Any top White House aide resigning is big news. When it’s someone in the inner part of the inner circle, who’s worked for Trump since he was a mild-mannered billionaire reality-show host, it’s big big big news. If I’m not mistaken, Hicks was the sole remaining member of the West Wing unrelated to POTUS by blood or marriage who’s been with him since the Trump Organization.
Soon she’ll be gone. And thus begins an especially fun game of “Why now?”
Ms. Hicks had been considering leaving for several months. She told colleagues that she had accomplished what she felt she could with a job that made her one of the most powerful people in Washington, and that there would never be a perfect moment to leave, according to White House aides.
Her resignation came a day after she testified for eight hours before the House Intelligence Committee, telling the panel that in her job, she had occasionally been required to tell white lies but had never lied about anything connected to the investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election…
“Hope is outstanding and has done great work for the last three years,” Mr. Trump said. “She is as smart and thoughtful as they come, a truly great person. 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.”
Sean Spicer, Mike Dubke, Anthony Scaramucci, Hope Hicks: We’re headed for our fifth White House communications director in 14 months.
Anyway, let’s play “Why now?” Theory one, the mercurial-boss explanation: Trump’s been understandably annoyed with her lately for not protecting his interests by pushing her ex-boyfriend, Rob Porter, out the door before he became a political liability for the White House. He was also allegedly annoyed that Hicks didn’t sniff out Michael Wolff’s ulterior motives in kissing up to Trump and the White House before she granted him access to the West Wing. Maybe POTUS finally decided she wasn’t cut out for the job and pushed her towards the exit, allowing her to “resign” rather than be fired. That’s hard to believe, though, since Trump is reluctant to force out anyone, let alone a loyalist like Hicks whom he allegedly views as a second daughter. (I meant third daughter. Sorry, Tiffany!) He wouldn’t fire her.
Theory two, the prosaic explanation: She’s genuinely burned out and tired of being in the media spotlight. Despite her looks and PR training, Hicks is famously camera-shy. (Well, microphone-shy.) Maybe she’s weary of being in the eye of the Trump hurricane, particularly given the chaotic nature of this White House’s press operations. Would you want to wake up every morning wondering what sort of insane tweet you’ll need to spin that day? Would you want to wake up to headlines in international papers that your new boyfriend may or may not have punched his first wife in the face? She’s tired of the drama, understandably. Except … Trump’s entire world is drama and Hicks has operated in it for years. She’s always been so loyal to POTUS that it’s hard to imagine her cutting ties from him. Perhaps she’s off to work in some arm of Trump’s company again?
Theory three, the Rachel Brand explanation: Someone offered her a “dream job” and she couldn’t say no. Hicks would be a glamorous addition to any company, especially one that’s eager for an “in” inside the West Wing. But since she never sits for interviews and the White House comms department is a mess trying to keep up with its loose-cannon boss, on what basis would a corporation hire her and put her in charge of a major PR operation? Part of the fascination with Hicks is that she’s such an enigma. Companies typically don’t like enigmas in important roles.
Theory four, the Russiagate explanation: She testified before the House Intel Committee for hours yesterday, as noted above in the excerpt, and has been interviewed by Mueller’s team. She could be in some legal jeopardy based on her role in spinning (or trying to cover up?) Don Jr’s 2016 meeting with the Russian lawyer to try to obtain Clinton dirt. She reportedly admitted to the committee that she’s told white lies for Trump before. Maybe she’s preparing to roll over and air all of the Trump family’s dirty laundry for Mueller and wants to get out of the White House before the final betrayal is revealed!
Or maybe not:
Hope Hicks departure is NOT about yesterday's hearing, per multiple sources. She had planned it before, had been thinking about it for months. She had informed a very small number of people prior to Hill hearing that she planned to leave.
— Maggie Haberman (@maggieNYT) February 28, 2018
C’mon. Hicks would never betray Trump. I think.
Theory five, the “petty personal drama” explanation: Trump seems to be gearing up to bring back a bunch of old hands from his campaign. Yesterday Gabriel Sherman identified Anthony Scaramucci, David Bossie, and Corey Lewandowski (who allegedly dated Hicks during the campaign) as possible returnees. Jason Miller, who was initially named White House comms director during the transition period before resigning over his own scandal, has also been talked about recently as a possible new hire. Maybe Hicks, for reasons of her own, doesn’t want to relive the 2016 campaign operation again and decided to bail now before POTUS gets the band back together.
I’m leaning towards theories one and two, with a dash of theory six: As someone who specializes in PR, Hicks must understand that the Trump “brand” isn’t great throughout much of the country, especially its tonier professional enclaves. She’ll always have a Trump pedigree to some extent but it makes sense for her to try to shed it sooner rather than later and start building a brand of her own if she doesn’t want it to cost her opportunities. She did her year of service and maybe figures that things are likelier to get crazier from here. Better to bail out now at the tender age of 29 and put a little distance between her and POTUS. Her looks and mystique will keep her an object of media interest for years.
Exit question: Who’s going to replace her as comms director and how long will they last? While Scaramucci’s the sentimental favorite, I’m going to go with Miller and put the over/under at six months.
Update: I didn’t see this coming.
Piece forthcoming from @politico WH crew, but three sources tell us John Kelly preferred Hope Hicks not run the comms shop. He has an internal favorite to replace her but was looking at external candidates a couple of wks ago.
— Eliana Johnson (@elianayjohnson) February 28, 2018
John Kelly must have a *lot* of faith in his job security to be taking on Javanka and Hope Hicks at the same time. Those are the cronies di tutti cronies. Either he knows for some reason that Trump won’t fire him even if he comes after family or, more likely, he’s made it abundantly clear that he doesn’t care if Trump fires him and POTUS is momentarily without leverage over him.
Doesn’t mean Kelly pushed her out — no indication of that. But he is not unhappy she plans to leave, these sources say. https://t.co/bsbiOzOOdq
— Eliana Johnson (@elianayjohnson) February 28, 2018