The Woman Who ‘Totally Understands’ Donald Trump

An inspirational poster hangs above the Trump Tower desk of Hope Hicks, the 27-year-old press secretary for Donald J. Trump’s presidential campaign, squeezed in among the framed Time magazine covers of Mr. Trump and exuberant thank-you notes written in his inimitable scrawl (“Hopie — You’re the greatest!”).

“Fate whispers to the warrior, ‘You cannot withstand the storm,’” it reads. “And the warrior whispers back, ‘I am the storm.’”

Ms. Hicks, a onetime champion lacrosse player who signed a Ford modeling contract as a teenager, had never worked in politics before last year, and her widest exposure had been as a co-star in a Nickelodeon children’s television special about golf.

Now she plays confidante and sometime gatekeeper to the presumptive Republican nominee for president and, improbably, serves as Mr. Trump’s sole liaison to the teeming national press corps.

Hillary Clinton employs a half-dozen battle-hardened media handlers who field hundreds of daily requests. Mr. Trump has Ms. Hicks, who was working for his daughter Ivanka’s luxury lines and for the Trump real estate brand when the candidate called her to his office in early 2015 and declared that she was joining his campaign.

“Mr. Trump sat her down and said, ‘This is your new job,’” said her mother, Caye Cavender Hicks. “It was a shocker.”

Hope Hicks had trained at Hiltzik Strategies, the powerful public relations firm that represents Hollywood clients and corporate executives, before Ms. Trump brought her in-house. She was commuting from an apartment she shared with her sister in Greenwich, Conn., above the dive bar where her father had his first beer at 18.

Suddenly, she found herself a near-constant presence by Mr. Trump’s side, flying in his jet, living rent-free in a Trump-owned apartment and attending to his mercurial moods.

She is arguably the least credentialed press secretary in the modern history of presidential politics. But for journalists who cover the campaign, she is sometimes the Jekyll to Mr. Trump’s Hyde, emailing angry complaints from her media-bashing boss (“dishonest”) and often concluding with her own polite sign-off: “Best, Hope.”

Seemingly unfazed by her boss’s outbursts, she can detect the best moments for reporters to make requests — knowing, for instance, not to bother Mr. Trump while he is watching a major golf tournament.

“Her most important role is her bond with the candidate,” said Paul Manafort, the veteran Republican adviser who, as of this past week, had been put in charge of the campaign. “She totally understands him.”

Or, as Ivanka Trump said in an interview: “My father makes people earn his trust. She’s earned his trust.”

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Adeela Khan
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