Hope Hicks Reluctantly Confronts the Man She ‘Totally Understands’ in Court

In the unceasing reality show that is Donald J. Trump’s life, his Manhattan criminal trial has functioned as something of a reunion episode, where supporting players return to confront the protagonist and relive memorable moments from seasons past. On Friday, the audience in the courtroom tensed when prosecutors announced the next person to testify on their behalf: Hope Hicks.

She was not a surprise witness. But this felt like a very special guest.

Ms. Hicks’s role in the Trump Show dates to 2015, when, as a 26-year-old with no political experience, she was plucked from Ivanka Trump’s clothing line to serve as press secretary to what then seemed a quixotic bid for the presidency.

They were an odd pairing from the start. He was the carnival-barker candidate with a penchant for provocation. She was the meticulously dressed, unfailingly polite aide, a former fashion model who developed a nuanced awareness of, and bottomless patience for, her mercurial charge. “She totally understands him,” Paul Manafort, Mr. Trump’s one-time campaign manager, said in 2016.

Unlike other aides, she never had a falling out with Mr. Trump (or wrote a tell-all memoir), serving as the White House communications director and returning for the final year of his administration. But their closeness took a hit when it emerged in 2022 that she had voiced anger in a text message to a colleague over the fallout on Mr. Trump’s staff from the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

Mr. Trump was displeased.

That rift may explain why Ms. Hicks, 35, looked visibly uncomfortable as she took the stand Friday morning and, in a notably soft voice, admitted to feeling “nervous.” This, she testified, would be the first time she had spoken in Mr. Trump’s presence in nearly two years.

Ms. Hicks, who was reared in the buttoned-up community of Greenwich, Conn., the daughter and granddaughter of public relations men, has long prized discretion, even amid a White House that could be shockingly indiscreet. It was obvious on Friday that her return to the spotlight was not by choice.