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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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McConnell says ‘highly unlikely’ he’d let Biden fill SCOTUS vacancy in 2024 if GOP flips Senate



WASHINGTON — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., signaled Monday that if Republicans were to win back the majority next year, he wouldn’t allow President Joe Biden to fill a Supreme Court vacancy during the 2024 election cycle — and he may not even allow a hearing in 2023 if a seat needed to be filled then.

In an interview with conservative radio show host Hugh Hewitt, McConnell was asked if he would give a Biden Supreme Court nominee “a fair shot at a hearing” if the person is “not a radical, but a normal mainstream mainstream liberal” if he became majority leader again.

“Well, we’d have to wait and see what happens,” McConnell said about the possibility of a 2023 Supreme Court confirmation hearing, the third year of Biden’s presidency.

Asked if he would fill a Supreme Court vacancy in 2024 with a Biden nominee, McConnell suggested he would follow the rule he used in 2016 when he blocked then-President Barack Obama’s high court nominee, Merrick Garland, after Justice Antonin Scalia’s death because it was an election year.

“I think in the middle of a presidential election, if you have a Senate of the opposite party of the president, you have to go back to the 1880s to find the last time a vacancy was filled. So I think it’s highly unlikely,” McConnell said Monday about the possibility of confirming a Biden nominee in 2024.

McConnell added that Democrats would employ the same rule if they held the Senate majority and a Republican president nominated a prospective justice in an election year.

“What was different in 2020 was we were of the same party as the president,” he said, referring to Republicans’ decision to confirm Justice Amy Coney Barrett last year after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The GOP-controlled Senate at the time confirmed Barrett last October just days ahead of the presidential election that Biden won.

Her confirmation cemented a 6-3 conservative majority on the court. Former President Donald Trump was also able to get Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh confirmed during his presidency with the help of Senate Republicans. There have been calls by some progressives for Justice Stephen Breyer, one of the three liberal justices, to retire so that Biden can fill the seat with a younger judge.

Meanwhile, Biden announced the creation of a commission in April that would conduct a 180-day study that would assess the effect of expanding the size of the court from its nine members, a change that more liberal lawmakers have rallied around over the last year.

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Top DOJ national security official resigns amid fallout over seizure of Dems’ records



The top national security official at the Department of Justice is resigning as the department grapples with the fallout over its subpoena of the phone records of members of Congress and reporters during the Trump administration, a DOJ official confirmed Monday.

The resignation comes as Attorney General Merrick Garland announced an overhaul of DOJ’s procedures amid revelations that the agency seized Democratic lawmakers’ communication records.

John Demers, who’s been the head of DOJ’s national security division since 2018, plans to step down at the end of next week, the DOJ official told NBC News.

The departure of Demers, who likely was briefed on decisions to subpoena phone records linked to reporters and members of Congress, was planned and is not related to the controversy, the official said. Demers had been asked to stay on for a time by John Carlin, the No. 2 official in the deputy attorney general’s office, but it was always expected that he would leave during the summer, the source said.

The disclosure of Demers’ resignation comes amid a furor over the DOJ’s efforts to secretly obtain phone records from reporters and lawmakers in leak investigations, and a day after Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called on Demers to testify publicly about what he knew about the subpoenas to Apple and Microsoft for information involving Democratic Reps. Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell.

The two California Democrats were on the House Intelligence Committee investigating former President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia at the time the subpoenas went out in 2018. The Justice Department has also drawn fire for seizing the records of journalists at The New York Times and elsewhere in an effort to identify sources for national security stories published during the Trump administration.

Garland and Schiff on Monday spoke about his phone records being seized. In a statement, Schiff said he is “pleased” Garland and Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco “recognize the importance of the issues at stake and have given their commitment to an independent IG investigation.”

“I have every confidence they will also do the kind of top-to-bottom review of the degree to which the department was politicized during the previous administration and take corrective steps,” he said.

The conversation followed Democratic grumbling that they heard first from Apple and not the Biden administration that their records had been secretly obtained during the Trump administration.

“We need a thorough accounting to answer the many questions about how and why the Department of Justice subpoenaed records related to members of Congress, their staff, and journalists,” Schiff said.

Earlier Monday, Garland said he planned on putting safeguards in place to prevent future abuses.

“[P]olitical or other improper considerations must play no role in any investigative or prosecutorial decisions,” he said. “These principles that have long been held as sacrosanct by the DOJ career workforce will be vigorously guarded on my watch, and any failure to live up to them will be met with strict accountability.”

“I have instructed the deputy attorney general, who is already working on surfacing potentially problematic matters deserving high level review, to evaluate and strengthen the department’s existing policies and procedures for obtaining records of the Legislative branch,” Garland said. “Consistent with our commitment to the rule of law, we must ensure that full weight is accorded to separation-of-powers concerns moving forward, and any failure to live up to them will be met with strict accountability.”

Pete Williams and Allan Smith contributed.

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Scots face eye-watering ‘85% tax rate’ under SNP’s ‘incompetent’ £58bn free income plan



AN SNP policy to pay every Scot a Universal Basic Income could leave some earners with tax bills as high as 85 percent, a think tank has claimed.

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