Another name on the list of Trump campaign staffers still in the administration has been scratched off — and some of the hangers-on look increasingly threatened.
Even as campaign veteran Hope Hicks announced her resignation from the administration on Wednesday, President Donald Trump sharpened his ongoing attacks against another longtime loyalist in the White House – Attorney General Jeff Sessions.
The sudden announcement that Hicks, who is White House communications director, plans to resign offered perhaps the clearest snapshot yet of the president's deeply factional administration.
The White House and the Justice Department didn't immediately respond to CNBC's request for comment.
The Hope Hicks story
A former employee of Ivanka Trump's clothing brand, Hicks had associated herself with Trump's presidential run before he even announced his candidacy. Hicks worked her way up in the White House behind the scenes, securing the high-level role of communications director while assiduously avoiding public exposure.
But in recent weeks, Hicks' connection to mounting administration scandals made her low profile impossible to maintain.
Hicks had long been dogged by reports that she played a role in crafting the misleading first statement about Donald Trump Jr.'s June 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Russians, who reportedly have Kremlin connections and promised damaging opposition research on then-candidate Hillary Clinton. "If it's what you say I love it," Trump Jr. wrote to an intermediary in emails he later released.
The first statement, which claimed that the meeting "primarily discussed a program about the adoption of Russian children," was dictated by President Trump himself to Hicks, The Washington Post reported.
In the past month, Hicks shared an unwelcome national spotlight with Rob Porter, the former White House staff secretary who resigned on February after the U.K. tabloid The Daily Mail published allegations of physical abuse from his ex-wives.
Hicks had reportedly begun dating Porter shortly before the accusations surfaced, and CNN reported she may have helped draft his initial statement denying the allegations.
Despite her close contact with the top brass in the White House, Hicks had rarely been considered a central figure in special counsel Robert Mueller's probe of Russia's potential involvement with the Trump campaign as it sought to disrupt the U.S. election.
Yet this week reports emerged that Hicks refused to answer a number of questions about the Trump Tower meeting in testimony before the House Intelligence Committee. The New York Times reported Hicks told the committee that she sometimes had to tell white lies for the Trump administration.
Trump was reportedly enraged by Hicks' House testimony, and "berated" his soon-to-be-former staffer for her admission. The Times reported that the episode played no role in Hicks' decision to resign.
Trump's war on Jeff Sessions
Rather than work to consolidate his most powerful allies, Trump tore into yet another loyalist on Wednesday. In a tweet he called Sessions' decision to hand his Obama-appointed inspector general control in reviewing potential FBI surveillance abuses "disgraceful."
Trump tweet: Why is A.G. Jeff Sessions asking the Inspector General to investigate potentially massive FISA abuse. Will take forever, has no prosecutorial power and already late with reports on Comey etc. Isn't the I.G. an Obama guy? Why not use Justice Department lawyers? DISGRACEFUL!
Sessions, in a rare rebuke to Trump, defended himself and the Justice Department in a statement Wednesday afternoon.
"As long as I am the Attorney General, I will continue to discharge my duties with integrity and honor, and this Department will continue to do its work in a fair and impartial manner according to the law and Constitution," he said in a written statement.
Wednesday evening, Sessions was spotted dining with his deputy, Rod Rosenstein, who oversees the special counsel's Russia probe, along with the solicitor general. The dinner with Rosenstein, whom Trump has reportedly expressed a strong desire to fire for his role in the Russia probe, was reported to be a clear signal of defiance against Trump.
The president has publicly attacked Sessions repeatedly since his recusal from any matters related to the investigation of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and into the question of whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russians.
The Washington Post reported Wednesday that Trump's criticisms of his own attorney general have been as colorful in private as they are on Twitter. Trump has reportedly taken to calling Sessions "Mr. Magoo," a reference to the elderly, myopic and oblivious cartoon character. Trump and Sessions are both 71 years old.
The latest attacks on the attorney general came shortly before reports emerged that Mueller is investigating Trump's continued threats against Sessions.