Resigning White House communications director Hope Hicks admitted in closed testimony to telling 'white lies' on behalf of President Trump after getting asked a broad question that a GOP panel members says was a 'trap.'
The 'white lies' comment emerged in the hours after Hicks got grilled for nine hours at the House Intelligence committee this week – and reports about it reportedly caused Trump to give her a tongue lashing.
Now, a pair of Republican and Democratic panel members are publicly airing the questioning that brought about the comment in a rare public spat about the closed process.
'The whole line of questioning was a trap,' vented GOP Rep. Tom Rooney of Florida, who admits he wasn't there at the top of the session.
'They sent her down a rabbit hole that she could not get out of. And it was completely unfair,' Rooney told CBS.
Hope Hicks, the ultimate Trump right-hand woman, was reportedly berated by the president after she admitted to telling 'white lies' for Donald Trump during her testimony to the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday
'I think the fair representation is that it was a setup: Use an extremely gratuitously broad question to make her look bad and ignore the rest of the nine hours that we were down there,' he said, calling it a 'bulls*** question.'
Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell of California, who questioned Hicks, defended the inquiry – and argued that if you need to consult your lawyer when asked if you've been truthful, you may have a problem.
'If your response to the question, 'Have you ever been asked by your boss to lie for him?' is to take two time outs, we already know the answer to the question,' Swalwell told the network.
'It's a question that is asked of witnesses every day across America – and most people don't have a hard time answering it,' he said.
Swalwell asked Hicks if she was 'loyal' to the president – a freighted term given former FBI Director James Comey's testimony that Trump had asked him for loyalty.
The normally camera-shy Hicks was seen this morning leaving her apartment in sunglasses
Then he asked if Trump had ever asked her to lie for him – leading to a break of 'five to ten minutes' while she conferred with her counsel.
Then she responded that ''I have never been asked to lie with respect to the Russia investigation.'
According to the accounts, Rooney then complained about the broad question, asking whether that would apply to a situation where Trump asked Hicks to tell someone he was busy, or to answer: 'Does this suit make me fat?'
During the back and forth, Swalwell and Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California asked for a subpoena to try to compel testimony.
After talking to her lawyer, Hicks said she never 'knowingly' told lies for Trump, other than some 'white lies' about trivialities like whether he was available.
A New York Times report after her testimony highlighted the 'white lies' part of her comment.
Democratic Rep. Eric Swalwell, D-Calif. asked Hicks during testimony whether President Trump had ever asked her to lie
GOP Rep. Tom Rooney of Florida said the question was a 'set up'
Hicks, the president's communications director, was among his longest-serving aides and seen as extraordinarily loyal
After her comment, Rooney said Swallwell 'went through the phone book' in his questioning, asking whether other Trump family members or officials had asked her to lie. Hicks didn't respond.
Trump reportedly 'berated' White House communications director Hope Hicks after she admitted telling 'white lies' for the president during her testimony to the House Intelligence Committee on Tuesday.
Investigators for special counsel Robert Mueller asked Hicks about a comment she made The New York Times two days after the 2016 election, according to CNN
A source made the revelation to CNN's Erin Burnett just hours after it was announced that Hicks would be departing the White House in the coming weeks, leaving a giant hole in the inner circle Trump trusts most.
Burnett claims an angry Trump asked Hicks after her testimony 'how she could be so stupid.
'Apparently, that was the final straw for Hope Hicks,' Burnett claimed.
But White House spokesman Hogan Gidley called the report that Trump berated her 'false'.
Hicks spent nine hours on Tuesday testifying before the House Intelligence Committee and parrying questions about the Trump campaign's alleged contacts with Russian nationals.
She told committee members that while she sometimes told 'white lies' for Trump, she had always been truthful about the Russia matter.
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Investigators for special counsel Robert Mueller asked Hicks about a comment she made to The New York Times two days after the 2016 election.
'We are not aware of any campaign representatives that were in touch with any foreign entities before yesterday, when Mr. Trump spoke with many world leaders,' Hicks said at the time.
According to CNN, a former Trump campaign official who was asked about Hicks' 2016 comment said it has come up with Mueller's team as well as with House and Senate Intelligence Committees.
January 20, 2017 to March 6, 2017 (45 days)
March 6, 2017 to June 2, 2017 (88 days)
Sean Spicer (Acting)
June 2, 2017 to July 21, 2017 (49 days)
July 21, 2017 to July 31, 2017 (10 days)
August 16, 2017 to February 28, 2018 (196 days)
In a statement released on Wednesday evening., Trump praised his loyal right-hand woman whom he often referred to as 'Hopester.'
'Hope is outstanding and has done great work for the last three years,' he said. 'She is as smart and thoughtful as they come, a truly great person. I will miss having her by my side but when she approached me about pursuing other opportunities, I totally understood. I am sure we will work together again in the future.'
The New York Times was first to report on Hicks' departure.
Hicks, 29, said Wednesday that '[t]here are no words to adequately express my gratitude to President Trump.'
'I wish the President and his administration the very best as he continues to lead our country.'
Ivanka Trump, the president's elder daughter, wrote on Twitter an hour after the announcement that Hicks 'is loved & admired by all who know her.'
'It's with a heavy heart, but