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Hope Hicks, Trump loyalist, didn’t spin the press on her own resignation



There was no good time for Hope Hicks to leave.

The woman who had been at Donald Trump’s side before he launched his campaign, who had become one of his closest confidants, who could read his moods better than anyone, was always going to leave a vacuum when she walked out the door.

But it’s a measure of her fierce loyalty to the boss, and lack of concern for her own image, that she didn’t try to spin her own departure. And the result is that she got roughed up a bit as she decided to walk out the door.

By announcing her resignation the day after her closed-door House testimony, Hicks allowed it to appear that she was quitting because the appearance was a disaster. And those who know her say it was a tipping point for Hicks, who had been telling friends for weeks that she was utterly exhausted and wanted to leave.

The New York Times said Hicks had testified that she sometimes told white lies for her boss. That, needless to say, is not a good look for a White House communications director.

But Republican congressman Peter King told the Washington Post that Hicks, who said she never lied in the Russia investigation, was avoiding a Democratic “perjury trap” and “never lied about anything of substance—so that white lies could have meant saying Trump wasn’t available for a meeting when he actually was.

A more image-conscious official would have found ways for her allies to leak her explanation. Hope didn’t.

Nor did she attempt to rebut an account that Trump had berated her about her testimony. Hicks was a buffer who knew how to absorb the inevitable presidential tirades, and colleagues would sometimes ask her to bring him bad news.

Inevitably, she was involved in certain messes. Some questioned her initial role in defending Rob Porter, the staff secretary fired over abuse allegations from two ex-wives, because she had been dating him. And some questioned her role in explaining Donald Trump Jr.’s campaign meeting with the Russians—one of many subjects that must have come up in her interviews with Robert Mueller.

Hicks didn’t seek to run the 40-person communications shop. She took the job on an acting basis after Anthony Scaramucci’s flameout and it later became permanent, giving a defined set of responsibilities to someone who had always had a wide-ranging portfolio.

It’s true that the president may miss her presence, especially now that most of his original team—Reince Priebus, Steve Bannon, Sean Spicer, Dina Powell and many others—have left. But Trump still talks regularly to people like Reince and Corey, so Hicks could remain an important sounding board.

I first met Hope Hicks, who had worked for Ivanka’s business, in the first week of the Trump candidacy, when she and Corey Lewandowski were pretty much the campaign. Many reporters got to know her even as she stayed firmly behind the scenes.

Hicks had a major influence with few fingerprints. Last year, when the president began pausing virtually every day to talk to reporters, either at photo ops or getting on or off Air Force One, Hicks was a major proponent of that strategy.

In the last two weeks of the general election, when just about everyone thought Trump would lose, a friend asked me if I would write about Hicks’ key role so there would at least be a public record of what she had done for the candidate.

There was just one problem. Hope said no way.

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Angry French ambassador shows true colours by reminding Biden about naval victory over UK



BREXIT Britain’s newly forged defence deal with Australia and the US infuriated French Ambassador to America, Philippe Etienne, who took a bitter swipe at his transatlantic allies.

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China, France furious at new U.S. security alliance with Britain, Australia



HONG KONG — America’s new security alliance with Britain and Australia was always likely to be greeted with fury by China, the unspoken target of Washington’s latest effort to reinforce its influence in the region.

And it was. But the pact also incensed France, a longtime ally that felt its Indo-Pacific interests had been torpedoed by the submarine-centered agreement.

At a news briefing Thursday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian said the pact “seriously undermined regional peace and stability, exacerbated the arms race and undermined international nuclear nonproliferation efforts.”

Zhao added that any regional alliance “should not target or harm the interests of third parties.”

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In a briefing before Wednesday evening’s announcement, a Biden administration official stressed that the pact “is not aimed at any one country.”

But the AUKUS deal comes as the U.S. steps up its efforts to counter China.

It will allow Australia to build nuclear-powered submarines for the first time, using technology that the U.S. had only previously shared with Britain. The pact also allows for greater collaboration between the three countries on cyber capabilities and artificial intelligence, as well as in other areas.

It will also make Australia the seventh country in the world to have nuclear-powered submarines, after the U.S., Britain, France, China, India and Russia. Unlike those other countries, Australia does not have nuclear weapons.

“The U.S. has only ever shared this technology with the U.K., so the fact that Australia is now joining this club indicates that the United States is prepared to take significant new steps and break with old norms to meet the China challenge,” said Sam Roggeveen, director of the International Security Program at the Lowy Institute in Sydney, Australia, in a statement shared with NBC News.

Relations between Beijing and Canberra have been in a downward spiral, with the U.S. ally emerging as a key bulwark in the West’s efforts to combat China’s growing influence.

China, Australia’s biggest trading partner, has embarked on a trade war in return.

There now appears little prospect for improved ties, which the Australian government will have taken into consideration, according to Malcolm Davis, a senior analyst in defense strategy and capability at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute in Canberra.

“I think China will probably increase the pressure on us as a result of this, but frankly we need to do this in order to ensure our security,” he said.

But it’s not just China that was irked by the deal.

France also expressed outrage after the agreement brought its own deal to build submarines for Australia, inked in 2016, to an abrupt end.

French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian and Armed Forces Minister Florence Parly voiced their displeasure in a joint statement.

“The American choice to exclude a European ally and partner such as France from a structuring partnership with Australia, at a time when we are facing unprecedented challenges in the Indo-Pacific region,” they said, “shows a lack of coherence that France can only note and regret.”

A visibly angry Le Drian later described the announcement as “a stab in the back.”

“This brutal, unilateral and unpredictable decision reminds me a lot of what Mr. Trump used to do,” he said on France-Info radio.

“We built a relationship of trust with Australia, and this trust was betrayed,” he added. “This is not done between allies.”

Australia signed a 2016 deal with French shipbuilder Naval Group to build it a new submarine fleet worth $40 billion.Naoya Masuda / Yomiuri Shimbun via AP file

Parly said Thursday that the government would try to minimize the financial impact of the canceled deal on submarine manufacturer Naval Group, which is mostly state-owned.

Asked whether France would seek compensation from Australia, she did not rule it out.

Being sidelined by the new alliance was a “big disappointment” for French trade, according to Frédéric Charillon, a political science professor at France’s Clermont Auvergne University.

“But, what is probably more worrying now is…the lack of confidence that is now growing between the Biden administration and at least some of the European alliance, including France,” he said.

Washington appears to be fueling “the impression that maybe the new administration (is) not that different from the last,” Charillon added.

In New Zealand opposition leaders questioned why Australia’s neighbor and close ally had been left out of the loop.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said that her government had not been approached as part of the pact, “nor would I expect us to be.”

But she added that any nuclear-powered submarines Australia acquired would not be allowed in the country’s territorial waters, since its longstanding nuclear-free policy forbids the entry of vessels powered by nuclear energy.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that in spite of the hard feelings among both rivals and some allies, this was simply an opportunity his country couldn’t turn down.

The advantages of nuclear submarines were clear, he said: “They’re faster, they have greater power, greater stealth, more carrying capacity.”

“Australians would expect me as prime minister to ensure that we have the best possible capability to keep them safe and to be unhindered in pursuing that as best as I possibly can,” he added. “And that is what I have done.”

Jennifer Jett reported from Hong Kong, and Chantal Da Silva reported from Toronto.

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Socialist-raised Liz Truss shaping up to be 'Thatcher 2.0' as she secures Cabinet boost



LIZ TRUSS has slowly built up a reputation as a “radical classical liberal” member of the Conservative Party, with Institute for Government chief Mark Littlewood tipping her for a “Thatcher 2.0” role within her party.

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