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Hope Hicks’ testimony gets second look after Cohen document dump

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Hope Hicks

Former Trump aide Hope Hicks repeatedly denied during testimony before the House Judiciary Committee last month that she was ever present when Donald Trump and Michael Cohen discussed Stormy Daniels. | Alex Wong/Getty Images

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New information raises questions about whether former White House communications director misled House lawmakers during a closed-door interview last month.

Newly released court documents are raising questions about whether former White House communications director Hope Hicks misled House lawmakers during a closed-door interview last month.

Hicks testified in June before the House Judiciary Committee that she was never present for discussions involving Donald Trump and his one-time attorney, Michael Cohen, about hush-money payments made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels during the 2016 presidential campaign.

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But Hicks participated in an early October 2016 phone call with Trump and Cohen as they were beginning negotiations on a deal to try and keep Daniels from going public with allegations about an affair with Trump, according tonewly unsealed portionsof a search warrant released Thursday.

According to the document, Hicks called Cohen on Oct. 8, 2016. Sixteen seconds later, Trump himself was dialed into the call, which continued for over four minutes. The FBI agent said it was the first call Cohen had received or made to Hicks in at least multiple weeks, and Cohen and Trump had spoken only about once a month prior to that.

Cohen and Hicks then spoke again for about two minutes after the call with Trump ended.

Hicks’ participation in the Cohen-Trump call, coming at a moment when Trump’s team was scrambling to bury Daniels’ story in the final weeks of a tumultuous 2016 presidential campaign, may put her in an awkward spot to explain her closed-door congressional testimony last month.

In that interview, Hicks gave a categorical denial to Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) when she asked whether Hicks was ever present when Trump and Cohen had discussed Daniels.

“No, ma’am,” Hicks replied.

“You were never present when they discussed Stormy Daniels?” Jackson Lee asked again, according to atranscriptreleased by the panel.

“No,” Hicks answered.

Jackson Lee then pressed a third time. “I’m going to say it again. Were you ever present when Trump and Mr. Cohen discussed Stormy Daniels, since it was all over the news that that occurred?” the lawmaker asked.

After a White House attorney, Patrick Philbin, interjected to ensure the question to Hicks was focused only on her time on the Trump campaign, Hicks again replied, “So, no is my answer.”

Hicks’ response to the House lawmaker also appears to conflict with what an FBI special agent wrote in support of the bureau’s request for search warrants of Cohen’s home, office and hotel room. In a footnote about the Trump-Cohen-Hicks call, the agent described a conversation with another official from the bureau who had interviewed Hicks.

“I have learned that Hicks stated, in substance, that to the best of her recollection, she did not learn about the allegations made by [Daniels] until early November 2016,” the agent wrote. “Hicks was not specifically asked about this three-way call.”

A lawyer for Hicks could not immediately be reached for comment. A spokesman for the Democratic-led House Judiciary Committee declined comment, and a spokesman for Jackson Lee did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

But other Democrats started weighing in late Thursday, arguing that Hicks had perjured herself.

“Looks like Hope Hicks lied during Congressional investigation when we at @HouseJudiciary interviewed her,” tweeted Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), who sits on the judiciary panel. “That’s two felonies: Perjury & Obstruction of Justice. Hicks consulted with lawyers throughout her interview. Did @TheJusticeDept or @WhiteHouse lawyers know she was lying?”

The new questions about Hicks’ testimony come as some in Trump’s orbit are starting to breathe a little easier. Audrey Strauss, lead U.S. attorney in New York handling Cohen’s case, sent aletterto a federal judge earlier this week that the government’s probe had concluded into who else might be criminally liable for the campaign finance violations to which Cohen pleaded guilty.

Strauss also said the Manhattan-based investigation into whether anyone else gave false statements or obstructed justice is over.

While the New York-based federal prosecutor made no mention about additional charges, several legal expertstold POLITICOon Wednesday that the government’s confirmation that it has closed its investigation suggests no one else from the Trump Organization faces legal liability.

“Case closed,” Trump personal attorney Jay Sekulow said in a text message to POLITICO on Thursday.

But others aren’t so sure Hicks is in the clear.

“I’m going to be surprised if there isn’t a 1001 violation referral for Hope Hicks by the end of tomorrow,” Bradley Moss, a Washington-based national security attorney, wrote Thursday on Twitter, referring to the federal statute prohibiting material false statements. “It appears rather clear she lied to Congress about the Stormy Daniels saga.”

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