Longtime Trump loyalist Hope Hicks has been promoted to interim communications director in the White House, a reflection that as the walls continue to close in on this president he is shrinking his inner circle to only his most trusted allies.
Hicks, who came into Trump’s orbit via work she did for his daughter, Ivanka, has been with him since the first day of his presidential campaign. She, along with then-campaign-manager Corey Lewandowski and social media guru Dan Scavino – as well as the Trump family – have always been on the innermost branches of the Trump trust tree.
To understand fully what Hicks’ elevation to communications director – even on an interim basis – signals about Trump’s mentality, consider who she follows in the job. (And remember: Outside – maybe – of his chief of staff, Trump views the communications director as the most important staff job in his White House. He is uniquely focused on the media and how they portray him.)
First was Mike Dubke, a veteran GOP political operative whose hiring was seen as a win for the establishment elements within the White House (Reince Priebus, Sean Spicer) and a sort-of olive branch from Trump to many of the political types he had blasted throughout the primary campaign. Dubke was hired several months after Jason Miller accepted the job but never assumed it – citing a need to spend more time with his family.
Here’s how the Washington Post cast Dubke’s hire, which came in mid-February:
“With the appointment, which a White House official confirmed Friday, President Trump is reaching outside his circle of trusted campaign aides to try to bolster his messaging operation….
As word of Dubke’s hiring trickled out, however, some Trump loyalists chafed at the idea of recruiting an establishment Republican operative with ties to strategist Karl Rove and other forces they see as having been hostile to Trump’s candidacy.”
By May, Dubke was gone, stepping aside after failing to crack into Trump’s inner core of advisers.
The job then sat open until late last month, when Trump brought on Anthony Scaramucci, a friend and fellow New York City guy to run the press shop. The hiring of Scaramucci was regarded as a sign that Trump was throwing over the guidance of his DC advisers – Priebus and Spicer were both vehemently opposed to the Mooch’s hiring; Spicer quit as a result – in favor of the New York-based team that he had always trusted more.
Within 10 days, Scaramucci was gone – the victim of forgetting that when you are the communications director at the White House you can’t give expletive-laden interviews with a reporter in which you savage people with whom you work.
Scaramucci had to be fired – and Trump acquiesced to new chief of staff John Kelly’s request to do so.
But the promotion of Hicks is an indication that Trump has zero interest in reconsidering his decision to seed many of the top positions in his White House with unquestioning loyalists.
If anything, Hicks is even more of a Trump devotee than Scaramucci; while he would occasionally acknowledge that the president, who he routinely said he “loved,” might have done something less than perfectly, Hicks is not willing to do even that. She is for Trump: First, last and always.
That’s who Trump wants around him. He wants to shoot the bull with his aides. But, at the end of the day, he wants them to say “Yes, boss, you’re right.” That’s the way you stay in Trump’s good graces. And Hicks has never been out of those good graces.
Hicks has a very light public profile for a communications director. She rarely does interviews, much less on-camera. That makes it hard to know just how influential she is on Trump’s thinking. Or whether she is willing to confront him when she disagrees.
What Hicks’ promotion also signals is a recognition of something anyone paying attention has known for a while now: Donald Trump is the real – and only – communications director. If past is prologue, Hicks will carry out Trump’s wishes without complaint or contradiction. He will dictate the how, whether and whys of White House messaging without any resistance now.
Which is what Trump has always wanted. Now he has it. But, getting what you want is almost always less satisfying than you thought it would be.