Hicks told House panel Trump is serious about foreign help in elections

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Hope Hicks, once a close aide to President Donald Trump, told the House Judiciary Committee that Trump was serious in saying there was nothing wrong in accepting derogatory information about political opponents from a foreign government, panel Chairman Jerrold Nadler said on Thursday.

Former White House Communications Director Hope Hicks returns to a closed door interview before the House Judiciary Committee following a break on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., June 19, 2019. REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein

“Ms. Hicks made clear that she understood the president to be serious when he said that he would accept foreign interference in our elections,” Nadler said in a statement for a hearing on former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report on Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

“She also made clear that even she knew that such foreign assistance should be rejected and reported to the FBI,” he said.

The committee later heard from an expert witness who said Trump’s remarks about accepting foreign assistance, made in an ABC News interview, could violate the presidential oath of office and provide evidence for any future impeachment inquiry.

“Receiving foreign assistance has been recognized throughout the entire history of the country as something that is counter to and undermines the Constitution,” said Carrie Cordero, a conservative attorney who is a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security think tank.

“That is an invitation ... to Russian intelligence and any other intelligence service that’s out there that wants to try to find a way to influence our democratic processes,” she added.

Hicks, who was Trump’s campaign press secretary and his White House communications director, spent eight hours in a closed-door committee hearing on Wednesday. But she refused to answer questions about her 14-month White House tenure after administration attorneys said she was immune from testifying on the topic.

“Ms. Hicks could not even answer whether she told the truth to the Mueller team because the president’s lawyers objected to the question,” Representative Ted Deutch, a Florida Democrat, said during Thursday’s hearing.

Democrats, who control the House of Representatives, want Hicks to answer questions about five episodes in the Mueller report that they believe contain evidence of obstruction of justice by Trump. They also questioned her about hush payments during the 2016 campaign to two women, including porn star Stormy Daniels, who claimed they had affairs with Trump.

Nadler pledged to release a transcript of Hicks’ testimony soon.

Reporting by David Morgan; Editing by Bill Trott and Jonathan Oatis