations, in which he called Porter “a man of true integrity.”
The Washington Post reported Kelly “believes that Hicks did not tell him all the facts about Porter – and should have recused herself from the matter because she was dating him.”
“Her colleagues have quietly accused her of looking out for Porter and not the White House, and she has been visibly upset in recent days as her personal life becomes a national news story,” the report said.
Hicks reportedly knew about the allegations but continued to date Porter, and did not make the president aware of the developments.
White House counsel Don McGahn was also informed of the allegations against Porter last year but did not investigate them. Kelly, meanwhile, has signaled a willingness to resign over the scandal.
Both Kelly and McGahn are facing growing ire over the handling of the domestic abuse scandal. Trump is also privately said to be complaining about Hicks, The Washington Post reported. But the communications director continues to maintain strong public support from the White House. Contrary to his stance toward Kelly, Trump and those close to him have issued statements supporting Hicks.
“Hope is absolutely fantastic,” President Trump told the New York Times in a statement released through a spokesman. “She was with the campaign from the beginning, and I could not ask for anything more. Hope is smart, very talented and respected by all.”
Treasury secretary Steve Mnuchin also voiced his support.
“I have been impressed with Hope since I started working with her on the campaign,” Mnuchin told the Times. “She is exceptionally talented in leading communications for the administration. I view her as an invaluable asset to the president and us all.”
Hicks, the youngest White House communications director in history, has long been one of Trump’s closest confidants. She is said to be intensely private and rarely grants interviews to journalists on the record, a stark contrast from her boss’s approach. But people both inside and outside the White House have been eager to sing her praises, describing Hicks as fiercely loyal to Trump and highly effective at reading his moods.
Trump is said to get along better with Hicks than with any other aides, and she is the longest-serving West Wing staffer outside of members of Trump’s family.
The president values her input, often consulting her on tweets before he sends them out and frequently relying on her to help him analyze media coverage of him.
“Trump has seen her loyalty on the campaign and during the turbulent beginning of this administration, and he relies on her,” Christopher Ruddy, a close friend of the president and chief executive of the conservative website Newsmax, told The Post.