But it’s unlikely Hicks will answer many of the committee’s questions.
“Because of this constitutional immunity, and in order to protect the prerogatives of the Office of President, the President has directed Ms. Hicks not to answer questions before the Committee relating to the time of her services as a senior adviser to the President,” wrote White House Counsel Pat Cipollone.
“If she doesn’t testify, then Jerry Nadler will, I assume, unleash the full power of the House Judiciary Committee and the United States House of Representatives that could include, but is not limited to, contempt,” said Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, the Democratic caucus chairman, who sits on the Judiciary Committee.
Asked Tuesday about the White House instructing Hicks not to answer questions, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said: “Obstruction of justice.”
But Democrats plan to ask Hicks about more than just her time at the White House. Judiciary Committee aides said they also intend to ask one of Trump’s longest-serving campaign aides about her knowledge of the payments that were made during the 2016 campaign to silence women alleging affairs with Trump.
The committee plans to release a transcript of Hicks’ interview afterward, potentially within 48 hours. The Judiciary Committee wants to bring in witnesses to talk about the Mueller report publicly, but so far it has held only open hearings with experts.
“I hope eventually she and all witnesses will be in the public,” said Rep. Madeleine Dean, a Pennsylvania Democrat on the committee. “It’s our job. I really believe it’s our job to get the facts before the American public. … The best, most effective way to do our oversight is to make sure it’s in the public.”
Also looming: whether the committee will interview Mueller himself publicly — and if it will need a subpoena to do so. Nadler declined to comment on those negotiations Tuesday.
Republicans argued that Hicks’ interview is proof that Democrats’ claims of White House stonewalling are overblown.
“Judiciary Democrats have been their own barrier to information by choosing to escalate instead of negotiate at every turn,” said Rep. Doug Collins of Georgia, the top Republican on the Judiciary panel. “The White House has offered to negotiate with Democrats for documents that Ms. Hicks can’t provide, and the committee could probably have heard from her earlier if Democrats didn’t take a scorched-earth approach to pursuing information.”
Hicks has previously testified behind closed doors before the House and Senate Intelligence committees, and she left her job at the White House the day after appearing before the House panel. At those interviews, Hicks also did not discuss her time at the White House, Cipollone wrote.
Democrats have argued that Hicks cannot claim executive privilege when she spoke to the special counsel’s office about the same topics, but the Trump administration has countered that being interviewed in an executive branch investigation does not waive privilege for a legislative branch probe. That question is also one that’s likely to end up in court for a number of witnesses the panel is seeking to interview.
One potential point of contention is the presidential transition before Trump took office. While Democrats — and some Republicans, like former Rep. Trey Gowdy of South Carolina — have argued that executive privilege does not apply to the transition, Cipollone argued in his letter Tuesday that Hicks’ transition work would likely be privileged because it involved decisions that would be made after Trump was inaugurated.
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