New York Magazine published a profile of outgoing White House communications director Hope Hicks today, but it doesn’t so much provide insight into the Trump administration’s atypically press-shy PR chief as it does illuminate the persistent vipers’ nest in which she managed to thrive for the better part of three years. Perhaps the 29-year-old comes off like such a cipher because she didn’t actually grant writer Olivia Nuzzi an interview, instead letting over thirty other administration sources (both named and not) fill in the blanks on her White House tenure. That tenure ended poorly for Hicks, culminating in testimony before the House Intelligence Committee as well revelations that her then-rumored boyfriend and ex-White House staff secretary Rob Porter had been accused of domestic violence by two ex-wives.
The fallout from Porter/Hicks affair is a twisted psychodrama in and of itself. Nuzzi revealed that prior to photographs exposing Hicks’s and Porter’s affair appeared in the Daily Mail, Hicks had been followed by a paparazzi service called “Probe-Media” when she was out with Porter and a few other White House colleagues. It’s unknown who actually hired the service to tail Hicks. The resulting photos led to two of Porter’s ex-wives coming forward and accusing the 40-year-old of domestic violence, one of which released photos of the black eye she said Porter gave her. Within the span of a month, their affair had been outed, the domestic abuse allegations against Porter had surfaced, Porter resigned, and about 30 more White House officials were revealed to be working without proper security clearances, including the president’s son-in-law Jared Kushner.
According to Nuzzi’s sources, Porter’s downfall was believed to be a political hit job, in part, by Hicks’s rumored ex-boyfriend and former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. From New York Magazine:
For as long as he’d been in politics, Lewandowski had been defined by two qualities: his ruthless pursuit of an enemy’s destruction and always having an enemy. This was true even when it was small ball; in New Hampshire, he once fucked over a local official by claiming that his fantasy-football league, with a grand prize of $200, was an illegal gambling ring. By the time Lewandowski was done, the official had lost his job and was the subject of a criminal probe.
There were plenty of reasons for Lewandowski to consider Porter his enemy. Whatever was or wasn’t true about his relationship with Hicks, Lewandowski’s unusual preoccupation with her was well established. “He has, sort of, Single White Male characteristics,” a source who had worked with Hicks before the campaign told me. In the fall, he began asking around, trying to figure out whom she was dating. “I think that he thinks he should control her,” a second source said. “He got wind that she was dating Porter, and he could not handle that,” a third source, who is close to the White House and worked with Lewandowski, said. “There were still raw feelings.”
Lewandowski, who happens to be a married father of four, has more in common with Porter than he’d probably care to admit. Like Porter, Lewandowski has a troubling history with women, including getting charged with battery after allegedly grabbing former Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields at a Trump rally in 2016 and a sexual assault accusation from singer and Trump supporter Joy Villa.
Although Hicks was caught in a love triangle between an alleged domestic abuser and a shameless sycophant desperate to claw his way into Trump’s cabinet, her singular devotion seemed to rest on Trump himself. In Fire and Fury, author Michael Wolff wrote that staffers observed Hicks’s and Trump’s relationship as more of like a father and daughter, with the president calling his aide cutesy nicknames like “Hopie” and “The Hopester.” From Fire and Fury:
As telling, with his daughter and son-in-law sidelined by their legal problems, Hope Hicks, Trump’s 29-year-old personal aide and confidant, became, practically speaking, his most powerful White House advisor. (With Melania a nonpresence, the staff referred to Ivanka as the “real wife” and Hicks as the “real daughter.”) Hicks’ primary function was to tend to the Trump ego, to reassure him, to protect him, to buffer him, to soothe him. It was Hicks who, attentive to his lapses and repetitions, urged him to forgo an interview that was set to open the 60 Minutes fall season. Instead, the interview went to Fox News’ Sean Hannity who, White House insiders happily explained, was willing to supply the questions beforehand. Indeed, the plan was to have all interviewers going forward provide the questions.
Nuzzi’s profile bolsters the notion that Hicks caters to Trump’s every whim, buffers him from bad news, and acts as a sort of surrogate memory for him:
While others were left wondering what the president was thinking, Hicks could often hear him shouting, even with her door closed. “Hope!” he’d scream. “Hopey!” “Hopester!” “Get in here!”
Many requests were mundane. “He doesn’t write anything down,” one source close to the White House told me. “He doesn’t type, he dictates. ‘Take this down, take this down: Trump: richest man on Earth.’ ” A second source who meets regularly with the president told me that Hicks acted almost as an embodiment of the faculties the Trump lacked — like memory. “He’ll be talking, and then right in the middle he’ll be like, ‘Hope, what was that … thing?’ ” When the name of a senator or congressman or journalist came up, Trump would prompt Hicks to provide a history of their interactions, asking, “Do we like him?” “And she fucking remembers!” (Trump has said his own memory is “one of the greatest memories of all time.”) “She’s the only person he trusts,” the second source continued. “He doesn’t trust any men and never has. He doesn’t like men, you see. He has no male friends. I was just with one of them the other day, someone who’s described as one of his closest friends, and he doesn’t know him very well. But a small number of women, including his longtime assistant back in New York, he really listens to them — especially if he’s not banging them. Because, like a lot of men but more so, Trump really does compartmentalize the sex and the emotional part.”
Hicks is the kind of woman destined to rise in a Trump White House. She’s beautiful, private, and was devoted to propping up the president’s ego while making sure to stay out of the spotlight. She was more than happy to see the good in a powerful man who was pushing a cruel agenda that punishes the poor, immigrants, and people of color. She must have been getting something out of this arrangement over the past three years, presumably the notoriety of aiding a winning presidential campaign and the close proximity to one of the most powerful people in the world. Like most of her fellow Trump administration castoffs, Hicks leaves the White House with hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal debt, an implication in a criminal investigation, and her credibility in tatters.
Was it worth it?