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Losing Hope

With the White House left reeling after the resignation of Donald Trump's bright, young right-hand woman, what's next for Hope Hicks, asks Philip Delves Broughton

By Philip Delves Broughton

The abrupt resignation of Hope Hicks from her job as White House communications director on Wednesday night robs the Trump administration of one of its most enigmatic and compelling figures.

In a White House unusually full of snarling, brutish men, she stood out.

As GQ magazine put it in a profile during Donald Trump's campaign, she is "a hugger and a people-pleaser, with long brown hair and green eyes, a young woman of distinctly all-American flavor - the sort that inspires Tom Petty songs, not riots".

The 29-year-old Hicks was reported to have cried as news spread of her departure. Typically, no one could say if they were tears of sadness to be leaving or cathartic joy at escaping the fear and grind of the administration.

No one has been closer to Trump since he began his run for the presidency in 2015.

In the White House, she occupied a broom-cupboard-sized office just outside the President's, never more than a shout away from her boss - "Hopey", "Hopester" - ready to take dictation for his tweets or pass on his caustic reactions to any journalists who angered him.

To have survived Trump's political ride for three years is testament to Hicks's resilience and quick thinking.

She grew up in the affluent town of Greenwich, Connecticut, a quick commute to New York and the heart of the hedge-fund industry.

Her father was a successful public relations executive, and when she was 11, she and her older sister modelled for Ralph Lauren. She appeared in national magazine campaigns and was the face of the Hourglass Adventures, a popular series of novels for pre-teen girls.

When she was 13, she gave an interview to Greenwich magazine, in which she said if the modelling didn't work out, "I could really see myself in politics. Who knows?"

After graduating from university, she went into public relations in New York, and by the time she was 25 was working for Ivanka Trump.

She moved up to handle press for the Trump Organization, then communications for Trump's run for the White House. She was 26 at the time.

Reporters who covered the campaign remember staggering late at night into hotels in Iowa and New Hampshire, soaked from snow and rain, to find Hicks poised and immaculate, waiting in the lobby.

Despite her political inexperience, she won the trust of reporters who could rely on her to respond quickly, though she never allowed her remarks to go on the record.

In the sweaty, seething mosh-pit of the Trump campaign and then the West Wing, she retained her Ralph Lauren cool.

Trump admired her ability to multi-task. Hillary Clinton had six people to handle her campaign press. Hicks did the job alone.

And, if needed, she was there to brush lint off her boss before campaign appearances, and steam his trousers while he wore them, to straighten them out after a flight.

She was one of the team around Trump known as 'the originals', there when no one else believed his campaign was for real. Last summer, after Anthony 'The Mooch' Scaramucci had to be fired after just 10 days as White House communications director, she stepped into the job, the youngest person ever to do it.

Until this year, she seemed untouchable. The President's surrogate daughter. The only person in a feuding White House able to manage him and interpret his wishes.

But eventually, even she proved vulnerable to the endless battering inflicted on this administration from within and without.

Last month, Rob Porter, the White House Staff Secretary, was forced to resign after his two ex-wives alleged he had physically abused them. Hicks, it emerged, was dating him. The President was said to have been furious with how Hicks handled the White House's response to the abuse allegations, delaying Porter's departure. The sudden focus on her personal life, sources told Vanity Fair, "emotionally overwhelmed" Hicks. She and Porter split up.

Then, this week, she spent nine hours testifying to the House Intelligence Committee on a range of issues, centred around investigations into Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election.

While she declined to answer many of the questions, she did reportedly admit to telling occasional white lies on behalf of the President. But she insisted that she told none relating to the Russia investigation.

Nonetheless, Hicks is already said to have run up considerable legal bills in the process of dealing with the Russia investigation being led by Robert Mueller.

A particular area of interest to investigators is her role in helping the president draft a potentially misleading statement about his son Donald Trump Jr's meeting with Russians in 2016.

And then there is the day-to-day warfare inside the White House, in which John Kelly, the President's Chief of Staff, appears to have the upper hand in dismantling the influence of Trump's family and long-standing confidantes.

This week he forced Jared Kushner, the President's son-in-law and senior adviser, to accept a lower level of clearance, a humiliation for someone entrusted with everything from Middle East peace to improving the efficiency of government. Kushner's security clearance, according to CNN, is now lower than that of the White House calligrapher.

The day before Hicks resigned, Josh Raffel, Kushner's personal spokesman, announced he too was leaving. The forces of 'Jarvanka' - the derisive nickname for Jared and Ivanka's circle - are in retreat.

If Hicks feels burnt out, few could blame her. After she announced her departure, the President issued an unusually warm statement: "Hope is outstanding and has done great work for the last three years. 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 understood. I'm sure we'll work together again."

Ivanka tweeted: "Hope Hicks is loved and admired by all who know her. It's with a heavy heart, but tremendous gratitude, that I wish her well in her next steps."

Even John Kelly mustered a compliment: "When I became Chief of Staff, I realised what so many have learned about Hope - she is strategic, poised and wise beyond her years."

If the examples of previous Trump allies are anything to go by, Hicks will never travel too far from the man who brought her to Washington.

While people come and go from their official jobs with Trump, he tends to keep them on speed-dial, and the relationships recover. He speaks regularly to Reince Priebus, his first Chief of Staff, and to Scaramucci, his disgraced former communications director. And Hicks has never had a major falling-out.

After a holiday and some time back home in Greenwich, Hicks will have her pick of opportunities. Television would love to have her. PR firms and lobbyists will be tripping over themselves to hire her. If she wanted to put aside her reticence and write a book, publishers would snap it up. She can settle those Mueller legal bills with one contract.

Once that's taken care of, there's Trump's re-election campaign in 2020. It's hard to imagine Trump back on the road without her.

Independent News Service

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