Hope Hicks, the little-heard-from White House communications director, is at the heart of the latest twist in the Mueller investigation. The cascading of events surrounding the Russia investigation has already pushed President Trump's State of the Union address out of the headlines.
Has there ever been a White House communications director as invisible as Hope Hicks? Maybe she doesn’t like the spotlight, which makes her career choices seem strange. Or maybe there has been too much Spicey, Mooch and Huck for Hicks’ star to shine.
The wait to take center stage is done for Hope Hicks, thanks to the headline-generating Russia probe headed by special counsel Robert Mueller. This might not be the way Hicks wanted to burst onto the scene, but Mueller has a way of making stars of the unwilling.
Hicks’ rise to leading President Trump’s communications’ team might be the most unlikely path taken by a flak to the White House. Olivia Nuzzi wrote a wonderfully colorful profile of Hicks for GQ from the campaign trail in June of 2016. Many of the people from Trump’s pre-nomination days are gone. But not the fiercely loyal Hicks.
The New York Times reported Wednesday that Mueller is taking an interest in what happened aboard Air Force One while Team Trump drafted a response to revelations that Donald Trump Jr. met with a Russian lawyer during the presidential campaign in hopes of obtaining dirt on Hillary Clinton. Hicks was integral in drafting the response.
This week in TrumpThis is one in a continuing series of weekly posts that collect some of the most interesting news stories about Trump. Let us know what you think.
The news of Hicks, and the scramble to control the narrative about Trump Jr.’s interaction with Russians, quickly buried President Trump’s first State of the Union address Tuesday night. So let’s recap: Trump’s address didn’t do much to sway hearts and minds or make him appear more “presidential.” His base was pleased with tough talk on immigration and North Korea. The rest of the nation was left less than inspired by an address lacking in policy or a blueprint about how legislation will begin to happen in a painfully deadlocked Washington, D.C.
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As expected, Trump received raucous applause from Republicans while talking about the health of the economy, tax cuts and military spending. Trump even joined in on the applause directed at him. Democrats stayed seated and unclapping most of the night, save for a couple moments.
The morning-after response was glowing from pro-Trump news outlets like Fox News, where a columnist led her column with: “Hollywood, eat your hearts out. President Trump’s first-ever State of the Union Address delivered more drama, passion and feel-good patriotism than his critics in Tinseltown delivered all year. My guess — his ratings will top the Oscars and the Grammys, combined.”
You hear that, Hollywood? What we ‘Mericans need is more feel-good patriotism. Patriotism-escapism could be the next, big genre bankrolled by Trump’s Treasury Secretary, and movie producer, Steven Mnuchin.
Other right-leaning publications were more tempered in praise of Trump’s words:
- Ramesh Ponnuru at the National Review noted that the speech was heavy on past accomplishments but no “substance” when talking about the upcoming year.
- The American Conservative’s Robert W. Merry said the address didn’t adhere to either Republican or Democratic thinking, but did offer a fresh take on immigration and was worrisome on the issue of foreign policy.
- Ross Douthat predicts in The New York Times that a message more expansive than “if you like this economy, you should like me, too” is going to be needed to win reelection. He was less than impressed with the lack of details: “There were ideas here that could make Trump’s second year more successful than the first, but there was no plan to actually enact them, no sign that Trump is prepared to build bridges where he’s burned them, no plan for getting more out of this speech than just a temporary polling bump.”
In addition to the lack of policy in the address, many writers heard a message of fear. It was notable that Trump spent hardly any time talking about diplomacy with North Korea. The bulk of the portion of the speech dedicated to the isolated nation was spent demonizing it. The rhetoric sounded as if Trump was trying to convince the public of the inherent evilness of North Korea and the need to take forceful action. In response to North Korea’s prominent place in the State of the Union, Peter Beinart examined the possibility of war with North Korea in The Atlantic.
Then there was Trump’s line about Congress giving the White House and his cabinet greater authority to fire federal employees. Mark Follman at Mother Jones called the notion chilling, given recent reports that Trump tried to fire Mueller, removed James Comey as the head of the FBI and has let the world know he is none too happy with U.S. Attorney General Jeff Session for recusing himself from the Russia investigation.
As Mueller’s investigation appears to be gaining momentum, there might be more people in the administration who find themselves with Sessions on the receiving end of their boss’ fury. Hicks’ devotion to Trump is sure to be tested during the next couple of months.
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