Fiona Hill’s testimony draws a line through the White House ⁠— and sets up a key confrontation for Trump

Fiona Hill’s testimony draws a line through the White House ⁠— and sets up a key confrontation for Trump
Fiona Hill image by Kuhlmann, MSC

Former White House expert on Russia and Ukraine Fiona Hill testified before the House impeachment inquiry on Monday, and what she had to say appears to have further illuminated the extent of the scheme by Donald Trump and Rudy Giuliani to extort Ukraine for personal gain. Hill’s testimony also sets up one of the most unlikely imaginable opponents for Trump—former national security adviser John Bolton.

Hill testified behind closed doors, and a day later the most amazing thing may be just how little is known of what she actually said. As with last week’s testimony from former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, those closed doors have been remarkably soundproof. But what little we do know is already explosive. HIll testified that meetings with Giuliani and his associates, along with their efforts to force Ukrainian officials to open investigations, were so disturbing that Bolton instructed Hill to talk with White House attorney John Eisenberg.

And NBC News reports that Bolton didn’t just instruct Hill to go to White House attorneys over Giuliani. The attempts to use military aid to force Ukrainian officials into producing political dirt that Trump could use against Joe Biden were clear enough that Bolton also told Hill to alert White House legal staff over concerns about U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, along with acting chief of staff and Director of the Office of Management and Budget Mick Mulvaney. Mulvaney’s role with the OMB means that he would have been fully involved in Trump’s halting of assistance to Ukraine.

Impossible as it may seem, the corruption in the Trump White House was so great that John Bolton would apparently not go along with it. And Bolton’s disagreement may be key in convincing other White House staffers to come forward.

The most important point of all may be that Hill, like Yovanovitch, testified in spite of White House attempts to stifle her appearance before Congress. The days in which a command from Donald Trump could seal the lips of any former member of the executive branch and make a congressional subpoena optional appear to be past. In fact, the inquiry’s schedule appears to be filling with former members of the State Department and White House staff suddenly eager to make an appearance, as the line between willing witnesses and subjects of the investigation begins to be drawn.

Sondland is also set to appear this week, but one of the things that Hill reportedly said on Monday is at odds with the reported contents of Sondland’s opening statement. Those reports have indicated that Sondland will testify that when he was busily texting about finding officials who could be arm-twisted into opening an investigation, he didn’t realize that the investigation had anything to do with Biden or his son. That not-yet-delivered testimony appears to be at odds with what Hill told legislators and what Bolton was saying even before Trump put in his now infamous phone call to the Ukrainian president.

Witness, or accomplice … Sondland still has some time to try to leave one group and move to the other.

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