‘This is exactly what the Russian government was hoping for…’
(Liberty Headlines) A former national security official testified Thursday on the damaging impact that Russian interference had in its efforts to sow discord in U.S. politics, while ignoring the fact that Democrats’ ongoing impeachment hearings in the U.S. House were a symptom of that.
“This is exactly what the Russian government was hoping for,” said Fiona Hill, a supposed Russia policy expert, about the current American political climate. “They would pit one side of our electorate against the others.”
Rather than provide impartial observations from her field, however, the British-born Hill, who served as an aide to former national security adviser John Bolton, sternly warned Republican lawmakers—and implicitly Trump—to quit pushing a “fictional” narrative that Ukraine, rather than Russia, interfered in U.S. elections.
“I refuse to be part of an effort to legitimize an alternative narrative that the Ukrainian government is a U.S. adversary, and that Ukraine—not Russia—attacked us in 2016.”
Hill and David Holmes, a State Department adviser in Kyiv, capped off the week of partisan testimony attacking President Donald Trump and his political allies for undermining the national security interests of both the U.S. and Ukraine in the fight against Russia.
However, their testimony was largely colored by their own biased perceptions of things like body language, tonal inflections and “coded” language.
As other pre-vetted witnesses had done, they glossed over a central point in Trump’s defense: that his reservations over Ukrainian corruption and interference in the 2016 U.S. election may have been a valid reason to investigate his Democratic opponents, including former Vice President Joe Biden.
The two witnesses confirmed that Trump sought assurances from newly elected Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy that he would investigate the allegations against Biden, whose son served on the board of an influential—and corrupt—Ukrainian energy company.
Discrediting Dems’ Star Witness
Despite the fact that Trump’s mistrust of Ukraine may have been justified, Hill claimed that conditions placed upon securing a White House meeting for Zelenskiy were unrelated to Ukrainian policy and amounted to campaign operations serving the president’s private interests.
She sought to discredit Democrats’ star witness from Wednesday’s testimony, European Union Ambassador Gordon Sondland, saying he wasn’t simply operating outside official diplomatic channels but carrying out instructions from Trump.
Sondland admitted in his testimony that Trump had never spoken with him about pre-conditions and had explicitly said he did not seek a quid-pro-quo deal with Ukraine.
“He was being involved in a domestic political errand,” countered Hill during questioning from Republicans at the House hearing. “And we were being involved in national security policy—and here we are.”
Hill and Holmes both filled in gaps in previous testimony and poked holes in the accounts of other witnesses.
They were particularly adamant that efforts by Trump and Giuliani to investigate the Burisma company were well-known by officials working on Ukraine to be the equivalent of probing the Bidens.
That runs counter to testimony by Sondland and Kurt Volker, the former Ukraine special envoy, who insisted they had no idea there was a connection.
Hill and Holmes told House investigators it was abundantly clear to them that Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, was pursuing political investigations of Democrats and Joe Biden in Ukraine.
“He was clearly pushing forward issues and ideas that would, you know, probably come back to haunt us and in fact,” Hill testified. “I think that’s where we are today.”
An Overheard Phone Call
Holmes, a late addition to the schedule, also undercut some of Sondland’s recollections about a phone call between the ambassador and Trump on July 26, the day after the president’s call with Ukraine.
Holmes was having lunch with Sondland in Kyiv and said he could overhear Trump ask about “investigations” during a “colorful” phone call with Sondland.
After the phone call, Holmes said Sondland told him Trump cared about “big stuff,” including the investigation into the “Biden investigation.” Sondland said he didn’t recall raising the Bidens.
During Thursday’s testimony, the president tweeted that while his own hearing is “great” he’s never been able to understand another person’s conversation that wasn’t on speaker. “Try it,” he suggested.
Holmes also testified about his growing concern as Giuliani orchestrated Ukraine policy outside official diplomatic channels. It was a concern shared by others, he testified.
“My recollection is that Ambassador Sondland stated, “Every time Rudy gets involved he goes and f—s everything up.”
Holmes testified that he grew alarmed throughout the year, watching as Giuliani was “making frequent public statements pushing for Ukraine to investigate interference in the 2016 election and issues related to Burisma and the Bidens.”
Deflecting the Russia Hoax
Hill left the White House before the July phone call that sparked the impeachment probe, though she was part of other key meetings and conversations related to Ukraine policy. She opened her testimony with an impassioned plea for Republicans to stop peddling an alternative theory of 2016 election interference and helping Russia sow divisions in the United States.
She warned that Russia is gearing up to intervene again in the 2020 U.S. election. “We are running out of time to stop them,” she testified.
Ranking GOP Rep. Devin Nunes of California addressed Hill’s attacks on Republican concerns of Ukrainian interference by pointing out that it was possible both countries were involved in partisan interference operations.
Democrats are believed to have been working with the Ukrainian embassy to spread false information that Trump colluded with Russia.
However, House Intelligence Chair Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who is presiding over the impeachment probe, has refused to allow them to call witnesses who might undermine the Left’s efforts.
Nunes attacked Democrats for heading an incessant political operation to undermine the 2016 election and the current president while deflecting away from their own misconduct.
To their claims that Trump had gotten “caught,” he pointed to many instances in which the partisan motives of Schiff and other Democrats had been exposed.
“That is the Democrats’ pitiful legacy,” Nunes said in his opening remarks. He called it all part of the same effort, from “the Russia hoax” to the “shoddy sequel of the impeachment inquiry.”
In Moscow on Wednesday, Russian President Vladimir Putin said he was pleased that the “political battles” currently being waged by House Democrats had supplanted the previous Russia allegations.
“Thank God,” Putin said, “no one is accusing us of interfering in the U.S. elections anymore. Now they’re accusing Ukraine.”
Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press