Thursday, March 1, 2018

BTRTN: How's that Hopey-Changey Thing Working for you, Donald?

How are we to interpret the sudden resignation of Donald Trump’s longest tenured staffer, Hope Hicks? Steve thinks that there is a reason why Hope has chosen to spring eternally.


Other than family members, Hope Hicks has been the closest, longest-standing associate of Donald Trump, and it is for a very obvious reason. When Donald Trump evaluates personnel, he cares about personal loyalty far more than competence, expertise, experience, knowledge, and wisdom combined.  All Donald Trump wants to know is that you will unflinchingly have his back and that you will take his secrets to your grave.

In a White House of toadies, Hope Hicks was the sickest of the sycophants, so ferociously loyal to Donald Trump that she made Ivanka look like a grousing outlier. Hope Hicks was the true believer. In Fire and Fury, Michael Wolff characterizes Hicks’s relationship with Trump in this way:

“Completely devoted to accommodating him, she, his media advisor, was the ultimate facilitator of unmediated behavior. His (Trump’s) impulses and thoughts – unedited, unreviewed, unchallenged -- not only passed through him, but via Hicks, traveled out into the world without any other White House arbitration.”

Hope Hicks resigns? Out of the blue, no warning, one day after testifying to the House Intelligence Committee? All evening long, the news services buzzed with the story but no one seemed to have a firm grip on the elusive “why.” Why did the most loyal and longest-tenured Trump campaign staffer and White House advisor suddenly quit?

What’s making Hopey changey?

By way of tea leaves, there was only this little tidbit: her departure came one day after telling the House Intelligence committee that she has told “white lies” on behalf of Donald Trump. Asked by Representative Eric Swalwell if she had ever been asked by the President to lie on his behalf, she is reported to have retreated to discussions with her lawyers before even responding with her acknowledgement of "white lies." Not good optics, Hope.

Stop the presses! 2000 misleading comments or outright lies later, a White House official finally confirms that its ongoing communications policy includes intentional deceit.

Still and all, the very idea that the White House Director of Communications thinks that there is a category of deception that is somehow immune from accountability simply because it has been judged by the teller to have been “harmless” is in and of itself a mind-bender. Ok, nobody here is na├»ve: many a White House spokesperson has ducked, obfuscated, and even rendered prior statements "inoperative." But Hope Hicks came out in public and acknowledged that she had lied on behalf of the President.

Hey, Hope, white lies matter! You don’t get to decide whether the lies you were telling did no harm to the people listening. You don’t get to decide when people should trust you and when they should know better.

But give credit to the commentators on the nightly news who were quick to point out the important irony: precisely in acknowledging that she had occasionally told “white lies,” she was actually telling the truth. She was saying out loud and in person that Donald Trump expected her to lie in order to advance his agenda or to protect him.  

To a President who absolutely refuses to admit error of any kind and a man who insists that the lamestream media is undermining him with “fake news,” Hope Hicks’ casual little confession must have exploded like an improvised roadside device under an Afghan jeep. To have his Director of Communications acknowledge that the White House occasionally finds it necessary to lie to the public must have felt to Donald Trump like a brazen act of disloyalty.  Some speculate that Hicks did not resign, but was “forced out.”

We sincerely doubt it. 

Reporters who knew Hicks claimed that she had made the decision to resign before her visit to Congress, and they claimed that Hicks had simply had enough of the stress and trauma of Donald Trump’s madcap Presidency. Perhaps. 

But there is a seemingly far more simple and obvious explanation that is just sitting there, not yet articulated.

Hope Hicks is known to have been dangerously close to two lies that could hardly be considered harmlessly “white.” She was in the thick of the back-and-forth on Air Force One that resulted in an absurd press release that claimed that Don Junior’s famous Trump Tower meeting with Russians was about “adoptions.” More recently, Hicks was romantically involved with wife-smacking White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter just as the White House communications team was irretrievably bungling the time line of what the White House knew about Portman’s spousal abuse and when they knew it. 

The latter issue was simply humiliating… a classic case of the White House yet again foolishly thinking that obvious deceits would not be revealed by leakers who refused to lie for their bosses. 

The first issue, however, would put Hope Hicks in the epicenter of one of the potentially most sizzling pieces of evidence in an obstruction of justice charge.  Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury details how the handling of that press release was a seminal moment for Hicks, who was the sole communications officer involved in the drafting of the release. Trump’s traditional media advisors – including Sean Spicer – had been delegated to the “back of the plane” while Hicks worked directly with Trump on the release. The release would be exposed as bogus when the New York Times published the entire email trail that proved that the meeting’s purpose was to discuss the Russian promise of dirt on Hillary Clinton. 

Wolff went on to report that Mark Corallo, a White House lawyer who was present during the drafting of the release, would resign within a week, apparently having told people that he felt he had witnessed an impeachable offense:

“Mark Corallo was instructed not to speak to the press, indeed, not to even answer his phone. Later that week, Corallo, seeing no good outcome – and privately confiding that he believed the meeting on Air Force One represented a likely obstruction of justice – quit.” Fire and Fury, pp. 260.

What’s the mystery here, folks? Hope Hicks is looking around and seeing people like Rick Gates and Michael Flynn get wrist slaps for lying to the FBI, illegal communications with hostile foreign nations, and a raft of financial crimes. Perhaps Hope Hicks is realizing that her reward for sticking around and telling “white” lies for Donald Trump may be hard time.

And if you have decided that you have a story to tell, you probably don’t want to be two doors down from Donald Trump when the newsflash erupts on Fox and Friends

Hope Hicks may simply be a young person who is in process of realizing that her deep and unmitigated trust in Donald Trump was misplaced. Perhaps someone has finally explained to her that this drama is heading to a place where there will be no longer be a "President Trump" to protect her. Perhaps she is realizing that everyone who tries to escape the White House is suddenly a "coffee boy" left to twist in the wind. Perhaps she is realizing that the cost of her loyalty is increasing by the day if not by the hour.

What better way of sending smoke signals to Robert Mueller than to go up to Capital Hill and announce for news channels of every size, flavor, and orientation that you “told lies on behalf of the President.” 

And then, the very next day, to resign. 

Hey, there, Mr. Special Prosecutor, I lied before but I’m ready to the truth now! How do you know? I just admitted to Congress that I lied, and I just quit working for the liar-in-chief!

We suspect Mr. Mueller will be interested indeed.

And hey, Sarah Barracuda, freezing somewhere in Alaska, you know what?

That Hopey Changey thing? It’s still working for us... in ways we never imagined.

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