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By John Helmer, Moscow

In the mind of Fiona Hill (lead image, right), the recently departed senior director for Russia at the National Security Council (NSC), everybody in Washington is vulnerable to Russian attacks of one kind or another, but not her.

Instead, she admitted in testimony to the Congressional committees investigating impeachment evidence against President Donald Trump,  that she’s on an attack operation of her own.  “I’m sorry to be very passionate but this is precisely…why I joined the [Trump] administration. I didn’t join it because I thought the Ukrainians had been going after the President.”  She says the reason she joined up was to fight the Russians.

“I thought it was very important to step up, as an expert, as somebody who’s been working on Russia for basically my whole entire adult 1ife, given what had happened in 2016 and given the peril that I actually thought that we were in as a democracy, given what the Russians I know to have done in the course of the 2016 elections… I’m extremely concerned that this is a rabbit hole that we’ re all going to go down in between now and the 2020 election, and it will be to all of our detriment.”

Hill testified that she’s certain that “what happened in 2016” was that the Kremlin intervened to help Trump defeat Hillary Clinton. “We’re in peril as a democracy because of other people interfering here. And it doesn’t mean to say that other people haven’t also been trying to do things, but the Russians were [the ones] who attacked us in 2016, and they’re now writing the script for others to do the same. And if we don’t get our act together, they will continue to make fools of us internationally.”

 “He’s [President Vladimir Putin] looking out there for every opening that he can find, basically, and somebody’s vulnerability to turn that against them. That’s exactly what a case officer does. They get a weakness, and they blackmail their assets. And Putin will target world leaders and other officials like this. He tries to target everybody.”

So, in the logic of Hill’s analysis of how the Russians operate against everybody, including herself, what evidence is there that Hill hasn’t, by concealment, calculation, corruption, or by mistake, succumbed to Putin’s attack,  too? Not once was Hill asked by either the Democrats or Republicans during the deposition, nor did she volunteer her own explanation, of how she managed to inoculate herself and is now telling the truth.

If Hill is telling the truth, and equally if she isn’t,  she has inflicted serious damage on her own colleagues and superiors,   the US Government’s Russia-hating professionals. In her testimony Hill depicts them as lying to each other and to the press; constantly scheming for and against the President; incapable of coordination among themselves, agreement with their allies, or negotiation with their enemies. Most valuable of all to the Kremlin, Hill reveals that the American warfighter is predictable in everything he or she understands, plans or does.

To reveal this much is precious intelligence for Moscow because the Russian secret services and Putin would be less willing to believe it if it had come from home-grown agents. Either Hill is a willing dupe, or she is the fool she is warning her colleagues to beware of. 

On October 14, Hill gave ten hours of question-and-answer testimony before the Congressional committees on intelligence, foreign affairs and oversight. The record comprises 446 pages of verbatim transcript. This has just been released in unclassified, partially redacted form; click to read in full

Eleven Congressmen were present, chaired by the Democrat Adam Schiff — six Democrats and five Republicans  until Schiff ordered one of the Republicans, Matt Gaetz, out of the room on the ground that his membership of the Armed Services and Judiciary Committees did not entitle him to be present. In the room also, the committee advisors and aides to the congressmen numbered 24. The lead interrogator was Daniel Goldman, a former US prosecutor in New York and Schiff’s appointee to head the impeachment investigation. 

Left, Fiona Hill escorted by Capitol police to her deposition on October 14; right, Daniel Goldman, a former federal prosecutor in New York and now chief investigator for the Congressional Democrats’ impeachment campaign.

Hill was subpoenaed to testify as part of the House Democrats’ effort to assemble a case for impeachment against Trump. Most of the questioning was aimed at what Hill knew, saw, overheard, or suspected of Trump’s efforts to gather evidence of corruption by the Ukrainians of former Vice President Joseph Biden and his son, Hunter Biden; of Trump’s involvement in the dismissal of US Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch from Kiev for suspected disloyalty;  and to induce the new administration of President Volodymyr Zelensky to help Trump gather evidence against the Democrats with lures of presidential meetings and threats of aid cutoff. 

Hill swore she had turned against Trump because of Yovanovitch (right). “For all of us who were working on the Ukraine account, the dismissal of Ambassador Yovanovitch was a real turning point for us…there was no basis f or her removal. The accusations against her had no merit whatsoever. This was a mishmash of conspiracy theories that, again, I’ve told you, I believe firmly to be baseless, an idea of an association between her and George Soros. I had had accusations similar to this being made against me as well.”

Yovanovitch was recalled from Kiev in late April. She and her friends have subsequently testified in Congress and told the press that Trump had lost confidence in her almost a year earlier. Although Hill was in charge of White House policymaking on Ukraine throughout that year, and despite what she described as her “professional relationship” with Yovanovitch, Hill said she knew nothing at all about the circumstances of her firing.

“Q [Goldman for the Democrats].  And you said a second ago or a few minutes ago that you never heard anything directly from the President related to [Ambassador Yovanovitch]. A.  I did not.”

This didn’t deter Hill from testifying that the conspiracy to remove Yovanovitch originated in Moscow. “The most obvious explanation at that point, it has to be said, seemed to be business dealings of individuals who wanted to improve their investment positions inside of Ukraine itself, and also to deflect away from the findings of not just the Mueller report on Russian interference but what’s also been confirmed by your own Senate report, and what I know myself to be true as a former intelligence analyst and somebody who has been working on Russia for more than 30 years.”

The Russian motive, Hill hinted, was that Yovanovitch had been one of the supporters of a display of US Navy firepower in the Black Sea, after the November 25 Kerch Strait incident; for details of what exactly happened, and the Ukrainian role in initiating it, read this

Report of November 28, detailing the sequence of events in the Kerch Strait, and the context in which the Kremlin ordered the arrest of the Ukrainian gunboats. The military escalation option discussed at the White House was reported here

According to Hill, the Russians had “taken the sailors to Moscow. They were effectively becoming prisoners of war. And we’d been focused in this period on trying to push the Russians to release the Ukrainian sailors, and we had pulled down [cancelled] meetings, bilateral meetings with President Putin this was actually the President’s decision to do so in response to the Russians’  refusal to release the Ukrainians.”

Hill reveals no sign that she reported to her superiors the US intelligence assessment of what had happened. Poroshenko may have made a “miscalculation”, she conceded in later testimony, though she appears not to have known the evidence herself, nor to have been privy to Yovanovitch’s role. “They have a perfect right to send their ships through the Kerch Strait, but it seemed to us that this action, you know, was taken on the eve of the armistice commemorations in France, where we’d already announced that there was going to be a meeting between the President [Trump] and President Putin. There was a lot of scrutiny on other major events. And it seemed to have been done not just with a freedom of navigation goal in mind, which, again, is completely acceptable and the right of the Ukrainians, but also to gain maximum attention. And there was a miscalculation there… I don’t think he [Poroshenko] anticipated they’d [Russians] seize both vessels and take the sailors off to Moscow.”

Might Trump have judged Poroshenko guilty of plotting to sabotage his proposed summit meeting with Putin? Yovanovitch also? Hill wasn’t asked, but she didn’t know.

Hill conceded that in the 28 months she worked on the NSC, she had never talked to Trump by herself. They had met “only in the context of larger meetings, particularly around [state] visits. It changed over time,” she said, adding that under NSC chief H.R. McMaster she was brought into group meetings with the President; that stopped when John Bolton took over on April 9, 2018.

As an intelligence asset for the Kremlin, witting or unwitting, Hill reveals that military escalation against Russia has been the unanimous, consistent and predictable policy of the Deep Staters; the only unpredictable policymaker has been Trump. Hill testified she was on their side against Trump.

Hill admitted she left the NSC on July 19, days before the President’s controversial telephone-call with Zelensky on July 25. She acknowledged knowing, however, that the freeze on deliveries of Javelin anti-tank missiles and other US military assistance to Ukraine had been frozen on July 18 — before the telephone-call and not for reason of partisan or personal advantage Trump allegedly pressed on Zelensky during the July 25 conversation.

“I learned that as OMB [Office of Management and Budget]… had put the freeze and Mick Mulvaney [right] had put a freeze on. So, just to be clear, I never learned that the President had put a freeze on this. And this is on what was happening at this time was there was a freeze put on all kinds of aid and assistance because it was in the process at the time of an awful lot of reviews of foreign assistance… Q.Were you informed as to the reason why? A No, there was no reason given. And we were told that it actually came as a direction from the Chief of Staff’s office. Q. From Mr. [Michael] Mulvaney [right]? A Who, I think is he still technically the head of OMB? Q. Yes. He hasn’ t left, yes…. It was in the last week that I was there…Mick Mulvaney had put a freeze on…So I’ll just say that my assumption at the time was that it was in this general framework of many, you know, foreign assistance items being put on hold…I haven’t seen anything, at least in the public record, that would suggest that it was that the foreign assistance was being frozen for specific purposes at that point. I mean, this was also, remember, again, at the point of discussion about cutting back on lots of Pentagon projects for the building of the wall for Homeland Security purposes, the border wall.”

Hill’s testimony reveals, though she doesn’t admit it, that Trump had come to distrust the intelligence analysis and policy advice he was getting from Hill as the coordinator of all the government agencies involved in Ukraine and Russia. She admitted to knowing little personally and directly of what Trump and his senior aides and advisors discussed and decided among themselves. What she knew was indirect, down the White House staff chain,  and by hearsay.

Her preoccupation, Hill emphasized repeatedly, was with Russian plotting in Washington, and in Hill’s assessment, the Russian successes. Christopher Steele, whom Hill had known as her counterpart intelligence officer for Russia at the British MI6 years before, had been lured, she testified, by the Russians into the “rabbit hole” Hill called the Golden Showers dossier.   Victoria Nuland, former Assistant Secretary of State, was tricked by the Russians into promoting the Steele dossier to NSC officials. Ambassador Geoffrey Pyatt, ex-Ambassador to Ukraine, was victimized by the Russians who eavesdropped on his telephone calls with Nuland when he and she were plotting the Kiev putsch of February 2014.

Left to right: Christopher Steele; Victoria Nuland; Geoffrey Pyatt.

Hill swore on oath that she too was targeted by Russian agents when she was writing her last book on President Vladimir Putin in 2012.   “My phone was hacked repeatedly, and the Brookings system was hacked repeatedly,” she told the Congressmen. “And at one point, it was clearly obvious that someone had exfiltrated out my draft…And then, mysteriously, after this I started to get emails from people who purported to have met me at different points in my career, people I kind of vaguely remember. I’d look online, and there would be these, you know, Linkedln pages or there might be, you know, something I could find out some information for them. And they’d start offering me information, you know, that somehow purported to, strangely enough, some of the chapters that I was actually working on. And when I would go to meetings in Russia, people would basically, you know so that I was being played, or they were attempting to play me as well.”

Hill was not asked if she reported this to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) at the time.  That she didn’t report the alleged plot not only discredits her making the allegation now, seven years later; it also warns the Russian services to tell Putin that there is nothing US officials like Hill don’t imagine or won’t fabricate. 

For Hill, those Americans who have been targeted the most are so obviously innocent, it’s a Russian operation to think, say, broadcast or publish otherwise. She is convinced, for example,  of the innocence of former Vice President Joseph Biden and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in taking money from Ukrainians seeking to influence US policy, when they were in charge, or when Clinton was running for president. (Hill said she is just as certain Paul Manafort was guilty of taking Ukrainian money.)

As for the current allegation against the Bidens, father and son, that they were corruptly trading US Government favour for cash paid through the Ukrainian oil and gas exploration company Burisma, Hill revealed she had seen no intelligence report on the subject during her time in office. “From your knowledge of Burisma, are they a corrupt company? DR. HILL: I don’t know a lot about Burisma, I’ll be f rank… And you never heard of any reason why anybody should be investigating Vice President Biden? A[nswer]. …correct… And are you aware of any evidence that Vice President Joe Biden in any way acted inappropriately while he was Vice President…A[nswer]. I’m not.”

For details of the Burisma case, and the involvement of Ukrainian oligarch Igor Kolomoisky, read this

Hill also expressed the unqualified conclusion, after her professional assessment of the US intelligence, that the narrative of the anti-Trump forces in Congress and the press is accurate.  “Do you have any reason,” she was asked by Daniel Goldman, head of investigations for the intelligence committee, “to doubt either the facts alleged in the [Mueller] indictment or the Intelligence Community’s assessment that Russia did interfere in the 2016 election? A[nswer]: I do not. Q. And do you have any reason to believe that Ukraine did interfere in the 2016 election? A I do not. We’re talking about the Ukrainian Government here when you say Ukraine, correct? A. Yes. Yes, I do not.”

Neither Goldman nor the Republican Congressmen asked Hill what she knew of Victor Pinchuk, the Ukrainian oligarch acting for the Ukrainian Government in sending large sums of money to the Clinton Foundation and Hill’s employer, Brookings. 

Left: Victor Pinchuk hosting Hillary Clinton in Kiev; right, President Zelensky with Igor Kolomoisky. No photograph has been found of Kolomoisky with any US Government official.

The only Ukrainian oligarch Hill mentioned was Kolomoisky. “Kolomoisky is someone who the U.S. Government has been concerned about for some time, having been suspected and, indeed, proven [sic] to have embezzled money, American taxpayers’ money, from a bank that was subsequently nationalized, PrivatBank.” Hill’s concern with Kolomoisky didn’t start when the embezzlement began in 2014, and Kolomoisky was financing Ukrainian military units in the Donbass. In her testimony, Kolomoisky only became her concern when Kolomoisky switched positions this year, and backed Zelensky to make peace with the Kremlin. 

“I was the senior director,” Hill told Goldman of her official duties, “who was overseeing all of the interactions across the interagency pertaining to Europe, our European allies, including also the European Union and NATO, and also including Russia, Turkey, and the subject at hand, Ukraine.”  Hill reported no Russian political interventions in the French presidential election of April 2017; the sequel to the Brexit referendum in the UK; the Italian parliamentary elections of 2018; or the deterioration of Turkish relations with the US since the attempted putsch in Istanbul in mid-2016. She doesn’t mention Russian plots in Syria.

About Russian plotting in Venezuela, Hill claims she was getting Russian signals — “kind of informally through channels” – that the Kremlin proposed negotiating “some very strange swap arrangement between Venezuela and Ukraine…  you have your Monroe doctrine. You want us out of your backyard. Well, you know, we have our own version of this. You’ re in our backyard in Ukraine.” Hill doesn’t reveal what was the Russian official source for this deal, if any. Nor does she say if the US response went to Trump for decision.

Instead, Hill claims she was sent to Moscow – a junior NSC staffer – to negotiate. In fact, Hill says there was to be no negotiating on either Venezuela or Ukraine. “I was asked to go out to Russia in this timeframe to basically tell the Russians to knock this off. I was given a special assignment by the National Security Council with the agreement with the State Department to get the Russians to back off.”

The Congressmen and chief investigator Goldman didn’t ask what Russian officials Hill met face to face in Moscow or what the Russians said to her when she was alone with them.

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