/Fiona Hill calls allegation Ukraine meddled in 2016 a fictional narrative: impeachment latest
Fiona Hill calls allegation Ukraine meddled in 2016 a fictional narrative: impeachment latest

Fiona Hill calls allegation Ukraine meddled in 2016 a fictional narrative: impeachment latest

WASHINGTON – David Holmes and Fiona Hill, two central witnesses to the pressure campaign in Ukraine, testified publicly Thursday in the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump.
Hill, a former National Security Council official, previously testified about national security adviser John Bolton’s concerns about the pressure campaign. Holmes, a State Department official in the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, overheard Trump ask U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland about “investigations” on a call.
Below are live updates of today’s hearing. Please check back and refresh this page for updates:
Hill: Ukraine election interference is ‘fictional narrative’
Fiona Hill, the former National Security Council senior director for Europe and Russia, told lawmakers in her opening statement that it was a mistake to think that Ukraine and not Russia had interfered with the 2016 election, as President Donald Trump and some congressional Republicans have suggested.
“Based on questions and statements I have heard, 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. “This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves. The unfortunate truth is that Russia was the foreign power that systematically attacked our democratic institutions in 2016. This is the public conclusion of our intelligence agencies, confirmed in bipartisan Congressional reports.”
Hill compared the Russian interference under President Vladimir Putin to a political-action committee in the United States funded by millions of dollars.
More:How to stay updated on USA TODAY’s impeachment coverage
These fictions are harmful even if they are deployed for purely domestic political purposes.
“President Putin and the Russian security services operate like a Super PAC,” Hill said. “They deploy millions of dollars to weaponize our own political opposition research and false narratives.”
Hill, a native of England who became a U.S. citizen in 2002, described herself as a non-partisan who was interested in helping the committee find the truth rather than pursue a political agenda.
“I take great pride in the fact that I am a nonpartisan foreign policy expert, who has served under three different Republican and Democratic presidents. I have no interest in advancing the outcome of your inquiry in any particular direction, except toward the truth,” Hill said.
– Bart Jansen
Holmes: Giuliani and ‘political agenda’ overshadowed U.S. diplomacy
David Holmes, a career foreign service officer who works in the U.S. embassy in Kyiv, told lawmakers that while his job is political counselor at the embassy, It is important to note that I am not a political appointee or engaged in U.S. politics in any way.”
Holmes described a dramatic shift at the embassy in March 2019, noting U.S. foreign policy “became overshadowed by a political agenda being promoted” by Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and a “cadre of officials operating with a direct channel to the White House.”
He recounted former Ukrainian Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch’s clashes with former prosecutor genral Yuri Lutsenko over the U.S. push for anti-corruption in Kyiv. Lutsenko retaliated by launching a smear campaign against Yovnovitch, Holmes said, with the help of Giuliani and his associates, who would later begin to take “a direct role” in Ukrainian policy.
He said he recalled Sondland saying, “Damnit Rudy. Every time Rudy gets involved he goes and f—s everything up.”
– Courtney Subramanian
The Trump phone call with Sondland
Holmes recounted that the day after Trump’s ill-fated phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, he met with Zelensky aides and witnessed a phone call between Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, and the American president at an outdoor restaurant in Kyiv. The pair discussed A$AP Rocky’s detention in Sweden as well as whether Zelensky was going to open the investigations Trump had requested. Sondland said “he’s gonna do it,” adding that Zelensky will do “anything you ask him to.”
Holmes said he told his direct supervisor, the deputy chief of mission, and others at the embassy about the call.
– Courtney Subramanian
Holmes on military aid hold
Holmes also recalled the embassy in Kyiv’s efforts to try to unfreeze the U.S. military aid to Ukraine, noting that by August “my clear impression was that the security assistance hold was likely intended by the President either as an expression of dissatisfaction that the Ukrainians had not yet agreed to the Burisma/Biden investigation or as an effort to increase the pressure on them to do so.”
Holmes said in early September Ambassador Bill Taylor, the top diplomat in Ukraine who replaced Yovanovitch, told him that there was a request that Zelensky commit to the investigation on CNN. He described it as “a demand that President Zelenskyy personally commit, on a cable news channel, to a specific investigation of President Trump’s political rival.”
–Courtney Subramanian
Schiff places Holmes and Hill in Ukrainian saga
House Intelligence Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., opened the third day of public impeachment hearings Thursday by reminding the room of yesterday’s testimony from Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union who delivered lengthy testimony Wednesday on hi role in pressing the Ukrainian president to investigate President Donald Trump’s political rivals.
Chairman Adam Schiff asks National Security Council official Fiona Hill and State department official David Holmes questions as they testify before the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on Nov. 21, 2019 in a public hearing in the impeachment inquiry into allegations President Donald Trump pressured Ukraine to investigate his political rivals.
Schiff then introduced David Holmes and Fiona Hill, noting their concerns over the “increasing prominence” of Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, in U.S.-Ukraine relations. Schiff also placed both Hill and Holmes at key moments throughout the Ukraine saga, including a July 10 meeting at the White House between Ukrainian and U.S. officials as well as Sondland’s July 26 phone call with Trump in Kyiv.
Schiff reiterated that members of Congress would determine in the coming days whether Trump “abused his power and invited foreign interference in our elections, if he sought to condition, coerce, extort, or bribe a vulnerable ally into conducting investigations to aid his reelection campaign and did so by withholding official acts.”
Nunes slams impeachment hearings
Rep. Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee, denounced the “carousel of accusations” levied by Democrats at President Donald Trump.
Rep. Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the Intelligence Committee, denounced the “carousel of accusations” levied by Democrats at President Donald Trump.
“How do we have an impeachable offense here, when there’s no actual misdeed,” he said in his opening statement on Thursday
He urged Americans to consider the credibility of the Democrats and slammed a “sham impeachment process.”
He directly responded to Hill’s opening statement, which had said some members of the Intelligence Committee did not believe that Russia interfered in the 2016 election.
Nunes submitted a report by House Republicans that warned of election interference by all countries, including Russia.
“Needless to say it is not impossible for two countries to meddle in a election at the same time,” he said.
More:‘Rudy was the guy:’ Takeaways from Sondland’s testimony detailing Ukraine pressure campaign
What Hill has said
In her closed-door testimony on Oct. 14, Hill outlined key players in the campaign to pressure Ukraine to open investigations into Trump’s political rivals.
According to Hill, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland’s conduct was “comical” but “deeply concerning,” because, she said, he gave out her personal phone number and told officials to contact her and Bolton with no notice.
“It’s like basically driving along with no guardrails and no GPS on an unfamiliar territory,” Hill said, calling him a counterintelligence risk.
Timothy Morrison, Hill’s successor at the National Security Council, said Hill described Sondland to him as the “Gordon problem.”
11/21/2019 9:20AM-- Washington, DC -- National Security Council official Fiona Hill testify before the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on Nov. 21, 2019.
More:How well does Trump know $1 million donors like Gordon Sondland? Some are now his employees
She also described how concerned national security adviser John Bolton was by the linkage of aid and investigations. When Sondland brought up investigations up during a meeting between American and Ukrainian officials on July 10, Hill said he told her it was like a “drug deal” and urged her to brief National Security Council lawyers.
Hill said she was “shocked” by Trump’s July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
“I sat in an awful lot of calls, and I have not seen anything like this. And I was there for two and a half years,” Hill said. “So I was just shocked.”
What Holmes has said
In his closed-door testimony on Nov. 15, Holmes shed light on a July 26 call between Trump and Sondland in which Trump asked him about the status of “investigations.”
Holmes told lawmakers and staff behind closed doors, “I then heard President Trump ask, ‘So, he’s gonna do the investigation?’ Ambassador Sondland replied that ‘he’s gonna do it,’ adding that President Zelensky will do ‘anything you ask him to.'”
During that conversation, Sondland told Trump that Zelensky “loves your a–” and would do “anything you ask him to” about investigations.
“I’ve never seen anything like this, someone calling the President from a mobile phone at a restaurant, and then having a conversation of this level of candor, colorful language,” Holmes said.
In his Wednesday testimony, Sondland said he did not dispute Holmes’ characterization of the call.
“That’s how President Trump and I communicate, a lot of four-letter words; in this case three-letter,” Sondland told lawmakers.
State department official David Holmes testifies before the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on Nov. 21, 2019.
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