Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump listens to his mobile phone during a lunch stop, Feb. 18, 2016, in North Charleston, S.C.
Photo by Matt Rourke/AP

Ignoring Fiona Hill’s warnings, Trump echoes Russian propaganda

Updated

Yesterday, Dr. Fiona Hill, the former top Russia expert on the White House National Security Council, implored Republicans to stop echoing propaganda created by the Kremlin to undermine the United States and help Moscow. “In the course of this investigation, I would ask that you please not promote politically driven falsehoods that so clearly advance Russian interest,” she testified.”

The Rachel Maddow Show, 11/21/19, 9:25 PM ET

Russian propaganda seen fusing with Republican Ukraine narrative

Rachel Maddow shares video of testimony by former National Security Council official Fiona Hill in which she describes the Russian propaganda roots of the Ukraine conspiracy theory promoted by Donald Trump and his followers and notes the dismaying fusing
Hill added, “I refuse to be part of an effort to legitimize an alternate narrative that the Ukrainian government is a U.S. adversary – and that the Ukraine, not Russia, attacked us in 2016.” She went on to take aim at the “fictional narrative” that Kyiv was somehow responsible for the attack, a discredited claim “being perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services.”

House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), a sycophantic White House ally, tried to push back, insisting that Republicans didn’t need the reminder because they had already acknowledged the truth. And yet, one day later, Donald Trump appeared on Fox News’ morning program, where he ignored Hill’s warnings, contradicted Nunes, and echoed Russian propaganda.

TRUMP: You know, it’s very interesting. They have the server, right, from the DNC, Democratic National Committee, you know.

KILMEADE: Who has the server?

TRUMP: The FBI went in and they told them, get out of here, you’re not getting – we’re not giving it to you. They gave the server to Crowdstrike, or whatever it’s called, which is a country – which is a company owned by a very wealthy Ukrainian. And I still want to see that server. You know, the FBI has never gotten that server. That’s a big part of this whole thing. Why did they give it to a Ukrainian company? Why?

DOOCY: Are you sure they did that? Are you sure they gave it to Ukraine?

TRUMP: Well, that’s what the word is. That’s what I asked actually in my phone call, as you know.

To the extent that reality still has any meaning, we already know that everything the president said about this conspiracy theory is both wrong and crackpot nonsense. There is no ambiguity: the claim Trump keeps peddling, publicly and to national audiences, is just crazy. Even White House officials have urged the president not to believe it. He doesn’t care.

But it’s not just factually incorrect. In the shadow of the impeachment inquiry, it’s also an example of Trump asking people to believe a discredited claim, that is, in Fiona Hill’s words, “being perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services.”

Or put another way, the American president is helping advance Kremlin propaganda intended to hurt the United States.

Indeed, Trump wouldn’t let it go. “Don’t forget, Ukraine hated me,” he added this morning. “They were after me in the election. They wanted Hillary Clinton to win.”

I don’t honestly expect the president to have watched Fiona Hill’s testimony, and he obviously wouldn’t read a transcript if it were handed to him. But there’s probably room for a public conversation about why Trump seems so eager to stick to the Russian script Hill urged officials to avoid.