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Trump aide Hicks declines to answer Russia hearing questions

Hope Hicks.jpg
Hope Hicks, one of President Donald Trump's closest aides, appeared at a closed congressional hearing on Russian election meddling Tuesday, but refused to answer many of the questions of the House Intelligence Committee.

[WASHINGTON] Hope Hicks, one of President Donald Trump's closest aides, appeared at a closed congressional hearing on Russian election meddling Tuesday, but refused to answer many of the questions of the House Intelligence Committee.

The White House's 29-year-old communications director stuck to answering pre-approved questions, according to committee members, as have other Trump inner-circle advisors who have appeared such as his former top strategist Steve Bannon.

That meant avoiding questions about her work and White House contacts with Russia both following the November 8, 2016 presidential election and the January 20, 2017 inauguration, according to Democratic Congressman Mike Quigley.

"They're following the orders of the White House not to answer certain questions," he told reporters.

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"We got Bannoned," Democratic panel member Denny Heck told Bloomberg.

The committee has been holding hearings on Russian election interference and the links between the Trump campaign and Moscow, in parallel to special counsel Robert Mueller's Justice Department investigation into the same issue.

But the committee has made little progress for months amid infighting between Republicans loyal to the president and Democrats pressuring the White House.

As a longtime Trump aide, Ms Hicks, who was at the committee voluntarily, could have key information for the investigation.

She drew attention for her role in crafting the White House's response after the revelation of a June 2016 meeting between top campaign officials, including Trump's son Donald Trump Jr and son-in-law Jared Kushner, and a Russian lawyer who had offered them dirt on Trump's Democratic rival Hillary Clinton.

The New York Times has reported that, according to Mark Corallo, a former member of Trump's legal team, Ms Hicks said in a phone call with him and the president that emails written by Trump Jr. about the meeting in question "will never get out." That, if true, could raise suspicions about attempts to obstruct the Mueller investigation.

AFP