White House communications director Hope Hicks, one of President Donald Trump’s most trusted and longest-serving aides, abruptly announced her resignation, leaving a void around a president who values loyalty and affirmation.
The departure of Hicks, who worked as a one-woman communications shop during his campaign, came as a surprise Wednesday to most in the White House.
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Hicks, 29, had a seemingly untouchable role in the West Wing, often viewed more as a surrogate daughter than a staffer. Perhaps most importantly, she served as Trump’s glamorous shield and validator, always ready to provide “Mr. Trump” with a smiling dose of positive reinforcement, and controlling reporters’ access.
In a statement, Trump praised Hicks for her work over the last three years, saying he “will miss having her by my side.” Hicks informed Trump of her decision Wednesday, a White House official said.
Hicks, who occupied the desk closest to the Oval Office in the West Wing, has been a central participant in or witness to nearly every milestone of the Trump campaign and White House. She began her White House tenure as director of strategic communications — a title that only partly captured her more expansive role as the president’s buffer to the press.
The news comes a day after Hicks was interviewed for nine hours by the House panel investigating Russia interference in the 2016 election.
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Hicks acknowledged to the House intelligence panel Tuesday that she has occasionally told “white lies” for Trump, according to a person familiar with the testimony.
But she said she had never lied about anything relevant to the Russia investigation.
Hicks’ departure leaves a vacuum in the White House communications team, and in the president’s collection of trusted aides.
“I can’t imagine anyone here leaving a bigger hole in the White House than Hope on her departure,” said White House lawyer Ty Cobb.
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White House officials and outside advisers suggested Hicks’ departure would strengthen chief of staff John Kelly’s control over the West Wing.
Hicks said in a statement, “There are no words to adequately express my gratitude to President Trump.” She added she wished Trump and his administration the “very best.”
Before Wednesday’s announcement, Hicks had not been happy for some time, according to two people with knowledge of her thinking who were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. One person said Hicks had been increasingly feeling the stress of the position, especially in the wake of revelations about her relationship with former staff secretary Rob Porter. Since then, Hicks has been hounded by paparazzi, who have at times staked out her apartment building.
Hicks was an improbable campaign press secretary and senior White House official. A former Ralph Lauren fashion model and public relations pro who worked for Trump’s daughter Ivanka, Hicks had no political background when Trump asked her to serve on his campaign.
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She was an unconventional press secretary, rarely mixing it up with reporters, almost never giving on-the-record interviews and staying off TV. She spoke at a rally exactly once in December 2016, after Trump beseeched her “to say a couple of words.”
She said nine: “Hi. Merry Christmas everyone, and thank you, Donald Trump.”
Hicks, who has long tried to avoid media attention, was thrust into the spotlight recently when it was revealed she had been dating Porter. He left the administration after accusations regarding his two ex-wives became public.
White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters that Hicks would remain at the White House “for several weeks” and denied that Hicks’ decision to leave had anything to do with her lengthy testimony before the House Intelligence Committee.
“Don’t try to read more into it than exists,” Sanders said. “This is something that she’s been thinking about for a while.”
The Associated Press contributed to this article