WASHINGTON (TNS) — President Donald Trump's communications director and close aide Hope Hicks announced her resignation Wednesday and will leave the West Wing in a few weeks, White House officials said.
Her departure comes a day after she refused to answer key questions from the House Intelligence Committee and at the end of a rocky month during which she was under fire for mishandling the White House response to spousal abuse allegations against Rob Porter, Trump's staff secretary whom Hicks reportedly had been dating. She also reportedly acknowledged during the committee hearing that she told "white lies" on behalf of Trump, an admission that would cast doubt on future statements on behalf of the White House.
Trump praised Hicks, calling her "outstanding" and saying she has done "great work for the last three years."
Hicks, who had worked for the Trump Organization, became Trump's campaign press secretary in 2015, joined the White House as director of strategic communications in January 2017 and was promoted to White House communications director in August.
Unlike previous White House communications directors, who generally came to the job with broad experience in setting strategy, Hicks, 29, relied mostly on her close connection and loyalty to the president. She has been one of his most protective advisers and fierce family loyalists.
Her announcement comes as Trump's dependence on longtime associates and family members is creating new problems for the president, with his daughter Ivanka facing tough questions while representing him in South Korea in recent days and his son-in-law Jared Kushner losing his top-level security clearance.
A former model, Hicks achieved a celebrity on par with Trump's most well-known aides, with her fashion choices often the subject of magazine photos and usually flattering social media posts. But few in the public know her thoughts or opinions on policy, as she almost never grants on-the-record interviews.
"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," Trump said in a statement. "I am sure we will work together again in the future."
Hicks is the fourth communications director to leave the turbulent Trump White House in 13 months. Among her predecessors was Anthony Scaramucci, a former hedge fund manager who lasted all of 10 days before leaving the job amid a profanity-laced interview with the New Yorker in which he used graphic terms to disparage top administration officials. Another predecessor, Sean Spicer, served two brief stints in the volatile job.
"There are no words to adequately express my gratitude to President Trump," Hicks said in a statement, adding: "I wish the president and his administration the very best as he continues to lead our country."
Hicks met behind closed doors on Tuesday with the House Intelligence Committee, one of three congressional panels investigating Russian meddling in the 2016 campaign. There was no hint that a resignation was on the horizon, a source familiar with her testimony said Wednesday.
Democrats complained that she was unwilling to answer questions about her work in the White House.
"This is an effort to continue to put off this committee," said Rep. Adam B. Schiff of California, the top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee.
Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said that Hicks' departure was not related to her testimony.
White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly was tarred by inconsistent descriptions of Porter's departure and reports he had tried to persuade Porter to stay even after knowing about the abuse allegations.
Nonetheless, Kelly praised Hicks on Wednesday, saying she "did a tremendous job overseeing the communications for the president's agenda including the passage of historic tax reform" and describing her as a "trusted adviser and counselor" as well as "strategic, poised and wise beyond her years."
The White House did not announce a replacement.