WASHINGTON – U.S. President Donald Trump's communications director and long-time aide, Hope Hicks, announced Wednesday she is resigning from the White House. Hicks has been close to Trump ever since the early days of his presidential campaign and is considered one of the most influential figures in the White House.
The immediate reason for her resignation is not clear, but Hicks was interviewed earlier this week by the Senate Intelligence Committee about Russia's intervention in the 2016 elections. White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said Hicks' decision to leave was not related to her appearance before the panel, where lawmakers said she declined to answer questions about the administration.
Hicks was also involved in the scandal surrounding the employment of former White House aide Rob Porter, who was accused of two cases of domestic violence, yet continued to be employed in a senior White House position. Hicks and Porter were reportedly involved in a romantic relationship.
A one-time aide to Trump's daughter, Ivanka Trump, and with no previous experience in politics, Hicks was one of the first people hired by the then-New York businessman when he began his campaign for the presidency. Hicks took over as communications director in September after the short, difficult tenure of Anthony Scaramucci, who was fired. She is credited behind the scenes for stabilizing the communications operation.
Hicks' exact departure was unclear but is expected to be sometime over the next few weeks. An aide said she had approached the president and told him she wanted to leave so she could start exploring opportunities outside of the White House.
"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," Trump said in a statement released by the White House. "I will miss having her by my side but when she approached me about pursuing other opportunities, I totally understood. I am sure we will work together again in the future."
Hicks said in her own statement that "there are no words to adequately express my gratitude to President Trump. I wish the president and his administration the very best as he continues to lead our country."
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The Republican president has presided over an extraordinary amount of turnover among senior staff in his White House since entering office more than a year ago. His first chief of staff, Reince Priebus, stepped down last summer, and his chief strategist, Steve Bannon was fired. Four people, including Hicks and former press secretary Sean Spicer, who also resigned, have held the communications director mantle.
More recently, Josh Raffel announced Wednesday he would be stepping down as a spokesman of Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and senior adviser. Raffel, a former public relations consultant considered personally close to Kushner and his wife, Ivanka Trump, handled media issues related to Kushner’s work in the administration, including the Israeli-Palestinian file.
Reuters contributed to this report.