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Trump hush money trial: Who is Hope Hicks?

WASHINGTON-

Hope Hicks, once a trusted aide in Donald Trump’s inner circle, will testify Friday in the hush money trial in New York after being subpoenaed.

“I’m very nervous,” Hicks said as he looked at the jury. She seemed visibly uncomfortable after taking the stand.

As CNN previously reported, Hicks appeared before the grand jury last year before Trump was indicted, as did Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway. Hicks was Trump’s press secretary during the campaign and could shed light on what was happening inside the political operation in the final weeks before the 2016 election, as Cohen says he was paying the adult film star Stormy Daniels to keep quiet about an alleged affair that Trump worries could disrupt his presidential campaign.

Trump allegedly repaid Cohen after taking office and has since been charged with 34 counts of falsifying business records to conceal the true nature of those payments.

The former president pleaded not guilty and denied the matter.

Hicks has a long shared history with Trump, beginning with her time working in communications for the Trump Organization and was one of the first employees to join his 2016 campaign. During Trump’s presidency, Hicks eventually rose to become communications director of the White House and was one of the longest-serving aides in a White House that was frequently marked by a series of acrimonious departures.

She thrived in an environment where loyalty was paramount, consistently defended Trump amid criticism, and the president nicknamed her “Hopey.”

Hicks’ proximity to Trump has at times put her under the media microscope.

He testified in 2018 before the House Intelligence Committee about Russian interference in the 2016 election and admitted that he occasionally had to tell white lies on Trump’s behalf, according to a source with direct knowledge of his testimony.

After facing scrutiny over both the testimony and her relationship with Rob Porter, Trump’s former staff secretary who was accused of domestic abuse, Hicks decided to leave the White House to work as communications director for Fox News. Porter denied the allegations and eventually resigned.

Hicks returned to the White House in March 2020 ahead of Trump’s re-election effort, but received criticism for not believing the election had been stolen, according to several books that were published about the final months in the Trump White House.

In this March 29, 2018, file photo, Donald Trump poses with then-White House Communications Director Hope Hicks on his final day. (Andrew Harnik/AP Photo)

According to a report in “The Divider: Trump in the White House, 2017-2021,” Trump is quoted as saying, “Well, Hope doesn’t believe in me.”

“No, I don’t know,” Hicks responded, according to the book. “No one has convinced me otherwise.”

In October 2022, Hicks testified before the House select committee investigating the January 6, 2021, Capitol riot.

In a video clip played by the committee, Hicks testified about a conversation she had with Trump after the election, about his baseless claims of voter fraud.

“I became increasingly concerned that … we were damaging his legacy,” he told the committee.

She testified that Trump “said something like, you know, ‘No one will care about my legacy if I lose, so that won’t matter.’ The only thing that matters is winning,’” Hicks said in the clip.

Politico reported in March that Hicks has been running a small consultancy that reaches out to a variety of global clients, including fashion retailer Shein.

An attorney for Hicks did not respond to a request for comment for this story.

Questions about Daniels’ share of pay

The crux of the current case against Trump centers on the alleged plan to falsify company records to conceal a $130,000 payment to Daniels to buy her silence. Cohen previously testified that Trump directed him to make the payments “for the primary purpose of influencing the election.”

Cohen said he paid Daniels himself. Prosecutors say Cohen later met with Trump in the Oval Office to plan how Trump would pay him through a series of fake invoices for legal services.

Trump has maintained that he is not aware of any payments to Daniels.

Trump has tweeted that Cohen was paid a monthly retainer in addition to the campaign. During jury selection at his trial, he said, “I was paying a lawyer and I wrote it down as a legal expense (some accountant, I didn’t know), they wrote it down as a legal expense, that’s exactly what it was, and you Being accused of that?

Federal search warrants issued in 2019 showed that prosecutors at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York discovered there was a mad scramble within the Trump campaign to control the damage and prevent additional allegations of a sexual nature from becoming public. after “Access”. “The Hollywood Tape” came to light (and disrupted Trump’s campaign) in October 2016.

The day after the tape came out, Hicks called Cohen and Trump joined in, according to the documents. From there, Cohen, acting as a go-between, was involved in at least 10 phone calls that day, some involving Trump or Hicks and others to American Media Inc. executives David Pecker and Dylan Howard. At the time, AMI owned the National Enquirer tabloid.

FBI officials believed some of those conversations were about Daniels, an adult film actress whose real name is Stephanie Clifford, according to the documents, but the content of the calls was not disclosed in the documents.

Cohen spoke with Hicks at least two other times that day, including just before and after speaking with AMI executives, the affidavit supporting the order alleges.

In a footnote in the warrant affidavit, an FBI agent wrote that Hicks told another FBI agent that, to the best of her memory, she first learned of the allegations made by Daniels in November, one month after.

Hicks told CNN at the time that the early October conversations with Cohen concerned the “Access Hollywood” tape.

“He was clearly motivated to do something that I wasn’t aware of,” Hicks said. “Nothing contradicts what I have said.”

Prosecutors have not accused Hicks of participating in Trump’s alleged scheme to influence the election.

When Hicks testified before the House Judiciary Committee shortly before the documents were released, he answered “no” when Democratic Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee asked him several times if he was ever present when Trump and Cohen argued about Daniels, according to a published transcript of the closed-door interview.

Hicks also said he had no more information about Daniels than what he had learned from reporters.

“Again, I had no knowledge of Stormy Daniels other than to say that she was going to be mentioned in the story among the people who were buying stories,” Hicks testified. “The journalist did not offer specific details and he did not have any other information other than what the journalist conveyed to me.”

After the documents were released, Rep. Jerry Nadler, a New York Democrat who was then chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, wrote a letter to Hicks asking him to voluntarily return before the committee to clarify his testimony. Nadler cited “apparent inconsistencies” between Hicks’ testimony and the evidence revealed about the phone calls.

His attorneys responded by saying their client stands by his testimony that none of his Oct. 8 calls to Cohen were related to payments to Stormy Daniels.

“The affidavit material relating to Ms Hicks is simply a chronology of telephone calls, without any information as to their content. “Just because multiple phone calls occur on the same date does not mean they are about the same topic,” a letter said at the time.

“Regardless of what Mr. Cohen was dealing with that day,” the letter from Hicks’ attorneys continued, “his conversations with Ms. Hicks were not about Stormy Daniels or any deal related to ‘hush money. ‘”.