Thursday marked Hope Hicks’ last day as White House Communications Director. The 29-year-old Hicks was one of Donald Trump’s closest and most trusted aides, and her departure is considered a blow for the president. Consequently, a number of pieces have come out questioning just who will replace the invaluable Hope Hicks.
But what was Hicks’ job, exactly? The role of communications director is a nebulous one and, as the Associated Press reported on Friday, Trump doesn’t really consider it that important, with aides joking that “he is his own communications director, who upends carefully laid plans with a tweet or digression.” Hicks herself is an intentionally opaque person working in a deeply non-transparent administration. She never gave a single on-camera interview during her time at the White House, which means we are left to parse news reports to figure out what she actually did.
After waking up and often sending her first emails of the day around 4:30 a.m., Ms. Hicks would squeeze in a workout. Then, for much of the work day, she could usually be found in her closet-size office, where she would wait for the president’s inevitable call: “Hopester,” Mr. Trump would say, or “Hopey!” He sought her advice on any number of unfolding crises facing the White House, but also to check his instincts against hers.
Similarly, this is how Olivia Nuzzi described Hicks’ mornings in New York magazine:
She woke at 4 a.m.; responded to emails from the night before; read the bookmarked articles she’d been meaning to get to; met her trainer in the 3,200-square-foot gym on the first floor of her building; and arrived early at the northern gate, usually by 7:30 a.m.
Waking up early and sending some emails is impressive to me, personally, but not so much for a top White House staffer. Hicks would sit in a small room all day, wait for Trump to call her over, and then give him advice based on her own uninformed instincts? That’s a “job,” I guess, in the loose sense that Hicks was in an office, but it’s unclear that it was an invaluable one.
Most of the pieces emphasize Hicks’ closeness to Trump and her ability to act as an erratic president’s translator. “Her ability to anticipate what [Trump] wants and also execute can’t be replicated,” a White House spokesman told the Times. But Hicks can’t have been that good given that Trump has continuously changed his mind at the last second, surprising his own staff time and time again.
The Times piece does offer some specifics. Hicks drafted Trump’s public statements in Trump-speak. She was in charge of the team that controlled the messaging on the tax bill, although “Trump has in recent weeks appeared to have little regard for any formal rollout of his administration’s policy goals.” She also sometimes told Trump to tweet and sometimes told him not to tweet:
From time to time, she advised him on whether an angry Twitter post he wanted to send would be in his best political interests. From time to time, according to a former White House official, she would tell him that it was.
In a way, I have respect for how much Hicks has scammed everyone into thinking she is indispensable even as she dispenses of herself.
Perhaps the internal fawning over Hicks has to do with the fact that she also worked to boost workplace morale (which, to be fair, is important emotional labor that is often discounted). “To cut the tension in a chaotic workplace,” the Times reports, “Ms. Hicks baked cookies for aides on Valentine’s Day, swapped country music song recommendations and texted her colleagues funny video clips.” Who will step up now?