The unseen power of Hope Hicks

For the journalists covering Donald Trump, there was always Hope Hicks.From the moment Trump came down that es...

Posted: Mar 1, 2018 10:26 AM
Updated: Mar 1, 2018 10:26 AM

For the journalists covering Donald Trump, there was always Hope Hicks.

From the moment Trump came down that escalator in Trump Tower in June of 2015, Hicks was his right-hand woman, the one constant reporters have always dealt with.

Reporters have always seen Hicks as one of the few people who is actually close to the president and who can telegraph his point of view, or his willingness to participate in an interview. Often it was because she was literally right next to him.

She held immense power, and was able to circumnavigate what would be considered the traditional hierarchies of previous White House communications operations. She was the point person for many of the nation's highest profile reporters and could and would arrange an interview with the president seemingly independent of the rest of the White House press operation.

Related: Hope Hicks is resigning from the White House

When now Washington Post reporter Josh Dawsey was working at Politico, he and fellow reporter Alex Isenstadt were invited by Hicks to interview Trump in April for a feature on his first 100 days in office. The reporters' presence in the West Wing was unusual not because of the interview, but because of White House Press Secretary's Sean Spicer's well known distaste for Isenstadt.

"Senior staff, including Priebus, Spicer, Bannon, etc. had no idea we were in with Trump," Dawsey wrote on Twitter Wednesday after the news of Hicks' resignation broke. "Priebus and Spicer were particularly unhappy. Hicks didn't seem to care."

During the campaign, reporters would email Hicks seeking comment, and -- in a clear sign of how close she is to Trump -- the comment would come back immediately. Sometimes Hicks would even have Trump available on the line. Sometimes the invitation for an interview came unsolicited.

"She once invited me to talk to Trump after he saw me on Morning Joe. I don't think press staff was even aware," Bloomberg's Josh Green tweeted Wednesday.

Some reporters have told stories about the confrontations they've had with other communications staff, in this White House and previous ones -- heated confrontations with former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, for instance. They don't say the same things about Hicks. Sure, conversations could get testy -- Hicks was always known for her devotion to the president, and could get especially forceful defending him -- but several reporters said they found her useful at times, if a little mysterious.

"Hicks largely floated above day to day conflicts with the press (and more than others, internally) whereas the nature of Spicer's job required day to day conflict," said New York magazine White House correspondent Olivia Nuzzi, who profiled Hicks for GQ Magazine in 2016.

But there was one sure way to get her to clam up: Ask for an interview with her. Hicks was rarely ever quoted in stories, and she has never granted a TV or radio interview about herself or her job.

Hicks advocated behind the scenes for Trump to be accessible to the press, both through interviews and other public appearances. And she privately made the case to journalists that Trump was actually very accessible, even though he avoided some traditions like a pre-Super Bowl interview.

She was the point person for many of Trump's interviews during the campaign. She carried this responsibility to the White House, and initially placed Trump in a wide variety of settings, from ABC's "World News Tonight" to "Fox & Friends" to the cover of The New York Times Magazine.

Presidential interviews became less frequent after a few months. There was a noticeable change in approach after Robert Mueller was appointed special counsel in May. Although Trump has given off-camera interviews to The New York Times, Reuters and other outlets, he has not given a TV interview to any of the major networks other than Fox News since Mueller was appointed.

Fox anchor Jessie Watters said on Wednesday afternoon's "The Five" that he's sad to see Hicks go because "selfishly, she was my point of contact with the president."

"If I ever wanted to interview the president, I would go through her," Watters said." "I'm scrambling now...I'm going to have to find a new friend."

Although a big part of her job was turning down endless press requests, she was sometimes viewed as an advocate for greater access.

"She respects reporters' roles in a way that most people in that building do not," one of Hicks' confidants said.

Her confidant expressed concern that press access will become more limited without her there -- although Trump ultimately calls those shots himself.

White House reporters were skeptical that press relations would so drastically change.

"At the end of the day, Trump is his own communications director, so it seems unlikely that there will be meaningful changes to the overarching White House media strategy to the extent that there is a conscious strategy in place right now," Nuzzi said.

The tweets, Fox interviews and unpredictable bursts of access -- long gaggles, impromptu interviews and off-the-cuff remarks -- will likely continue, Nuzzi said.

"I think the changes that may occur as a result of Hicks's exit have more to do with the president's ability to exist without her in an emotional sense," Nuzzi continued. "She's a familiar presence at his side in a place where he's uncomfortable, and she understands him more viscerally than others in the press shop who haven't known him as long or observed him up close the way she has since the winter of 2015."

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 149940

Reported Deaths: 3779
CountyCasesDeaths
DeSoto10097104
Hinds9984199
Harrison7116110
Jackson6360119
Rankin5588103
Lee509195
Madison4799106
Forrest383186
Jones357688
Lauderdale3496147
Lafayette326051
Washington3179107
Lamar291550
Oktibbeha245462
Bolivar241384
Lowndes237364
Panola222350
Neshoba2206118
Marshall217250
Leflore205590
Pontotoc199928
Monroe198177
Sunflower191655
Lincoln190865
Warren176857
Tate169851
Union167325
Copiah164140
Pike162658
Yazoo156039
Scott154829
Itawamba152935
Pearl River152167
Alcorn151328
Coahoma150543
Simpson148353
Prentiss146230
Adams141950
Grenada140945
Leake134944
Holmes130861
George125524
Tippah125230
Covington123439
Winston122224
Hancock121139
Wayne117923
Marion116646
Attala113034
Tishomingo109442
Chickasaw107632
Newton105629
Tallahatchie97027
Clay91327
Clarke90553
Jasper82822
Stone77014
Walthall76928
Calhoun75513
Montgomery74525
Carroll72415
Lawrence71814
Smith71316
Yalobusha71327
Noxubee71017
Perry67026
Tunica61019
Greene60322
Claiborne58616
Jefferson Davis57017
Amite54014
Humphreys53619
Benton49318
Quitman4927
Webster44314
Kemper43618
Wilkinson39822
Jefferson35211
Franklin3395
Choctaw3357
Sharkey30917
Issaquena1164
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Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 244993

Reported Deaths: 3572
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson32314500
Mobile19859361
Madison13223148
Tuscaloosa13049154
Montgomery12342236
Shelby1031577
Baldwin873398
Lee775766
Morgan662650
Calhoun6301119
Etowah627666
Marshall627255
Houston525638
DeKalb485536
Cullman439442
Limestone425145
St. Clair419555
Lauderdale407854
Elmore406864
Walker3657111
Talladega351454
Jackson320423
Colbert311942
Blount292240
Autauga273542
Franklin252633
Coffee245415
Dale232654
Dallas226232
Chilton223438
Russell22193
Covington218934
Escambia198331
Chambers176850
Tallapoosa176391
Pike158614
Clarke158419
Marion140236
Winston133023
Lawrence127936
Pickens123518
Geneva12218
Marengo121524
Bibb117917
Barbour117310
Butler116541
Randolph102921
Cherokee102224
Hale97031
Clay91924
Fayette91616
Washington91219
Henry8546
Lowndes79929
Monroe78911
Cleburne77214
Macon73722
Crenshaw71130
Bullock69619
Perry6886
Conecuh68414
Lamar6798
Wilcox63518
Sumter58122
Greene42618
Choctaw42213
Coosa3444
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