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The many legal exposures of Hope Hicks spell double trouble for Trump

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By Kerry Eleveld

From youtube.com: Hope Hicks, Trump's communication director, resigns {MID-257664}
Hope Hicks, Trump's communication director, resigns
(Image by YouTube, Channel: USA TODAY)
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Hope Hicks wasn't just any aide to Donald Trump -- she was a trusted family business insider for a handful of years before Trump persuaded her to join him on the campaign trail at age 27. Glued to Trump's side, she was dubbed "Trump's daughter" by fellow campaign aides, and then followed Trump straight into the White House, eventually becoming his communications director at just 29.

For someone who had zero political experience before the 2016 cycle, Hicks sure was exposed to a lot -- and that's a problem when you get caught in one of the most explosive investigations into a sitting president in the modern political era. In fact, Hicks, who was interviewed by the special counsel's team in December, could be central to both the conspiracy and obstruction cases being built by Robert Mueller. And as she admitted in her testimony before the House Intelligence Committee Tuesday, she had sometimes found it necessary to tell white lies to cover the tracks of her perfidious boss. That admission, likely one of her more truthful assertions since joining Team Trump, reportedly caused some consternation among her lawyers. The New York Timeswrote:

"But after extended consultation with her lawyers, she insisted that she had not lied about matters material to the investigations into Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible links to Trump associates ..."

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Hicks's announcement that she would be leaving the White House the very next day likely has less to do with what many perceived as a major PR blunder and more to do with her lawyers trying to mitigate her ever-growing legal exposure. One can almost hear them saying, "Get out -- get out while you still can." Let's just reflect on a few major legal flash points that investigators have surely been interested in.

Little white lies: Just days after Trump's election in 2016, two different Russian officials -- Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov and Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov -- said Russian officials had maintained contact with Team Trump throughout the election. Hicks quickly denied the claim, which we now know was perfectly true.

"A Trump spokeswoman, Hope Hicks, said Thursday that there had been no meeting between campaign staff members and Russian government officials during the campaign.

"'We are not aware of any campaign representatives that were in touch with any foreign entities before yesterday, when Mr. Trump spoke with many world leaders,' Ms. Hicks said. 'Those discussions were congratulatory and forward looking.'"

Obstruction: Hicks famously helped Trump craft an initial explanation (i.e., lie) about the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower attended by Trump Jr., chief campaign aides Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort, and an entourage of Russian operatives. The real purpose of the meeting -- to get dirt on Hillary Clinton -- would "never get out," Hicks told Trump, prompting a much more seasoned spokesman for Trump's legal team to resign out of fear that he might have been party to obstruction of justice.

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Once in the White House, Hicks was privy to Trump's original rant/draft letter laying out his reasons for wanting to fire then-FBI Director James Comey. That letter proved so problematic in the view of White House counsel Don McGahn that he blocked its release, put it in a safe, and threw away the key. Mueller later obtained a copy of it.

Conspiracy: Per NBC News, Mueller's team has recently taken an interest in what Trump knew about Wikileaks plans for publishing stolen Democratic emails and when he knew it. It just so happens that Hicks was in the loop on Trump Jr.'s correspondence with WikiLeaks in the fall of 2016, a story broken by The Atlantic last November:

"On the same day that Trump Jr. received the first message from WikiLeaks, he emailed other senior officials with the Trump campaign, including Steve Bannon, Kellyanne Conway, Brad Parscale, and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner, telling them WikiLeaks had made contact. Kushner then forwarded the email to campaign communications staffer Hope Hicks. At no point during the 10-month correspondence does Trump Jr. rebuff WikiLeaks, which had published stolen documents and was already observed to be releasing information that benefited Russian interests."

Just this week, The Atlantic again broke news about Trump confidante Roger Stone exchanging direct messages with WikiLeaks around the same time Trump Jr. was corresponding with the site. Stone had an uncanny knack for predicting when anti-Clinton email leaks would emerge with a worrying degree of accuracy during the final months of the election.

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