White House communications director Hope Hicks announced her resignation on Wednesday, leaving many West Wing staffers and others in President Trump’s orbit stunned.
“I’ve lost my capacity to be surprised with things going on in Trumpworld, but this is truly shocking,” one former White House staffer told Yahoo News, adding, “I did not see this coming at all.”
Hicks, who joined Trump before he announced his presidential campaign in 2015 after working for his daughter’s fashion brand, was his longest-serving top aide. Though Hicks had no prior political experience, she became Trump’s primary spokesperson and dealt with an avalanche of press questions and requests during the campaign. She earned the admiration of many reporters for her ability to handle the massive number of phone calls and emails that came her way and her willingness to set up a steady stream of interviews with Trump. On the campaign trail, Hicks became an almost constant presence by Trump’s side. Her closeness and loyalty to the president are what made her departure so surprising to colleagues and other members of Trump’s team.
Hicks was well regarded within the West Wing, where she was known as a calming presence and one of those who best knew Trump’s moods. One Trump insider called her resignation “a shocker,” although it was known she had been unhappy since moving to Washington.
“It was well known she never liked D.C., but I think most people thought she would be there at least until the end of the year,” the insider said.
Hicks had been facing intense scrutiny in recent weeks, in part for her romantic relationship with former White House staff secretary Rob Porter. When domestic abuse accusations against Porter emerged, Hicks was involved in crafting supportive statements from the White House that proved controversial, and did not prevent Porter’s eventual resignation. Hicks has also been a focus of the Russia probe, particularly for her role in a meeting in which Trump and his team put together a false story to release to the press about a meeting in 2016 with Donald Trump Jr. and other campaign aides and a Kremlin-connected lawyer offering negative information about Hillary Clinton. On Tuesday, Hicks spent more than eight hours testifying before the House Intelligence Committee. It was reported that she admitted sometimes telling “white lies” on the president’s behalf.
Despite the intense pressure on Hicks, the White House framed her departure as a routine career move. According to the White House, Hicks told the president she wanted to leave to explore other professional opportunities. The White House did not provide any information about Hicks’s future plans or her departure date, beyond saying that it will likely be in the coming weeks.
Hicks, whose resignation was first reported by the New York Times, has not responded to a request for comment from Yahoo News, but the White House press shop sent out a brief statement from her.
“There are no words to adequately express my gratitude to President Trump. I wish the President and his administration the very best as he continues to lead our country,” Hicks said.
The White House also released a statement from Trump praising Hicks.
“Hope is outstanding and has done great work for the last three years. 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,” Trump said.
Hicks was Trump’s fourth White House communications director. During the president’s first year in office, Sean Spicer, Michael Dubke and Anthony Scaramucci all spent time in the job before leaving the White House. She is the second high-profile White House communications staffer to leave this week, following Josh Raffel, who was spokesperson for Ivanka Trump, the president’s daughter and adviser, and her husband, senior adviser Jared Kushner. According to the White House, Raffel’s exit was due to “family obligations.”
Raffel and Hicks became close during their time in the White House. Their departures and the lifting of interim top-secret security clearances for Ivanka and Kushner leave chief of staff John Kelly in a strengthened position after weeks of rumors that he was close to being pushed out.
Hicks’s departure will leave Trump in need of yet another new communications director — his fifth. At the moment, multiple sources have suggested the likeliest choice is Mercedes Schlapp, a veteran political consultant who became director of strategic communications last September, and filled in for Hicks when she was away from her office.