New York magazine’s Olivia Nuzzi has a fascinating (and lengthy) profile on Hope Hicks based on having spent several weeks with her and talking to a lot of the people with whom she is surrounded. There’s a lot in there about her being the “Trump whisperer,” and how she was never into politics, and how she’s been considering resigning for a long time but worried that it would look like her resignation was prompted by a crisis, but since the crises never go away in the Trump White House, she finally decided to pull the trigger. My biggest takeaway from the profile is that Donald Trump will be even more unmoored after she leaves because she also acted as a check on his worst impulses, and as his memory (think Gary from Veep). Trump is going to lose the one advisor he had who wasn’t ambitious, and who wasn’t trying to gain something from the Trump White House. She is unfailingly loyal, and the one person Trump could actually trust.
But the more interesting section in the profile is the gossipy love triangle that basically led to Rob Porter’s departure. Hope Hicks’ jealous ex-boyfriend, Corey Lewandowski, may have done that. Nuzzi doesn’t exactly connect all the dots, but she lays them out and allows the reader to connect them.
What happened was this: Lewandowski found out that Porter and Hicks were dating. “He got wind that she was dating Porter, and he could not handle that,” the source said. Another source said that he had “raw feelings” over their break-up, and yet another source added, “I think that he thinks he should control her.”
There were plenty of reasons for Lewandowski to consider Porter his enemy. Whatever was or wasn’t true about his relationship with Hicks, Lewandowski’s unusual preoccupation with her was well established. “He has, sort of, Single White Male characteristics,” a source who had worked with Hicks before the campaign told me …
Complementary to Lewandowski’s hatred of Porter was his rivalry with John Kelly. To establish order in the West Wing, Kelly had made the president less accessible to outsiders and outside information less accessible to him.
Meanwhile, Jennifer Willoughby, Rob Porter’s second ex-wife, posted on her blog allegations of abuse, though she did not name Rob Porter specifically. It seems that someone — probably Lewandowski — got wind of that blog post, which prompted Rob Porter to beg his ex-wife to take it down. She refused, and then a few months later, Porter asked again.
“He did not name names, but he implied that there was a former staffer from the White House who was unhappy with him and was out to get him and take him down and somehow had gotten wind of my blog post,” Willoughby said. “He’s demanding that I take it down and telling me that this former staffer is going to send it to the media.” Willoughby assumed that Porter was talking about Bannon … but later, she came to believe Porter was talking about Lewandowski, even though Lewandowski had never formally worked in the White House.
A few days later, The Daily Mail received a tip about the blog post, which ultimately led to the firing of Rob Porter and Hope Hicks’ decision to dump Porter. But the whole episode was designed, many believe, to take down Porter and make John Kelly look bad. “This had been planned and choreographed and coordinated and known long in advance by a group of people who were trying to play political games,” a source with direct knowledge of the events said, “knowing that this would be part of a larger story related to security clearances and John Kelly and others, seeking to sow chaos and dissension. They saw this as a useful catalyst, which it turned out to be.”
In other words, in addition to the chaos, toxicity, and mania inside the White House, there’s also a fucking soap opera playing out with huge political repercussions.