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Nancy Pelosi slams Hope Hicks and White House over testimony

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi accused the White House of obstructing justice by blocking Hope Hicks, the former communications director, from testifying to Congress about her work in the White House.

When a CNN reporter asked Pelosi what she thought of the White House’s move, Pelosi replied, “obstruction of justice.”

Hicks spent about eight hours testifying before the House Judiciary Committee in a closed-door session on Wednesday but refused to answer the committee’s questions or provide any documents pertaining to her time in the White House.

White House counsel Pat Cipollone wrote in a letter to the committee that Hicks is “absolutely immune” from revealing information about her work in the White House, including minor details like where her office was located. Democrats called the immunity assertion “ bogus,” and Justice Department veterans and ethics lawyers also said Cipollone’s assessment has no legal merit.

Democrats planned to ask Hicks questions related to the former special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation, as well as “efforts by President Trump, his associates, and other administration officials to obstruct justice and investigations into Presidential misconduct,” the party said in a statement last week.

Hicks has long been a central figure in President Donald Trump’s orbit and is one of his closest confidantes. She was a witness to several episodes Mueller examined as part of his obstruction case and is mentioned more than 180 times in Mueller’s 448-page report, for which she was interviewed by Mueller’s team at least three times.

Read more: Trump kicked off his 2020 campaign with a freewheeling rally riddled with falsehoods as he excoriated Mueller, Democrats, and the press

Several Democrats on the committee expressed their frustration to reporters as they left Hicks’ hearing on Wednesday.

Rep. Ted Lieu, a California Democrat and member of the House Judiciary Committee, echoed Pelosi’s comments.

“I’m watching obstruction of justice in action,” Lieu said. “You have to ask the question, ‘What are they trying to hide from the American people?'”

Lieu added that Democrats would challenge Hicks’ immunity claims in court and force the former Trump aide to come back before the committee.

Rep. Pramila Jayapal called the hearing a “farce,” and said Hicks was largely silenced by the White House counsel.

“Basically, she can say her name,” the congresswoman told Politico.

“She’s objecting to stuff that’s already in the public record,” California Democratic Rep. Karen Bass told the Associated Press. “It’s pretty ridiculous.”

Read more: House Oversight Committee holds Attorney General Barr and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross in contempt of Congress

Rep. Ted Deutch, another Democratic committee member, told Politico that Hicks didn’t say anything in the hearing without the explicit permission of the White House lawyer.

“She made clear she wouldn’t answer a single question about her time unless the White House counsel told her it was okay,” he said.

Congressional staffers say a transcript of the hearing will likely be released in the next couple of days.

Trump weighed in on Wednesday afternoon, repeating his opposition to the House hearing.

“So sad that the Democrats are putting wonderful Hope Hicks through hell, for 3 years now, after total exoneration by Robert Mueller & the Mueller Report,” he tweeted. “They were unhappy with result so they want a Do Over. Very unfair & costly to her. Will it ever end?”

Sonam Sheth contributed to this report.

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