White House silent as staff shake-up fallout grows

WASHINGTON — This week's surprise departure of White House communications director Hope Hicks struck at the heart of President Donald Trump's diminishing inner circle and fueled public perception of an administration seemingly incapable of stability.

But on Thursday, the White House opted to say nothing at all about Hicks' imminent exit or about who might be tapped to become the president's fifth communications director.

Behind the scenes, sources suggest that morale is waning at the White House. Two people close to the administration tell NBC News that the president is angry and depressed after losing Hicks, whom he had looked upon as one of his own children.

A third source familiar with the matter said the president and Hicks shared a "misty" goodbye after her resignation on Wednesday.

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Notable people who have been fired or resigned from Trump's administration
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Notable people who have been fired or resigned from Trump's administration

White House Communications Director Hope Hicks reportedly announced her resignation after testifying about her job and being required to tell "white lies."

(Photo credit should read MANDEL NGAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt resigned from his position on July 5, 2018 after a number of ethics scandals.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Rob Porter resigned as White House staff secretary in February 2018 amid abuse allegations made by his ex-wives.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was fired by President Trump in March 2018.

(Joshua Roberts/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

H.R. McMaster was replaced by John Bolton as national security advisor in March 2018.

(Photo by Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images)

White House aide Kelly Sadler left her position in June 2018 after reportedly mocking Sen. John McCain.

(REUTERS/Leah Millis)

Director of the National Economic Council Gary Cohn announced his resignation in March 2018 after becoming a key architect of the 2017 tax overhaul 

(REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein)

Sally Yates was fired from her post as acting attorney general when she refused to enforce President Trump's travel ban. 

(Photo by Bill O'Leary/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Michael Flynn resigned as national security adviser in February after misleading Vice President Mike Pence about his interactions with Russian officials. 

(REUTERS/Carlos Barria)

President Trump announced David Shulkin was out as secretary of veterans affairs by sending a tweet announcing he had nominated his personal physican, Ronny Jackson, to replace him on March 28, 2018.

(Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

Trump fired FBI Director James Comey in early May.

(REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Former White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer resigned in July.

(June 20, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst)

Former White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus resigned in July.

(REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

Former advisor to President Donald Trump Steve Bannon resigned in August.

(Photo by Scott Olson/Getty Images)

Anthony Scaramucci, former White House communications director was fired in July after just 10 days on the job. 

(Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Trump fired Deputy Chief of Staff Katie Walsh amid White House leaks in April.

(REUTERS/Carlos Barria/Files)

Former Secretary of Health and Human Services Tom Price resigned in late September. 

(Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

White House aide Omarosa Manigault insists she resigned and was not fired from her role in December 2017.

(Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

President Trump fired U.S. Attorney in Manhattan Preet Bharara in March.

(REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein)

Mike Dubke resigned as White House communications director in late May.

(Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Walter Shaub, former Director of the United States Office of Government Ethics in Washington, DC resigned in July.

(Photo Linda Davidson/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

White House deputy assistant Sebastian Gorka resigned in August 2017. 

(REUTERS/Joshua Roberts)

Rick Dearborn, White House Deputy Chief of Staff for Legislative Affairs, left the White House in December 2017.

(REUTERS/Aaron P. Bernstein)

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Hicks, 29, has been a longtime member of the Trump family's inner circle, having served as press secretary for his presidential campaign before being tapped to join the White House staff. Hicks, a former Ralph Lauren model, previously worked for the Trump Organization and for Ivanka Trump's fashion brand.

She assumed the role of communications director last summer after an eventful 11-day tenure by Anthony Scaramucci.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders dismissed questions about Hicks' departure or on any potential replacements at the daily briefing Thursday, saying she had no personnel announcements to make.

Hicks' resignation ended a chaotic month, even by the standards of an administration that has struggled to maintain even a semblance of balance or cohesion.

Earlier in February, the administration was rocked by a scandal involving White House staff secretary Rob Porter, a senior official and rising Washington star who was accused by his two ex-wives of verbal and physical abuse.

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Rob Porter in his White House role
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Rob Porter in his White House role
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 2: White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter watches as President Donald Trump speaks during a meeting with North Korean defectors in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, DC on Friday, Feb. 02, 2018. President Donald Trump talked to reporters and members of the media about the release of a secret memo on the F.B.I.'s role in the Russia inquiry. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly walks with White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter to depart with U.S. President Donald Trump aboard the Marine One helicopter from the White House in Washington, U.S. November 29, 2017. Picture taken November 29, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
Former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski (C) says hello to reporters as he and White House advisors Sebastian Gorka (from L), Omarosa Manigault and Communications Director Anthony Scaramucci accompany President Trump for an event celebrating veterans at AMVETS Post 44 in Struthers, Ohio, U.S., July 25, 2017. Jonathan Ernst: "The most visible person in any White House is naturally the President, followed by the press secretary. But there are also the staff who support them, any one of whom might suddenly jump into public view and be national news for a day or two. For those of us covering the President Trump administration, there seem to be more compelling figures in the West Wing than ever before. It's crucial to know who's who and why they're important. When I raised my camera and back-pedalled ahead of the group to take this image Lewandowski gave me a hello and pointed right into the lens. I liked the photo, but had no idea it would go a little bit viral, especially since Scaramucci, who was the biggest mover and shaker that week, was hidden back in the pack. But I guess the image catches a glimpse of what it's like to be a West Wing staffer on the road."REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst/File photo SEARCH "POY STORY" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "REUTERS POY" FOR ALL BEST OF 2017 PACKAGES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY.
UNITED STATES - FEBRUARY 01: Rob Porter, right, White House staff secretary, and Don McGahn, White House counsel, attend a luncheon featuring a speech by President Donald Trump at the House and Senate Republican retreat at The Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., on February 1, 2018. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)
Stephen Miller, White House senior advisor for policy, right, talks to Rob Porter, White House staff secretary, after arriving on Marine One on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Feb. 1, 2018. In a speech to congressional Republicans at the Greenbrier resort in West Virginia today, Trump recognized the party's leadership and then riffed on his election. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 01: White House chief of staff John Kelly, (L), walks with staff secretary Rob Porter, (C), and White House senior advisor Stephen Miller, before boarding Marine One to depart from the White House with President Donald Trump, on February 1, 2018 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 05: White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter (L) and Senior Advisor to the President Stephen Miller (C) return to the White House after a day trip with President Donald Trump to Cincinnati, Ohio, February 5, 2018 in Washington, DC. While in Ohio President Trump delivered remarks after touring cylinder manufacturer Sheffer Corporation while the first lady Melania Trump visited patients and their families at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Gary Cohn, director of the U.S. National Economic Council, right, Stephen Miller, White House senior advisor for policy, left, and Rob Porter, White House staff secretary, walk toward the White House after arriving on Marine One with U.S. President Donald Trump, not pictured, in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018. Trump today threw a wrench into negotiations over a shutdown-avoiding spending bill by saying he didn't want a provision funding children's health insurance in the short-term measure. Photographer: Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg via Getty Images
White House Chief of Staff John Kelly walks with White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter to depart with U.S. President Donald Trump aboard the Marine One helicopter from the White House in Washington, U.S. November 29, 2017. Picture taken November 29, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter (L) arrives aboard Air Force One with fellow senior staff and U.S. President Donald Trump for a summer vacation at his Bedminster estate, at Morristown Airport in Morristown, New Jersey, U.S. August 4, 2017. Picture taken August 4, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
White House chief economic adviser Gary Cohn (R) talks with White House Staff Secretary Rob Porter (L) as they arrive with U.S. President Donald Trump aboard Air Force One at Indianapolis International Airport in Indianapolis, Indiana, U.S. September 27, 2017. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst
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The controversy cascaded into questions about how classified intelligence is handled within the White House, leading to new internal guidelines. It also brought increased scrutiny on chief of staff John Kelly after contradictory public and private accounts emerged on how he responded to the accusations against Porter.

Hicks' resignation came a day after she appeared before the House Intelligence Committee, which is investigating Russian interference in the 2016 election. During her testimony, Hicks acknowledged that she had sometimes told "white lies" for the president, according to lawmakers.

An important witness to campaign and White House matters that are potentially relevant to the ongoing government probes into Russian meddling, Hicks declined to answer questions about her time in Trump's administration, citing advice from the White House.

Hicks also declined to answer most questions about the transition period between the election and the inauguration.

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Hope Hicks attends meeting with House Intelligence Committee
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Hope Hicks attends meeting with House Intelligence Committee
White House Communications Director Hope Hicks leaves after attending the House Intelligence Committee closed door meeting at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., February 27, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 27: White House Communications Director and presidential advisor Hope Hicks (L) arrives at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center February 27, 2018 in Washington, DC. Hicks is scheduled to testify behind closed doors to the House Intelligence Committee in its ongoing investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
White House Communications Director Hope Hicks (R) leaves the U.S. Capitol with her lawyer Robert Trout after attending the House Intelligence Committee closed door meeting in Washington, U.S., February 27, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis
White House Communications Director Hope Hicks leaves the U.S. Capitol after attending the House Intelligence Committee closed door meeting in Washington, U.S., February 27, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis
White House Communications Director Hope Hicks leaves the U.S. Capitol after attending the House Intelligence Committee closed door meeting in Washington, U.S., February 27, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis
White House Communications Director Hope Hicks leaves after attending the House Intelligence Committee closed door meeting at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., February 27, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 27: White House Communications Director and presidential advisor Hope Hicks (L) arrives at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center February 27, 2018 in Washington, DC. Hicks is scheduled to testify behind closed doors to the House Intelligence Committee in its ongoing investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
White House Communications Director Hope Hicks leaves after attending the House Intelligence Committee closed door meeting at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S., February 27, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 27: White House Communications Director and presidential advisor Hope Hicks (L) arrives at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center February 27, 2018 in Washington, DC. Hicks is scheduled to testify behind closed doors to the House Intelligence Committee in its ongoing investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
White House Communications Director Hope Hicks warns a camera man away from tripping as she leaves the U.S. Capitol after attending the House Intelligence Committee closed door meeting in Washington, U.S., February 27, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis
WASHINGTON, DC - FEBRUARY 27: White House Communications Director and presidential advisor Hope Hicks arrives at the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center February 27, 2018 in Washington, DC. Hicks is scheduled to testify behind closed doors to the House Intelligence Committee in its ongoing investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 election. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
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Most significantly, however, White House officials fear that Hicks' departure will leave the president unmoored. Hicks and Trump's former bodyguard, Keith Schiller, were among the closest nonfamily members to join the president at the White House. Schiller left the job last summer.

Two administration officials note that she was among the few people able to influence Trump on messaging, at times helping him craft tweets or, on occasion, even stopping him from sending posts that might do more harm than good — something even Kelly, a retired four-star general, has not managed to do.

"The people who are trying to protect the president from himself and his tweets have lost an ally with Hope's departure," one of the sources said.

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