Impeachment witness to GOP: stop echoing Russian propaganda

As it does most days, the White House issued talking points this morning, and as an Associated Press reporter noted, Team Trump helped start the day by accusing congressional Democrats of “playing right into Russia’s hands.”

The White House, pointing to impeachment testimony from Fiona Hill, the former top Russia expert on the White House National Security Council, added that Hill “warned today that it is Russia’s goal to delegitimize the President of the United States.”

Even for this administration, the talking points were spectacularly misleading.. Hill did deliver a warning to congressional lawmakers, but it was largely the opposite of what Team Trump claimed.

Former White House official Fiona Hill on Thursday accused lawmakers on the House Intelligence Committee of echoing Russian propaganda by fomenting the “fictional narrative” that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election.

Hill, one of the foremost U.S. experts on Russian President Vladimir Putin, appeared to take aim at Republicans on the panel, led by ranking member Rep. Devin Nunes of California, who have repeatedly questioned witnesses about alleged efforts by Ukrainians to hurt President Donald Trump during the 2016 campaign.

As part of Hill’s unsubtle testimony, the former White House official explained, “In the course of this investigation, I would ask that you please not promote politically driven falsehoods that so clearly advance Russian interest. As Republicans and Democrats have agreed for decades, Ukraine is a valued partner of the United States and it plays an important role in our national security. And as I told the committee last month, 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.”

Hill added, “Based on questions and statements I have heard, some of you on this committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country and that perhaps somehow for some reason Ukraine did. This is a fictional narrative that is being perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.”

This may seem like an obvious point, but it’s critically important: Trump and some of his Republican cohorts have, for a variety of reasons, promoted the idea that Ukraine – and not Russia – was responsible for the attack on our 2016 elections. Hill, like a variety of witnesses who’ve testified as part of the impeachment proceedings, wants lawmakers to know how very wrong this is.

But this morning, she clarified matters further, explaining that the argument isn’t just false, it’s Russian propaganda that responsible Americans should take care not to promote.

And when Hill wasn’t warning Republicans about helping the Kremlin’s p.r. campaign, she was also helping shed light on the scandal for which Trump is likely to be impeached. NBC News’ report added:

She also described a “shadow foreign policy” overseen by Sondland and others, and how former national security adviser John Bolton had told her to report to lawyers what he described as a “drug deal” cooked up by Sondland and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney.

On Thursday, she said Sondland had told her that he and Mulvaney had an agreement that Ukraine’s new president could only get an Oval Office meeting with President Donald Trump if he agreed to carry out “investigations.” Hill said Sondland told her one of those investigations involved Burisma, the company whose board Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, was on.

Hill said she was aware at the time that Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, had been urging Ukrainian officials to investigate the younger Biden’s role at the company…. Bolton, she said, referred to Giuliani as “a hand grenade” who was “going to blow everyone up.”

This afternoon, Hill went on to characterize Gordon Sondland’s efforts as “a domestic political errand,” not to be confused with the work she and her colleagues were doing: “[W]e were being involved in national security, foreign policy – and those two things had just diverged.”

Dr. Hill added she had told Sondland at the time that “this is all going to blow up. And here we are.”