/Fiona Hill to criticize Republicans for pushing ‘fictional narrative’ on Ukraine

Fiona Hill to criticize Republicans for pushing ‘fictional narrative’ on Ukraine

Republicans have also cited a 2016 op-ed by Ukraine’s then-ambassador to the U.S., who criticized Trump for suggesting that Russia had a right to annex Crimea, a move that drew international condemnation. Yovanovitch said “isolated incidents” do not suggest that Ukraine launched a government operation to harm Trump’s chances in 2016.

Hill, a longtime Russia hawk, plans to sound the alarm more broadly about Russia’s aggression in the region, in addition to its ongoing efforts to interfere in U.S. elections and weaken America’s global influence. She will argue that Russia’s efforts have been at least somewhat successful.

“The impact of the successful 2016 Russian campaign remains evident today,” she plans to say. “Our nation is being torn apart. Truth is questioned. Our highly professional and expert career foreign service is being undermined.”

During her closed-door deposition last month, Hill sparred with Republican lawmakers, who are likely to press her on the issue once more during Thursday’s public impeachment hearing.

Hill, who was the top Russia hand on the National Security Council until July, will also warn that Moscow’s “ security services and their proxies have geared up to repeat their interference in the 2020 election.”

Hill’s appearance before the House Intelligence Committee comes as Democrats are taking what may be their final shot to buttress their case that Trump abused his power by pressuring Ukraine to investigate his political rivals.

Lawmakers leading the impeachment inquiry say they’re more confident than ever they have clinched their case against Trump — while Republicans continue to assert there is no direct evidence implicating the president in a Ukraine scheme.

On Thursday, investigators will turn to Hill to amplify her account as a White House insider who attended key meetings on Ukraine and reported her concerns about Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer, to a superior .

Alongside Hill will be David Holmes, a minor player in the inquiry but one who supplied key evidence. Holmes overheard a phone call between Trump and Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, during which Trump audibly asked about the status of his desired investigations.

Neither witness is expected to produce the type of testimony that Sondland provided Wednesday, when he told lawmakers that Trump, through Giuliani, had authorized a quid pro quo with Ukraine, denying the country’s new president a White House meeting until he announced an investigation targeting former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

Sondland also indicated that a slew of senior officials knew about the effort, including acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Energy Secretary Rick Perry. Pompeo and Perry on Wednesday pushed back on Sondland’s claim.

Hill’s closed-door testimony represented a crucial break for Democrats in the nascent stages of the investigation. She revealed that her boss, former national security adviser John Bolton, worried about a “drug deal” that Mulvaney and Sondland were involved in. He also called Giuliani a “hand grenade who’s going to blow everybody up” over his efforts to smear Yovanovitch, in the spring, according to Hill.

Trump removed Yovanovitch from her post in May and attacked her during a phone call with Ukraine’s new president, Volodymyr Zelensky, on July 25.

Hill also testified about Sondland’s conduct, alleging that he attended meetings about Ukraine that were not in his purview. And she says she confronted him after a July 10 White House meeting during which Sondland raised the prospect of Trump’s investigations directly with Ukrainian officials.

Hill also called Sondland a counterintelligence risk, noting that he often used his personal cellphone for official business.

Holmes, meanwhile, told investigators behind closed doors last week that he overheard Sondland speaking by phone with Trump at a restaurant in Kyiv, during which Trump asked about the status of “the investigations.” According to Holmes, Sondland replied that the Ukrainians were “gonna do it,” and that Zelensky “loves your ass.”

Holmes also said it was possible that the Russians intercepted the phone call, which took place at an outdoor cafe on an unsecure cellphone. According to Holmes, Sondland told him that Trump only cares about “‘big stuff’ that benefits the president, like the ‘Biden investigation’ that Giuliani was pushing.”

Sondland said Wednesday he had no reason to doubt Holmes’ account, but he could not recall specifically mentioning the Bidens.

Daniel Lippman contributed to this report.

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