/Trump’s former top Russia adviser to testify in House impeachment probe

Trump’s former top Russia adviser to testify in House impeachment probe

President Trump stops to talk to reporters and members of the media as he walks to board Marine One on the South Lawn at the White House on Thursday, Oct 10, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Fiona Hill, the White House’s former top Russia adviser, is expected to speak to House investigators behind closed doors Monday about how the administration’s approach to Ukraine was affected by President Trump’s lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani’s efforts to have the country investigate the son of former vice president Joe Biden.

Hill served on the National Security Council as senior director for Russia and Europe from mid-2017 until the week before Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky held a July 25 phone call that sparked an intelligence community whistleblower’s report and is at the heart of House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry. A transcript of the phone call shows that during the exchange, Trump asked Zelensky for a “favor,” requesting Ukrainian officials look into both a debunked conspiracy theory regarding the 2016 election and the energy company Burisma, which paid Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, to sit on its board. The former vice president is a Democratic presidential contender.

Hill will be the third high-ranking current or former diplomat that the House Intelligence, Foreign Affairs and Oversight and Reform committees will depose as part of their accelerating impeachment probe. The inquiry is focusing on whether the president abused his office by leveraging diplomatic engagement, and possibly military aid, to secure investigations that would damage the Bidens.

Former special U.S. envoy to Ukraine Kurt Volker shared text messages with the panels earlier this month, showing how both career and political diplomats coordinated with Giuliani and a top aide to the Ukrainian president through the summer to secure a public commitment from Zelensky to investigate the 2016 elections and Burisma, as a precondition for Trump meeting his Ukrainian counterpart in person.

Last week, the panels also heard from former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who testified about her understanding of Giuliani’s efforts to oust her from office earlier this year. Though Yovanovitch’s term as ambassador was curtailed earlier than planned in May, she remains an employee of the State Department, and her testimony has been held up as a model of how Congress can use subpoenas to help officials circumvent the administration’s refusal to cooperate in the impeachment probe.

As the top NSC official on Ukraine matters, Hill worked closely with both of those diplomats — and with U.S. ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, who defended Trump in the texts Volker provided against the insinuation he was engaging in a quid pro quo. Sondland is expected to testify under subpoena later this week that he was merely transmitting Trump’s words when he said that, and does not know if the claim he repeated is true.

Hill, who previously served on the National Intelligence Council during the George W. Bush administration, is known for being a vocal critic of Russian President Vladi­mir Putin and an institutionalist — stances that put her at odds with Trump’s embrace of Russia’s resurgent role in the region, and Giuliani’s style of maneuvering in Ukraine.