New York writer Olivia Nuzzi’s latest cushy glimpse into the inner lives of the minions making the Trump administration’s cruel machine run is here. The latest edition features Hope Hicks, the Trump confidante-turned-White House communications director–turned Washington scandal du jour.
In nearly 8,000 words, Nuzzi goes to great lengths to cast Hicks—who resigned her post late last month amid the scandal surrounding the White House’s handling of domestic abuse allegations against her then-boyfriend, Rob Porter—as a vision of feminine achievement who somehow avoided any of the muckiness that seems to land on everyone else in Trump’s inner circle.
As Nuzzi tells it, Hicks is someone without political aspirations, drawn to Trump for his character and drawn even further in by the closeness of their relationship. Hicks declined to speak to Nuzzi on the record for the story at all, though Nuzzi did disclose on Twitter that she had “spent some time” with Hicks during the past few weeks. (She said that her reporting was based on more than three dozen interviews with former aides, campaign staff, and other sources close to Trump.)
So what do we learn from all of this? Well, we learn that Hicks is a keeper of notebooks who decided there would never be a perfect time to resign since the White House is always weathering a scandal. Check out this blow-by-blow journaling account:
Hicks took out one of her notebooks, black leather with the Trump name embossed in gold on the front. She’d prayed a lot over the weekend, and also written two lists in the same bubbly print that had recently been photographed on a note card in Trump’s hand, reminding him to tell survivors of a school shooting, among other things, “I hear you.” One list contained reasons to resign as White House communications director immediately; the other, reasons to wait to resign. Not resigning at all wasn’t a consideration.
Yet, if she waited, she probably couldn’t avoid the impression that she was leaving because of a crisis, because there was always a crisis. If she’d resigned in August, they’d have said it was owed to Charlottesville. In December? Mueller or Roy Moore. January? Fire and Fury. From a public-relations perspective, there would never be a right moment to leave, but public relations as it’s traditionally understood had almost no relevance in this White House. By Sunday, her gut had decided for her what her head couldn’t.
Ah, the agony! You almost feel like you’re sitting right next to Hicks, shushing her softly, stroking her hand, and telling her it’s all going to be all right.
We get more of the Trump-as-surrogate-grandfather in this mystifying exchange, which features Hicks officially tendering her resignation to the man in the big chair. In true Bob Woodward style, it is written like a bad novel and features no sourcing (emphasis added throughout):
When the president returned from the Capitol around noon, Hicks opened her office door, which clasps with a ring at its center, and walked about ten feet to her right, into the Oval Office. Before she could finish resigning, Trump interrupted her. He told her that he cared about her happiness, that he understood her decision, and he would help her do anything she wanted to do in her life. He said he hoped she would go make a lot of money. He also said he hoped that she would come back at some point.
Then the president added something else: “I’m sorry for everything you’ve been through.”
Was Nuzzi in the room for this intimate moment? Did the president really relay this tender exchange? We’ll never know, because Nuzzi doesn’t tell us. But the idea that a man with a near-pathological preoccupation with his own self-image delivered this thoughtful goodbye definitely feels believable, sure!
Other than shining a brief light on what looks like a coordinated effort to sic the tabloids on the Porter story—an escapade that comes to involve both the right-wing troll Chuck Johnson and Corey Lewandowski—the profile is a tedious tick-tock of the activities of gnarled ghouls. It’s most notable for what isn’t there. If Nuzzi asked Hicks about Trump’s tax returns, his business dealings in Russia, his Muslim ban, his war on undocumented people, or anything about his politics in general, it didn’t make it into the story. We’re left with the same vision of Hicks that we entered with: a beautiful face onto which we can project anything we want, an empty vessel that Trump will sorely miss. What kind of person could work so closely with a bloated, hateful oaf for so many years and remain intact? The kind who’s avoided the spotlight for years while allowing sympathetic journalists to carry water for them.
Who is Hope Hicks? We’re not supposed to know, even now. Yet through her work with Trump, we should know everything we need to.