Hope Hicks, who returned to the White House last month, pushed President Trump to take control of the coronavirus briefings, which popped up his approval ratings for a few weeks, but have more recently tilted toward political disaster.
New reporting from Politico sheds light on Hicks’ emerging role at the White House, as she traded in the communications director job to serve as a counselor to the president under Jared Kushner for her second tour.
Hicks, Kushner, along with immigration hardliner Stephen Miller and staff secretary Derek Lyons all pressed the president to give last month’s ill-fated Oval Office address, in which Trump butchered the roll-out of his policy to ban travel from Europe due to coronavirus spread fears.
Hope Hicks returned to the White House last month and has tried to craft a communications strategy to help President Trump survive the coronavirus crisis. She wanted him to become front-and-center, according to reporting from Politico, a strategy that hasn’t always worked
Hicks works under President Trump’s son-in-law and top White House aide Jared Kushner (pictured), who pressured the president along with Hicks to give an Oval Office address on the coronavirus in mid-March
President Trump’s March 11 Oval Office address didn’t go as planned, as he butchered the roll-out of a European travel ban. He got back on message several days later with a press briefing in the White House Rose Garden
The president trusts Hicks – and other members of the White House staff like the 31-year-old aide, who started as Trump’s campaign press secretary and then followed him to the White House after his improbable victory in 2016.
After ascending to the role of White House communications director – becoming the youngest person to ever hold the job – Hicks departed the White House in 2018 to work for Fox in Los Angeles.
Politico reported that she missed her family and friends who lived on the east coast and the fast-paced, front-row-seat-to-history gig she had at the White House.
When she agreed to come back in early 2020, the president’s re-election prospects looked good.
He had just survived impeachment with his base of political support intact.
He was taking more kindly to leading on the world stage, relishing his trip to Davos, Switzerland for the World Economic Forum in January and then voyaged to India in February.
The economic numbers were strong.
By the time Hicks started at the White House in March, however, coronavirus had come to the United States and the aide would need to help the president survive a pandemic.
Hicks urged Trump to ‘act like a frontman,’ as Politico put it.
Trump soon started leading the daily briefings, despite the coronavirus taskforce being led officially by Vice President Mike Pence.
It was a Rose Garden briefing that seemingly got things back on track after the president’s flubbed Oval Office address.
But it was another briefing, last Thursday, that sent Republican allies of the president into a tailspin after the president mused that maybe light and injecting disinfectant could cure the coronavirus.
Republican Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan said Sunday that ‘hundreds’ of residents called into the health department upon hearing Trump’s advice.
‘Look, I think the president’s got to focus on the message, stick to the message and make sure that these press conferences are fact-based,’ Hogan advised on ABC’s ‘This Week.’
Trump has responded to the media coverage of his Thursday gaffe by calling off this weekend’s press conference and vowing to cancel them entirely via tweet.
‘What is the purpose of having White House News Conferences when the Lamestream Media asks nothing but hostile questions, & then refuses to report the truth or facts accurately,’ Trump tweeted Saturday. ‘They get record ratings, & the American people get nothing but Fake News. Not worth the time & effort!’
But on Monday, the briefing was back on – and then it was off – and then it was on again.
But a former White House press secretary warned that if there’s an actual policy problem, no matter what Hicks comes up with as a communications strategy, it likely won’t work.
‘This gets repeated in every White House, but when there is some intractable problem, everyone decides it is a communications problem, but 99 per cent of the time, it is not,’ President Bill Clinton’s former press secretary Joe Lockhart told Politico. ‘Even the best communications preople in the world cannot fix an underlying policy problem forever.’
Lockhart was pointing to the White House’s cobbled together approach to COVID-19 testing, which even Dr. Anthony Fauci warned wasn’t ready to go in order to have a widespread and safe reopening of the American economy.
‘The problem is they have not taken testing seriously,’ he added. ‘Until you are able to do the kind of testing the scientists want, you can’t develop a policy based on data. Right now, the policy is based on political aspirations.’