Trump has coronavirus: Who is Hope Hicks, the president’s closest aide?

The 31-year-old counsellor to the president suddenly found herself at the centre of a White House coronavirus outbreak

Andrew Naughtie
Friday 02 October 2020 12:20
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Who is Hope Hicks?

Before Donald and Melania Trump tested positive for Covid-19, they were forced into quarantine after a core staff member tested positive.

Hope Hicks, a 31-year-old adviser who has been close to the president for years, travelled with Mr Trump and numerous other advisers on Air Force One to and from Minnesota for a campaign rally.

Ms Hicks has been close to Mr Trump since before he was president, and at one point had served him longer than any other aide. Having been picked from Ivanka Trump’s corporate communications staff by the then-candidate, she quickly exceeded expectations given her lack of experience and became one of his most trusted advisers.

After working on his campaign, she became White House communications director. In that role, she served as the principal gatekeeper between the press and the president, but unlike various other advisers, she kept a low profile and very rarely speaking in public. 

Mr Trump has always rated her very highly, as have various of his inner circle in interviews given over the years. During the 2016 race, then-campaign manager Paul Manafort – now convicted on various charges after a long investigation – described her as a remarkable asset to the Trump team.

"This is her first campaign,” he told the Hartford Courant, a newspaper from Ms Hicks’s home state. “She’s in her mid-20s, and she has shown incredible depth and breadth. I would never know this is her first campaign. She has an incredible skill set in dealing with the media.’’

The controversial book Fire and Fury, an incendiary behind-the-scenes account of Mr Trump’s early administration, claimed that Ms Hicks was for a time in an on-and-off relationship with Corey Lewandowski, the Trump campaign manager who became a focus of the investigation into Russian campaign interference. When she expressed her worry to Mr Trump about the bad press that Mr Lewandowski was receiving, the book claims, Mr Trump dismissed it out of hand in profane terms.

She left the White House a day after testifying to the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, which at that time was investigating Mr Trump’s connections to Russian interests. She admitted to having been told to tell “white lies” on behalf of the administration, but denied any role in any cover-up of communications with Russians.

Upon her resignation as communications director the next day, Mr Trump sang her praises in a statement. “She is as smart and thoughtful as they come,” he said, “a truly great person. I will miss having her by my side, but when she approached me about pursuing other opportunities, I totally understood. I am sure we will work together again in the future.”

A year after her resignation, Ms Hicks was called back to testify before the house again. On that occasion, she declined to answer more than 150 questions that were put to her, with White House lawyers citing a form of executive “absolute immunity” that committee chairman Jerrold Nadler called “absolute nonsense as a matter of law”.

After a spell working behind the scenes at Fox News parent company Fox Corporation, she returned to the White House in February this year with the title of counselor to the president, she has worked closely with both Mr Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, who has played an outsized role in responding to the coronavirus crisis. She has once again kept a low profile – that is, until now.

Hours after her diagnosis, actor-comedian Tom Arnold – a harsh Trump critic – briefly shared what he claimed to be Ms Hicks’s phone number on Twitter. "Silent thoughts & prayers aren't enough for national treasure Hope Hicks," he wrote. "She needs to hear them." The tweet has now been deleted. 

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