WASHINGTON — In her marathon nine-hour closed-door meeting with the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, White House communications director Hope Hicks refused to say whether she had lied for a number of senior White House and Trump campaign officials, even as she acknowledged telling ‘‘white lies’’ for President Trump.
According to a Democrat and a Republican on the panel, Hicks refused to answer questions about whether she had been asked to lie by White House aides and Trump’s family members, including Jared Kushner, Ivanka Trump, and Donald Trump, Jr., former White House adviser Stephen Bannon, and former campaign officials Corey Lewandowski and Paul Manafort.
The testimony came a day before Hicks, 29, announced her plan to resign from the White House.
The one exception she made, according to Representative Eric Swalwell, Democrat from California, was acknowledging that former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn had asked her during the transition period to dissemble about questions he was getting regarding his conversations with the Russian ambassador, Sergey Kislyak.
She claimed that she didn’t know she was being asked to lie, but she felt that Flynn was being ‘’dishonest,’’ he said.
He said she did not answer when Swalwell asked why she would refuse to say whether other aides had asked her to lie when she was willing to speak about Flynn. Hicks’s admission came toward the end of her interview, as part of an exchange with Swalwell about whether Hicks had ‘‘ever lied for’’ Trump — a question Hicks initially refused to answer until she had consulted with her lawyer. Her recalcitrance left Democrats and Republicans on the panel with radically different interpretations about what her answers — particularly her admission that she had told ‘‘white lies’’ — means.
‘‘If your response to the question, ‘have you ever lied for your boss’ is to pause and take two timeouts, then we already know the answer,’’ Swalwell said, recapping his version of the exchange for The Washington Post.
On several occasions, Democrats asked Republican panel leaders to issue Hicks a subpoena for failing to provide more detailed answers to their questions about lies, but they refused. The GOP maintains that Hicks was simply a victim of her own conscientiousness, and her ‘‘white lies’’ answer, according to Republican panel member Representative Peter King of New York, was simply an effort to avoid what he said was ‘‘a setup’’ and ‘‘a perjury trap.’’
The distinction highlights the sharp partisan divide between members of the House Intelligence Committee, who have interviewed the same witnesses during their monthslong probe into Russian meddling in the 2016 US elections, but are at odds over whether Trump affiliates’ actions and conversations were innocuous or potentially insidious.