A former model and public relations consultant, Hope Hicks quickly rose up the ranks during President Trump’s 2016 campaign to become one of his most loyal staff members. So it came as a surprise Wednesday when Hicks announced she would be leaving her role as White House communications director to explore new opportunities.
“There are no words to adequately express my gratitude to President Trump,” Hicks announced. “I wish the president and his administration the very best as he continues to lead our country.”
At 29, she was the youngest communications director in the history of the White House – and one of Trump’s longest serving aides.
The president described her as “smart” and “thoughtful,” adding that she is “truly a great person.”
“Hope is outstanding and has done great work for the last three years,” Trump said in a statement provided by the White House. “I will miss having her by my side but when she approached me about pursuing other opportunities, I totally understood. I am sure we will work together again in the future.”
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly echoed Trump’s sentiment, adding that Hope is “poised and wise beyond her years.”
The announcement came a day after Hicks met with lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee for nine hours as part of the investigation into alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election. During the meeting, Hicks acknowledged that she has occasionally told “white lies” for Trump, but said she has not lied about anything relevant to the Russia investigation.
Here’s are 3 things you should know about Hicks as she prepares to depart the White House in the next few weeks.
The daughter of Caye Cavender and Paul B. Hicks III, Hicks grew up in Greenwich, Connecticut.
Her parents were involved in politics. In fact, that’s how they met.
Her mother was a legislative aide for Rep. Ed Jones, D-Tenn., in Washington, D.C., according to a 1982 wedding announcement in The New York Times. And her father served as chief of staff for former Rep. Stewart McKinney, R-Conn.
“[They] met by chance when they were both working in Washington, and both were guests in 1981 at a speech by President Ronald Reagan to a joint session of Congress,” the Hartford Courant reported.
Unlike her parents, Hicks shied away from the political arena. Instead, she followed in the footsteps of her sister, Mary Grace, and began modeling, most notably working for Ralph Lauren.
She played various sports in high school, including lacrosse and swimming, before she graduated in 2006. She then attended college at Southern Methodist University, where she graduated in 2010.
Hicks’ history with the Trumps
Hicks has known the Trump family for years.
Her first job out of college was at a small New York PR firm founded by Matthew Hiltzik, “a hard-core Democrat who worked in 2000 on Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign for U.S. Senate,” the Courant reported. It was there Hicks met President Trump’s eldest daughter, Ivanka.
She joined the Trump Organization in 2012, working under Ivanka. Hicks was tasked with expanding the Ivanka Trump Collection, working on the public relations team and occasionally modeling new clothing and accessories from the Ivanka Trump Collection.
“As Hicks ingratiated herself to Ivanka, she won over The Donald as well—helped by the eager-to-please disposition she’d displayed since childhood,” GQ wrote in a June 2016 profile of Hicks.
Hicks’ role: From the campaign to the White House
Hicks had no political background when Trump asked her to serve on his campaign as press secretary. The New York Times said she was “arguably the least credentialed press secretary in the modern history of presidential politics.”
Throughout the 2016 campaign, Hicks famously avoided publicity. She never went on camera, and was known for her “no comment” responses.
She joined the White House after the campaign, and was promoted in the summer to director of communications — a title that only partly captured her more expansive role as the president’s gatekeeper to the press.
Hicks, who occupied the desk closest to the Oval Office in the West Wing, has since been a central participant in or witness to nearly every milestone and controversy of the Trump administration.
“She became a trusted adviser and counselor and did a tremendous job overseeing the communications for the President’s agenda, including the passage of historic tax reform,” Kelly said. “To say that she will be missed, is an understatement.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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Trump cowboy plots political future after Capitol breach
TULAROSA, N.M. — He rodeoed in a Buffalo Bill-style Wild West show, carried his message on horseback from the Holy Land to Times Square and was invited to the White House to meet the president.
But luck may have run out for this cowboy pastor who rode to national political fame by embracing former President Donald Trump with a series of horseback caravans and came crashing down with a defiant stand Jan. 6 against President Joe Biden’s election.
Today, Couy Griffin is divorced, disparaged by family and confronts a political recall drive, a state corruption investigation and federal charges.
And yet he remains determined. He sees himself as governor one day.
The first-term county commissioner forged a group of rodeo acquaintances in 2019 into a promotional Cowboys for Trump posse to spread his conservative message about gun rights, immigration controls and abortion restrictions.
Trump’s election defeat has left the 47-year-old father in a lonely fight for his political life after preaching to crowds at the U.S. Capitol siege, promising to take his guns to Biden’s inauguration and landing in jail for over a week.
In Washington, prosecutors unveiled photographs of Griffin climbing a toppled fence and another barrier to access the Capitol steps.
Public defense attorneys say a close reading of the law shows the area wasn’t off limits. They say Griffin didn’t partake in violence and was well within his free speech rights as he voiced election grievances and attempted to lead a prayer with a bullhorn.
Griffin is one of thousands of Trump loyalists in public office who are charting an uncertain future ahead of the 2022 election cycle. He’s part of a smaller cadre who flirted with insurrection on Trump’s behalf and may still pay a high price. In all, more than 400 people were charged in the insurrection, which left five dead and dozens of officers injured.
Griffin has been rebuked by some Republicans over his racial invective. He’s also been suspended from Facebook and banished from Native American lands in his district as he contests charges of breaking into the Capitol grounds and disrupting Congress that could carry a one-year sentence. A recall effort is underway, amid a bevy of lawsuits.
Still, loyal constituents are easy to come by in a rural county steeped in the anti-establishment, pro-gun culture that dominates southern New Mexico.
“He means no malice on anybody,” said George Seeds, outside the New Heart Cowboy Church in Alamogordo where Griffin once served as pastor. “His concern is the direction of this country, where it’s going.”
Defiance of federal government and its oversight of public lands are staples of politics in Otero County, which spans an area three times the size of Delaware, from the dunes of White Sands National Park to the peaks of the Lincoln National Forest.
Banned from Washington until testimony or trial, Griffin has returned to the routines of home in a tidy double-wide trailer in Tularosa, working most days as a stone mason. A donkey named Henry brays from a side yard.
In a conversation with The Associated Press, Griffin says he learned to love the spotlight during five years as an expert rodeo hand in a Wild West show at Paris’ Disneyland park.
His rides with Cowboys for Trump through numerous states were a reprise of proselytizing trips he made from Ireland to Jerusalem, before social media, to hand out the Gospel of John.
The group captivated the public imagination with its first outing, a 2019 flag-waving ride down the shore of the Potomac River to Arlington National Cemetery.
Ramie Harper, a 67-year-old former bull rider from Fruitland, took a break from making custom hats to join the caravan.
“They loved it,” Harper said. “We was on ‘Fox & Friends’ the next day.”
With calls for an independent investigation of the Capitol siege blocked by Senate Republicans, Griffin is out on bail and speaking his mind.
He’s an advocate for stricter state voting laws and a die-hard opponent of COVID-19 restrictions who says “hell no” to taking the vaccine.
Griffin still wears a monogrammed Cowboys for Trump shirt to commission meetings. But his allegiance to Trump has wavered.
“I don’t have the same confidence in him,” Griffin said. “Whenever you say, ‘China stole the election. … The election was stolen from me,’ and then you just walk away? That’s hard for me to accept.”
He says his obsession with politics has taken a toll, contributing to his 2019 divorce and tensions with relatives.
“I’ve had my own family say some pretty nasty things,” Griffin said. “It’s been real hard.”
With Trump or without, Griffin still ascribes to unsubstantiated claims of massive 2020 election fraud.
He yearns to someday run for governor even though state GOP leaders are openly scornful and Democrats hold every statewide elected office.
More immediately, Griffin is eyeing an open 2022 sheriff’s race in another New Mexico county where he grew up. His grandfather Wee Griffin held the Catron County post from 1963 to 1966. Trump won there in 2020 with 73% of the vote.
Griffin has cast Democratic Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham as his political nemesis on issues of gun control, abortion and pandemic restrictions. He’d like to reinvent the sheriff’s role as a brake on the governor’s power.
“The county sheriff’s sole duty and responsibility is to protect our individual rights,” he said. “You think that the governor hates me as a county commissioner — put a gun and a badge on me, and we’ll see.”
Jeff Swanson, chairman of the Otero County Democratic Party, says Griffin’s divisive remarks hinder county efforts to secure state infrastructure spending, and he has engaged in intimidation by recording Cowboys for Trump videos from his office with a shotgun within view.
In Alamogordo, Griffin’s rhetoric on race has steeled the determination of opponents who want him out of office.
Griffin delivered a scathing rebuke last year as the NFL announced game-opening renditions of “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” also known as the Black national anthem.
“They want to destroy our country,” Griffin said in a video monologue. “I got a better idea. Why don’t you go back to Africa and form your little football teams. … You can play on an old beat-out dirt lot.”
Everette Brown, a Marine veteran and information technology specialist at Holloman Air Force Base who is Black, said that comment shows politics have changed Griffin, whom he once respected.
“I’m a big boy. I can handle a lot. And that was one that got me,” said Brown, part of a committee seeking to recall Griffin.
For now, Griffin has halted the petition with an appeal to the state Supreme Court, which hasn’t decided whether to intervene. Meanwhile, state prosecutors are investigating allegations Griffin used his office in coordination with Cowboys for Trump for personal financial gain, and signed a child-support check to his ex-wife from his Cowboys for Trump account.
Griffin has acknowledged using the county building for promotional videos but said he never claimed they were affiliated with Otero County. He also says Cowboys for Trump is a for-profit company, not a political group.
Donnie Reynolds, a 51-year-old sales associate at an Alamogordo hardware store, says Griffin is being targeted for ties to Trump.
He says Griffin is right about lots of things, like the need for a border wall.
“They’re going find out he didn’t have anything to do with these types of things,” he said. “They’re going to eat some crow.”
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