Who is Hope Hicks, the longtime Trump advisor who’s seen it all?

Former White House communications director takes witness stand in New York to address hush money case

Joe Sommerlad
Friday 03 May 2024 19:42 BST
Donald Trump falsely claims he’s not allowed to testify because of hush money gag order

Hope Hicks, the woman who once stood at the heart of Donald Trump’s political operations, took the witness stand in her former boss’s hush money trial in New York on Friday.

Once a key member of Trump’s inner circle, the two have not spoken since 2022. But according to insiders, Ms Hicks remains fond of the ex-president and wants nothing but the best for him - even as she appears under subpoena to give evidence in his so-called hush money trial.

Trump has spent the majority of the past three weeks listening to evidence presented at Manhattan Criminal Court where he is accused of falsifying business records to hide a $130,000 payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels after she alleged in October 2016 that they had a sexual encounter a decade earlier. It was a revelation that threatened to sink his bid for the presidency eight years ago.

Trump denies the affair and the 34 felony charges against him.

He has decried the trial as a “scam” cooked up by his political enemies to discredit him and derail his latest campaign for the White House.

So far, jurors in Judge Juan Merchan’s courtroom have heard from colourful witnesses summoned by the prosecution – including tabloid publisher David Pecker and Ms Daniels’ former attorney Keith Davidson – and soon expect to hear from Mr Trump’s former fixer Michael Cohen and perhaps Ms Daniels herself.

But Ms Hicks’s name has been invoked many times throughout the evidence so far.

Donald Trump and Hope Hicks at a Make America Great Again rally in Dubuque, Iowa, on 1 November 2020
Donald Trump and Hope Hicks at a Make America Great Again rally in Dubuque, Iowa, on 1 November 2020 (AFP/Getty)

Ex-National Enquirer editor David Pecker told jurors that Ms Hicks had been “in and out” of the pivotal August 2015 meeting at Trump Tower at which he, Mr Trump and Cohen had discussed The National Enquirer serving as the campaign’s “eyes and ears”, helping to catch and kill stories that could damage the Republican’s chances of victory.

Ms Hicks, now 35, has been described by The Washington Post as “the Zelig of Trumpworld” who was “present for nearly every scandal that caught the scrutiny of special counsels, US attorneys, congressional committees, grand juries and federal prosecutors”.

From teenage model to Trump World via Ivanka’s clothing line

Raised in Greenwich, Connecticut, where she was a teenage model and lacrosse player, Ms Hicks graduated from Southern Methodist Univeristy in Texas before following her father into public relations in New York City.

She was assigned to work on a campaign for Ivanka Trump’s fashion line and two years later, in August 2014, joined the Trump Organization to work for the brand in-house where her role was to expand the line. She also did some modelling for the brand’s website.

Trump plucked her from his daughter’s company and by January 2015, aged 26, she was working on his presidential campaign in the role of press secretary, despite having no experience in politics.

‘You’re going to be my press secretary’: the road to the White House

She reportedly said: “Mr. Trump looked at me and said, ‘I’m thinking about running for president, and you’re going to be my press secretary.’”

But despite her lack of political experience (she had never even volunteered on a campaign), Ms Hicks proved herself a quick study, as sharp as she was liked by Trump staff.

She became the acceptable face of Trump’s 2016 campaign, overseeing which media outlets the candidate spoke to and even helped him draft his tweets.

She hadn’t planned on being his press secretary for long and was told early in the campaign that she had to choose between working for TrumpOrg or the campaign. According to a GQ article, she chose to leave the campaign but was persuaded to stay.

When Trump beat Democrat Hillary Clinton to the White House, despite the emergence of the Access Hollywood tape just a month earlier, Ms Hicks stayed on and was appointed White House director of strategic communications.

At Trump’s request, she kept a desk right outside the Oval Office - a spot usually reserved for more junior staff - so she would be on-hand to join meetings.

Donald Trump and Hope Hicks at the White House on 2 October 2020
Donald Trump and Hope Hicks at the White House on 2 October 2020 (EPA)

She was fiercely loyal and publicity-shy, avoiding interviews. But, crucially, she was “egoless”.

Her ex-coworker Tony Sayegh told The Post she was an “egoless” presence in an administration laden with large egos.

She was also so trusted by Trump that staff usually sought her approval before presenting ideas to the president.

Mr Sayegh said: “There was never an idea that we did not run by Hope first, because we knew that was going to increase the chance of the president agreeing to and approving it.”

From there, Ms Hicks stepped in at short notice to serve for six months as Mr Trump’s communications director, succeeding the exceedingly short-lived Anthony Scaramucci, who lasted less than a month in the job in July 2017.

She was appointed to the role permanently, becoming the youngest person ever to lead a White House communications team.

In 2017 she was named one of Forbes Magazine’s 30 Under 30. She was described as a “one-woman press team”.

From DC to the Golden State - and back again

Within a few months, however, Ms Hicks departed the White House. She moved to Los Angeles in March 2018 to work for the Fox Corporation on a lucrative deal. The move was a reprieve from the limelight over unwelcome tabloid interest in her personal life.

She would eventually be called back to DC by FBI special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, which saw him interview her three times and mention her name on 180 occasions in his eponymous report, published in April 2019.

A video of Hope Hicks testifying is played by the House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack at its final session on Capitol Hill on 19 December 2022
A video of Hope Hicks testifying is played by the House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack at its final session on Capitol Hill on 19 December 2022 (AP)

In its wake, the House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed Ms Hicks to appear for a behind-closed-doors hearing at which she was notoriously prevented from answering no fewer than 155 questions by White House lawyers.

After two years as Fox’s chief communications officer, she was welcomed back to the administration in March 2020 as Mr Trump’s new counselor to the president, working alongside Kellyanne Conway.

She served in that capacity until the tail end of the Trump presidency – there for the Covid-19 pandemic and the rocky summer of Black Lives Matter protests in response to the police killing of George Floyd – leaving her post six days after the mob attack on the US Capitol on 6 January 2021.

Life after the White House

She initially remained friendly with the Trumps and visited them at Mar-a-Lago.

But the relationship soured after she was subpoenaed to give evidence to the House Select Committee on the January 6 Attack in October 2022.

She recalled Mr Trump saying: “Nobody will care about my legacy if I lose... the only thing that matters is winning.”

The committee also discussed text messages sent by Ms Hicks pertaining to the riot that were highly critical of the president’s conduct. These angered both Mr Trump and his daughter Ivanka.

Ms Hicks went on to found a strategic consultancy firm of her own. She is currently engaged to Goldman Sachs banker Jim Donovan, 57, according to the Daily Mail.

But as for the frosty relationship with the man who supercharged her ascent to one of the most prominent jobs in politics, a former administration official who remains close to Ms Hicks told the Washington Post: “She still has warm feelings toward the president and a lot of admiration for him.”

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