Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Sometimes one has to wonder what Trump officials are even thinking anymore. How does a competent legal team allow Hope Hicks, an active witness in the Trump-Russia scandal and someone who has admitted lying to protect the administration under oath, back onto Air Force One?

Former White House communications director Hope Hicks was spotted boarding Air Force One at a New Jersey airport on Saturday ahead of President Donald Trump’s departure for a campaign rally in central Ohio.

Hicks, who was one of the President’s longest-serving aides during the presidential campaign and in the White House, boarded the plane at the Morristown, New Jersey, airport, which is near the Trump Bedminster resort where the President is staying.

Hicks resigned from her White House role in February. Her resignation came a day after she testified before the House Intelligence Committee and said she had told white lies on the job. However, there was no indication that her resignation and the admission to the committee were connected.

Needless to say, this has led various corners of the left to speculate that the president was engaged in witness tampering. There is no proof of this, of course–the reasons for Hicks’ presence could be innocuous, or at least legally defensible.

But remember that these are the same Republicans who screamed bloody murder about Bill Clinton meeting briefly with Loretta Lynch–on an airplane no less. Conservatives gave the Clintons and Lynch no quarter in immediately demanding investigations and accusing them of witness tampering, obstruction of justice, and other crimes–despite the fact that the Clintons possessed no real power over Lynch. Still, the perception of scandal and inappropriate behavior was enough to force Lynch to recuse herself from the case.

Hicks, by contrast, was a witness for the Mueller investigation and sat for an interview with him. The extent of her cooperation with the probe, or lack thereof, is currently unknown. It is also unknown given her admitted fibbing on behalf of the administration and her close knowledge of its activities throughout the campaign, transition, and early presidency whether she might even face an eventual indictment.

So why in the world would Trump and his team have Hicks come back aboard Air Force One? The dangers would be multiple. Improbable as it may be, there’s at least an outside chance that Hicks could be allied with Mueller. Even if not, if it turns out that Hicks remains a person of interest in the investigation and Trump officials have knowledge of that fact, it allows a new line of inquiry regarding potential witness tampering. At best, it looks really bad and gives the whiff of even more scandal at a time when the administration hardly needs the distraction.

Nor has the administration voluntarily provided any exculpatory rationale for Hicks’ visit.

We shouldn’t automatically jump to conclusions, but we should definitely be demanding answers.

David Atkins

Follow David on Twitter @DavidOAtkins. David Atkins is a writer, activist and research professional living in Santa Barbara. He is a contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal and president of The Pollux Group, a qualitative research firm.