Impeachment Inquiry Live Updates: Fiona Hill and David Holmes to Testify

Impeachment Inquiry Live Updates: Fiona Hill and David Holmes to Testify

Fiona Hill, the former top Russia expert on the National Security Council, will criticize Republicans on Thursday for propagating what she calls a “fictional narrative” that Ukraine, not Russia, meddled in the 2016 elections, according to a copy of her opening statement for the impeachment hearing.

The impeachment inquiry centers on the accusation that President Trump withheld a White House visit for Ukraine’s president and security aid for the country as leverage to push the government to announce investigations into his political rivals and to validate the claim that Ukraine conspired to help Democrats in the 2016 election.

Ms. Hill calls the claim a fake story invented by Russian intelligence services to destabilize the United States and deflect attention from their own culpability.

“In the course of this investigation, I would ask that you please not promote politically driven falsehoods that so clearly advance Russian interests,” Ms. Hill plans to say, according to her testimony. “These fictions are harmful even if they are deployed for purely domestic political purposes.”

In her opening statement, Ms. Hill will urge the committee to focus on Mr. Trump’s actions instead of the conspiracy theories put forth by Republicans.

“If the president, or anyone else, impedes or subverts the national security of the United States in order to further domestic political or personal interests, that is more than worthy of your attention,” Ms. Hill plans to say, according to her testimony. “But we must not let domestic politics stop us from defending ourselves against the foreign powers who truly wish us harm.”

Ms. Hill is also expected to testify Thursday morning about the reaction of her boss, John R. Bolton, the former national security adviser, to the pressure campaign on Ukraine led in part by Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer. She has said in past, closed-door testimony that Mr. Bolton considered Mr. Giuliani a “hand grenade” that would eventually blow everyone up.

Mr. Trump also revived his complaints about the special counsel investigation into whether his campaign or aides were involved in Russia’s election interference.

In previous closed-door testimony, Ms. Hill described in detail a July 10 White House meeting during which Gordon D. Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, told Mr. Bolton that he was working with Mr. Giuliani to press Ukraine to investigate Democrats in exchange for a White House meeting for the country’s new president.

Mr. Bolton was so disturbed that he abruptly ended the meeting and instructed Ms. Hill to tell the National Security Council’s top lawyer about what Mr. Sondland, Mr. Giuliani and Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, were up to, Ms. Hill has testified. Mr. Bolton told Ms. Hill that he was not “part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up.”

Later, Ms. Hill said that Mr. Bolton told her that “Giuliani’s a hand grenade who’s going to blow everybody up.”

Ms. Hill left the White House before the July 25 call between Mr. Trump and President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine. But Democrats believe her account could be crucial in helping to establish that top White House officials like Mr. Bolton felt the pressure campaign was inappropriate, and that Mr. Mulvaney was deeply involved in it.

Mr. Sondland said in Wednesday’s hearing that Ms. Hill’s account of the July 10 meeting did not “square with my own.”

Democrats are looking to Ms. Hill to corroborate Wednesday’s testimony by Mr. Sondland that he pressured Ukraine to announce investigations at Mr. Trump’s direction.

“We followed the president’s orders,” Mr. Sondland told lawmakers, testifying that it was well understood at the White House and throughout the Trump administration that a White House meeting for Mr. Zelensky was contingent on whether he agreed to announce investigations into Mr. Trump’s political rivals.

Mr. Sondland also said he came to conclude that a package of military aid for Ukraine was linked to the investigations. But Republicans seized on Mr. Sondland’s assertion that he was never explicitly told that by Mr. Trump or anyone else.

Ms. Hill told lawmakers in her previous testimony that when she confronted Mr. Sondland, whose official portfolio did not include Ukraine, about his authority over issues related to the country, he told her that his power came directly from Mr. Trump.

She said she asked Mr. Sondland “who has said you’re in charge of Ukraine, Gordon?” according to the transcript of her testimony released by the House Intelligence Committee. “And he said, the president. Well, that shut me up, because you can’t really argue with that.”

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