Trump impeachment: Expert warns against ‘fiction’ that Russia did not meddle
Hill was among the two witnesses who testified before the house intelligence committee, which is conducting the first leg of the impeachment inquiry against Trump, on the final day of the scheduled public hearings so far.Updated: Nov 21, 2019 23:14 IST
Fiona Hill, a former Russia expert on the US National Security Council, warned Republicans on Thursday against promoting the “fictional narrative” that Russia did not meddle in the 2016 US elections, Ukraine did, as President Donald Trump’s defenders have sought to portray in the ongoing impeachment inquiry.
Hill was among the two witnesses who testified before the house intelligence committee, which is conducting the first leg of the impeachment inquiry against Trump, on the final day of the scheduled public hearings so far. The other was state department official posted to the embassy in Kyiv, David Homes.
“Some of you on this committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country—and that perhaps, somehow, for some reason, Ukraine did,” Hill said in her opening statement.
“This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves,” she added in a blunt rebuke of Republicans, who have fanned long-debunked conspiracy theories that some Ukrainians had worked with Democrats to defeat Trump in 2016.
The impeachment inquiry centers on allegations that President Trump and his key aides — his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and the “three amigos (energy secretary Rick Perry, ambassador to EU Gordon Sondland and special envoy Kurt Volker) used a White House visit and nearly $400 million in security aid to force Ukraine to announce an investigation against former Vice-President Joe Biden and Democrats getting help from Ukrainians”.
Trump has defended seeking a probe against Biden and the Democrats, saying it’s his duty as president to deal with corruption, but has denied he sought it in a quid pro quo.
But an entire train of witnesses have told impeachment investigators that there was a quid pro quo, as conveyed explicitly and implicitly by Giuliani to them and the Ukrainians.
It was his “clear impression”, Holmes said, “that the security assistance hold was likely intended by the president either as an expression of dissatisfaction with the Ukrainians who had not yet agreed to the Burisma/Biden investigation (Biden’s son Hunter Biden had served on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company that had been the subject of a probe earlier) or as an effort to increase the pressure on them to do so”.
Trump has sought to defend himself against these revelations by, one, discrediting the witnesses calling them Never Trumpers, and, two, by distancing himself from them saying he barely knew them and that he had had no interactions with them, implying therefore, their accounts could not be trusted.
“I don’t know him well. I have not spoken to him very much. This is not a man I know well—seems like a nice guy though—but I don’t know him well.”,” Trump told reporters of Sondland, after he had told investigators there was indeed a quid pro quo and that the Ukraine effort was carried out at the ‘express direction” of the president. Sondland, a hotel magnate, was appointed by Trump as ambassador to EU
Pakistan became on Wednesday a part of Trump’s defence mounted by Republican lawmakers. At least two of the lawmakers raised the suspension of security aid to Pakistan in 2018 to argue there was nothing wrong with the president ordering a block on the $400 million aid approved for Ukraine. The suspension of aid to other countries was also cited.