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Westlake Legal Group > Posts tagged "Trump, Donald J" (Page 107)

Fiona Hill Testifies ‘Fictions’ on Ukraine Pushed by Trump Help Russia

WASHINGTON — The White House’s former top Europe and Russia expert sharply denounced what she called a “fictional narrative” embraced by President Trump and his Republican allies that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 elections, testifying that the claim at the center of the impeachment inquiry was a fabrication by Moscow that had harmed the United States.

Testifying on the final day of the week’s public impeachment hearings, the expert, Fiona Hill, tied Mr. Trump’s pressure campaign on Ukraine to a dangerous effort by Russia to sow political divisions in the United States and undercut American diplomacy. Her testimony before the House Intelligence Committee was an implicit rebuke to the president, suggesting that when he pressed Ukraine to investigate the theory that Kyiv rather than Moscow undertook a concerted campaign to meddle in the 2016 campaign, he was playing into Russia’s hands for his own political gain.

Dr. Hill’s account of how Mr. Trump’s team carried out what she called a “domestic political errand” that diverged from his own administration’s foreign policy amounted to sharp — albeit indirect — criticism of the president she served, and it brought home the grave national security consequences of the effort.

“These fictions are harmful even if they are deployed for purely domestic political purposes,” said Dr. Hill, the British-born daughter of a coal miner who became a United States citizen and co-wrote a lengthy book analyzing the psyche of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia.

The Russians, she said, “deploy millions of dollars to weaponize our own political opposition research and false narratives. When we are consumed by partisan rancor, we cannot combat these external forces as they seek to divide us against each another, degrade our institutions, and destroy the faith of the American people in our democracy.”

Both Dr. Hill and David Holmes, a top aide in the United States Embassy in Kyiv, testified in detail about what they understood to be a concerted campaign by the president and his allies, led by Rudolph W. Giuliani, his personal lawyer, to condition a White House meeting for Ukraine’s president on his announcement of investigations that Mr. Trump wanted into the 2016 election claim and of former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_164792364_be9a3c27-b7af-4cb8-90aa-9a2fbc617580-articleLarge Fiona Hill Testifies ‘Fictions’ on Ukraine Pushed by Trump Help Russia United States Politics and Government United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Presidential Election of 2016 Hill, Fiona (1965- )

Representatives Jim Jordan of Ohio and Mike Conaway of Texas, both Republicans, talking with a colleague during a break in the hearing.Credit…T.J. Kirkpatrick for The New York Times

“Investigations for a meeting,” is how Dr. Hill described her understanding of the deal laid out by the president’s inner circle, including Mr. Giuliani, Gordon D. Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, and Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff.

Under questioning from the top Republican counsel on the House Intelligence Committee, Dr. Hill said she confronted Mr. Sondland in July about his failure to coordinate with other members of the administration on his actions regarding Ukraine. She understood only later that Mr. Sondland was part of a group of officials — along with Mr. Mulvaney and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — who were “being involved in a domestic political errand, and we were being involved in national security, foreign policy — and those two things had just diverged.”

Dr. Hill said she had told Mr. Sondland at the time that, “this is all going to blow up.”

Mr. Holmes said it was his “clear understanding” by the end of August that Mr. Trump had frozen $391 million in vital security aid to pressure Ukraine to commit to announcing an investigation into Mr. Biden and his family.

Their testimony came as Democrats sought to pull back the focus of the impeachment proceedings at the end of two weeks of detail-heavy hearings focused on White House meetings, suspended security assistance for Ukraine, diplomatic exchanges and plenty of obscure Ukrainian names. But they also notched additional new information that could help bolster their case.

Republicans, knowing that Dr. Hill’s criticism was coming, used their opening remarks to try to blunt the attacks. Representative Devin Nunes of California, the panel’s top Republican, said that his party did not doubt Russia’s actions in 2016, but were open to a broader focus that Democrats were not.

“Needless to say, it’s entirely possible for two separate nations to engage in election meddling at the same time, and Republicans believe we should take meddling seriously by all foreign countries,” Mr. Nunes said.

In 2017, American intelligence officials released a report concluding that Mr. Putin ordered a state-sponsored campaign to try to influence the 2016 presidential election. No evidence has emerged that there was a similar effort by Ukraine.

Mr. Trump, who has responded to the proceedings in real time, took shots at Mr. Holmes Thursday morning, and his allies went after Dr. Hill as well. As Mr. Holmes testified, Mr. Trump wrote on Twitter that there was no way he could have heard what he claimed to have picked up the cellphone conversation between Mr. Trump and Mr. Sondland.

Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, wrote on Twitter that Dr. Hill only had an “OPINION” to offer, not firsthand knowledge. Republicans have dismissed multiple witnesses as unelected bureaucrats merely second-guessing the president’s policy positions.

Mr. Holmes said his assessment came after he drafted and sent a cable to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on behalf of William B. Taylor Jr., the top American diplomat in Ukraine, attempting to explain the importance of the security assistance to Ukraine.

“By this point,” Mr. Holmes said, “my clear impression was that the security assistance hold was likely intended by the president either as an expression of dissatisfaction with the Ukrainians who had not yet agreed to the Burisma/Biden investigation or as an effort to increase the pressure on them to do so.”

Burisma is a Ukrainian energy company that employed Hunter Biden, the former vice president’s son, on its board.

Mr. Holmes also offered a detailed account of a phone call he overheard between Mr. Trump and Gordon D. Sondland, his ambassador to the European Union, in Kyiv in late July. The call took place a day after Mr. Trump directly asked Mr. Zelensky for the investigations.

Mr. Holmes said he could overhear the president ask Mr. Sondland if Mr. Zelensky would conduct the inquiries he sought. Mr. Sondland assured him “he’s going to do it,” and that the Ukrainian leader would do “anything you ask him to.” Afterward, Mr. Holmes testified that the ambassador told him Mr. Trump did not care for Ukraine but only for the “big things” like the investigations.

A day after Mr. Sondland laid out an extensive campaign to secure the political investigations, both witnesses said they had zero doubt about what Mr. Trump and Mr. Giuliani were after. Dr. Hill and Mr. Holmes both testified that references to investigating Burisma by Mr. Giuliani and other government officials were, in Dr. Hill’s words, “code for the Bidens.”

Asked by the Democratic counsel for the Intelligence Committee whether “anyone involved in Ukraine matters in the spring and summer would understand that as well,” Mr. Holmes had a one-word answer: “Yes.”

Mr. Sondland and Kurt D. Volker, the former special envoy to Ukraine, both said under oath this week that for many months they believed talk of Burisma was merely a reference to Mr. Trump’s interest in eliminating rampant corruption in Ukraine, given the company’s history.

Dr. Hill also offered the most precise account to date of an awkward White House meeting with Ukrainian officials on July 10 that ended abruptly after Mr. Sondland told the visiting officials that they would need to commit to investigations Mr. Trump sought before getting a meeting with the president.

John R. Bolton, then the national security adviser, stiffened visibly and sat back in his chair when Mr. Sondland made the comment, apparently so disturbed by it that he quickly cut off the meeting, she said. After the meeting ended, Mr. Sondland explained precisely what he was up to, Dr. Hill testified, referencing a deal with Mr. Mulvaney.

“That he had an agreement with chief of staff Mulvaney that in return for investigations, this meeting would get scheduled,” she said.

Thursday’s session capped two marathon weeks on investigative impeachment hearings, the first in two decades, and only the third such proceedings in modern history. In public sessions by turns gripping and grinding, the House Intelligence Committee has heard from a dozen witnesses who described how Mr. Trump and his allies inside and outside the government shunted aside official American policy toward Ukraine in favor of an unorthodox, politically charged campaign to secure two investigations that Mr. Trump sought.

A former ambassador to Ukraine spoke of being smeared and ousted from her post because she ran afoul of Mr. Giuliani and his allies. The seasoned diplomat who reluctantly replaced her said he watched, distraught, as the entire United States relationship with Ukraine was staked on the investigations, with Ukrainian lives and American foreign policy interests as collateral damage. Then on Wednesday, Mr. Sondland testified in no uncertain terms that there had been a clear “quid pro quo” at the highest levels of Mr. Trump’s government linking a White House meeting for Mr. Zelensky to investigations — and that everyone had known it.

Other witnesses from the White House, State Department and Defense Department spoke of unanimous opposition to Mr. Trump’s decision to freeze the security assistance, and how they raised questions about the legality of withholding money appropriated by Congress. One of them, Laura Cooper, testified that Ukraine began inquiring about the assistance on July 25, a month earlier than Republicans have insisted they knew, on the very same day of Mr. Trump’s call with Mr. Zelensky.

“In the coming days, Congress will determine what response is appropriate,” Representative Adam B. Schiff of California, the Intelligence Committee chairman, said as he opened Thursday’s hearing. “It will be up to us to decide, whether those acts are compatible with the office of the presidency.”

As lawmakers leave town for the Thanksgiving holiday, it appears increasingly inevitable that the 116th Congress will impeach the president for only the third time in American history. The question is on what timetable they will proceed giving the dwindling number of legislative days and competing priorities before them.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

What We’ve Learned From Hill and Holmes’s Impeachment Testimony

WASHINGTON — David Holmes, a career diplomat and political counselor to the United States embassy in Ukraine, and Fiona Hill, a former Europe and Russia expert at the White House, schooled lawmakers on Thursday on the United States’ geopolitical relationship with Ukraine and provided some new details about the efforts to pressure Ukraine to announce investigations into President Trump’s political rivals.

They both highlighted their apolitical and nonpartisan expertise and experience in foreign policy, a direct contrast to the witness a day earlier, Gordon D. Sondland, the United States ambassador to the European Union — a wealthy Republican donor with no diplomatic experience before his 2018 appointment to the plum post in Brussels.

Here are some key points from the testimony so far.

Responding to questions from Republicans, Dr. Hill explained the crux of the issue at the heart of the impeachment inquiry — the United States had two separate agendas operating in Ukraine, yet those involved in each viewed theirs was the only one.

Dr. Hill said she and other career foreign policy officials were frustrated with what Mr. Sondland was doing outside the normal channels of interagency coordination.

Hill: “What I was angry about was that he wasn’t coordinating with us. I’ve actually realized, having listened to his deposition, that he was absolutely right. That he wasn’t coordinating with us because we weren’t doing the same thing that he was doing. So I was upset with him, that he wasn’t fully telling us about all of the meetings that he was having. And he said to me ‘But I’m briefing the president. I’m briefing Chief of Staff Mulvaney. I’m briefing Secretary Pompeo, and I’ve talked to Ambassador Bolton. Who else do I have to deal with? And the point is that we have a robust interagency process that deals with Ukraine. It includes Mr. Holmes, it includes Ambassador Taylor as the chargé in Ukraine, it includes a whole load of other people. But it struck me when yesterday, when you put up on the screen Ambassador Sondland’s emails, and who was on these emails? These were the people that need to know. And he was absolutely right. Because he was being involved in a domestic political errand. And we were being involved in national security foreign policy, and those two things had just diverged.”

Dr. Hill thought Mr. Sondland’s goal of getting President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to announce investigations into Mr. Trump’s political rivals was trivial and contrary to longstanding efforts regarding Ukraine.

On Wednesday, Mr. Sondland told lawmakers that he did not understand how there could be an irregular back channel when his channel included the president of the United States, members of the president’s cabinet and the national security adviser.

“I don’t know how they can consider us to be the irregular channel and they to be the regular channel when it’s the leadership that makes the decisions,” Mr. Sondland said.

During an intense exchange with Mr. Sondland at the time, Dr. Hill said she told him, “This is all going to blow up.” She added, “And here we are.”

Westlake Legal Group fiona-hill-opening-statement-ukraine-1574344066729-articleLarge What We’ve Learned From Hill and Holmes’s Impeachment Testimony Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry State Department Sondland, Gordon D (1957- ) Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Russia Republican Party Nunes, Devin G Holmes, David (Diplomat) Hill, Fiona (1965- ) Diplomatic Service, Embassies and Consulates Democratic Party

Read Fiona Hill’s Opening Statement

Ms. Hill had a front-row seat to dramatic events in the White House around the pressure campaign on Ukraine.

Holmes: “This was a very distinctive experience. I’ve never seen anything like this in my foreign service career, someone at a lunch in a restaurant making a call on a cellphone to the president of the United States, being able to hear his voice, very distinctive personality.”

Mr. Holmes provided more details on Thursday about the now infamous lunch he had with Mr. Sondland and two other State Department staffers on July 26 in Kyiv. It was at this lunch that Mr. Holmes overheard a phone call between Mr. Sondland and Mr. Trump — one in which Mr. Trump asked Mr. Sondland if the Ukrainian president planned “to do the investigation.”

Mr. Holmes described a relaxed setting at an outdoor terrace with the weather that day in the upper 70s. Mr. Sondland ordered a bottle of wine, he said, which the four of them shared, and discussed marketing strategies for Mr. Sondland’s boutique hotel business.

The additional details add more credibility to Mr. Holmes recollection, which Republicans have tried to diminish. Mr. Sondland on Wednesday told lawmakers that he did not remember all of the details of that conversation with Mr. Trump, but he agreed that a friendly comment recalled by Mr. Holmes — Mr. Sondland telling the president that Mr. Zelensky “loves your ass” — sounded like something he would say.

Mr. Trump on Thursday said that what Mr. Holmes described — a conversation that was not on speaker phone but could still be overheard — was virtually impossible.

Holmes: “Specifically, the three priorities of security, economy, and justice, and our support for Ukrainian democratic resistance to Russian aggression, became overshadowed by a political agenda promoted by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and a cadre of officials operating with a direct channel to the White House.”

Mr. Holmes describes what other witnesses have disclosed — that the sudden involvement of President Trump’s private lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, in foreign policy involving Ukraine was disruptive and damaging to the American goal of helping Ukraine defend itself against Russia. While Mr. Holmes described how the Giuliani-led campaign evolved starting in March, Representative Devin Nunes, Republican of California and the ranking member on the House Intelligence committee, focused on one date — July 25 — when Mr. Trump and Mr. Zelensky spoke to each other by phone. That call was at the center of the whistle-blower complaint that led to the current impeachment inquiry.

Westlake Legal Group david-holmes-opening-statement-ukraine-1574351587182-articleLarge What We’ve Learned From Hill and Holmes’s Impeachment Testimony Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry State Department Sondland, Gordon D (1957- ) Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Russia Republican Party Nunes, Devin G Holmes, David (Diplomat) Hill, Fiona (1965- ) Diplomatic Service, Embassies and Consulates Democratic Party

Read David Holmes’s Opening Statement

The career diplomat said he was told President Trump cared more about investigating his political rivals than about the welfare of Ukraine.

Hill: “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 has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.”

Hill: “I would ask that you please not promote politically driven falsehoods that so clearly advance Russian interests. ”Dr. Hill bluntly stated that Russia was behind the 2016 election interference and theft of Democrats’ emails. American intelligence agencies and congressional panels came to the same conclusion years ago. One of the investigations that Mr. Trump sought Ukraine to initiative was one looking into a debunked theory that Ukraine, not Russia, hacked the Democratic National Committee in 2016.

Hill: “I refuse to be part of an effort to legitimize an alternate narrative that the Ukrainian government is a U.S. adversary, and that Ukraine — not Russia — attacked us in 2016.”

One of the Republican defenses for Mr. Trump’s decision to place a hold on nearly $400 million in military aid is that he was always suspicious of Ukraine because of its systemic corruption. This, Republicans say, is why he wanted a commitment from Mr. Zelensky to pursue corruption investigations. Dr. Hill, in her opening remarks, attempted to shut down this and other theories, often promoted by the committee’s top Republican, Mr. Nunes, who described the impeachment hearings as “bizarre” on Thursday.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Hill and Holmes Impeachment Hearings: What We’ve Learned So Far

Westlake Legal Group 21dc-hilights-vid-facebookJumbo Hill and Holmes Impeachment Hearings: What We’ve Learned So Far Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry State Department Sondland, Gordon D (1957- ) Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Russia Republican Party Nunes, Devin G Holmes, David (Diplomat) Hill, Fiona (1965- ) Diplomatic Service, Embassies and Consulates Democratic Party

WASHINGTON — David Holmes, a career diplomat and political counselor to the United States embassy in Ukraine, and Fiona Hill, a former Europe and Russia expert at the White House, schooled lawmakers on Thursday on the United States’ geopolitical relationship with Ukraine and provided some new details about the efforts to pressure Ukraine to announce investigations into President Trump’s political rivals.

They both highlighted their apolitical and nonpartisan expertise and experience in foreign policy, a direct contrast to the witness a day earlier, Gordon D. Sondland, the United States ambassador to the European Union — a wealthy Republican donor with no diplomatic experience before his 2018 appointment to the plum post in Brussels.

Here are some key points from the testimony so far.

Holmes: “This was a very distinctive experience. I’ve never seen anything like this in my foreign service career, someone at a lunch in a restaurant making a call on a cellphone to the president of the United States, being able to hear his voice, very distinctive personality.”

Mr. Holmes provided more details on Thursday about the now infamous lunch he had with Mr. Sondland and two other State Department staffers on July 26 in Kyiv. It was at this lunch that Mr. Holmes overheard a phone call between Mr. Sondland and Mr. Trump — one in which Mr. Trump asked Mr. Sondland if the Ukrainian president planned “to do the investigation.”

Mr. Holmes described a relaxed setting at an outdoor terrace with the weather that day in the upper 70s. Mr. Sondland ordered a bottle of wine, he said, which the four of them shared, and discussed marketing strategies for Mr. Sondland’s boutique hotel business.

The additional details add more credibility to Mr. Holmes’s recollection, which Republicans have tried to diminish. Mr. Sondland on Wednesday told lawmakers that he did not remember all of the details of that conversation with Mr. Trump, but he agreed that a friendly comment recalled by Mr. Holmes — Mr. Sondland telling the president that President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine “loves your ass” — sounded like something he would say.

Mr. Trump on Thursday said that what Mr. Holmes described — a conversation that was not on speaker phone but could still be overheard — was virtually impossible.

Holmes: “Specifically, the three priorities of security, economy, and justice, and our support for Ukrainian democratic resistance to Russian aggression, became overshadowed by a political agenda promoted by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and a cadre of officials operating with a direct channel to the White House.”

Mr. Holmes describes what other witnesses have disclosed — that the sudden involvement of President Trump’s private lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, in foreign policy involving Ukraine was disruptive and damaging to the American goal of helping Ukraine defend itself against Russia. While Mr. Holmes described how the Giuliani-led campaign evolved starting in March, Representative Devin Nunes, Republican of California and the ranking member on the House Intelligence committee, focused on one date — July 25 — when Mr. Trump and Mr. Zelensky spoke to each other by phone. That call was at the center of the whistle-blower complaint that led to the current impeachment inquiry.

Hill: “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 has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.”

Hill: “I would ask that you please not promote politically driven falsehoods that so clearly advance Russian interests.”

Dr. Hill bluntly stated that Russia was behind the 2016 election interference and theft of Democrats’ emails. American intelligence agencies and congressional panels came to the same conclusion years ago. One of the investigations that Mr. Trump sought Ukraine to initiative was one looking into a debunked theory that Ukraine, not Russia, hacked the Democratic National Committee in 2016.

Hill: “I refuse to be part of an effort to legitimize an alternate narrative that the Ukrainian government is a U.S. adversary, and that Ukraine — not Russia — attacked us in 2016.”

One of the Republican defenses for Mr. Trump’s decision to place a hold on nearly $400 million in military aid is that he was always suspicious of Ukraine because of its systemic corruption. This, Republicans say, is why he wanted a commitment from Mr. Zelensky to pursue corruption investigations. Dr. Hill, in her opening remarks, attempted to shut down this and other theories, often promoted by the committee’s top Republican, Mr. Nunes, who described the impeachment hearings as “bizarre” on Thursday.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Hill and Holmes Impeachment Hearings: What We’ve Learned So Far

Westlake Legal Group 21dc-hilights-vid-facebookJumbo Hill and Holmes Impeachment Hearings: What We’ve Learned So Far Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry State Department Sondland, Gordon D (1957- ) Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Russia Republican Party Nunes, Devin G Holmes, David (Diplomat) Hill, Fiona (1965- ) Diplomatic Service, Embassies and Consulates Democratic Party

WASHINGTON — David Holmes, a career diplomat and political counselor to the United States embassy in Ukraine, and Fiona Hill, a former Europe and Russia expert at the White House, schooled lawmakers on Thursday on the United States’ geopolitical relationship with Ukraine and provided some new details about the efforts to pressure Ukraine to announce investigations into President Trump’s political rivals.

They both highlighted their apolitical and nonpartisan expertise and experience in foreign policy, a direct contrast to the witness a day earlier, Gordon D. Sondland, the United States ambassador to the European Union — a wealthy Republican donor with no diplomatic experience before his 2018 appointment to the plum post in Brussels.

Here are some key points from the testimony so far.

Holmes: “This was a very distinctive experience. I’ve never seen anything like this in my foreign service career, someone at a lunch in a restaurant making a call on a cellphone to the president of the United States, being able to hear his voice, very distinctive personality.”

Mr. Holmes provided more details on Thursday about the now infamous lunch he had with Mr. Sondland and two other State Department staffers on July 26 in Kyiv. It was at this lunch that Mr. Holmes overheard a phone call between Mr. Sondland and Mr. Trump — one in which Mr. Trump asked Mr. Sondland if the Ukrainian president planned “to do the investigation.”

Mr. Holmes described a relaxed setting at an outdoor terrace with the weather that day in the upper 70s. Mr. Sondland ordered a bottle of wine, he said, which the four of them shared, and discussed marketing strategies for Mr. Sondland’s boutique hotel business.

The additional details add more credibility to Mr. Holmes’s recollection, which Republicans have tried to diminish. Mr. Sondland on Wednesday told lawmakers that he did not remember all of the details of that conversation with Mr. Trump, but he agreed that a friendly comment recalled by Mr. Holmes — Mr. Sondland telling the president that President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine “loves your ass” — sounded like something he would say.

Mr. Trump on Thursday said that what Mr. Holmes described — a conversation that was not on speaker phone but could still be overheard — was virtually impossible.

Holmes: “Specifically, the three priorities of security, economy, and justice, and our support for Ukrainian democratic resistance to Russian aggression, became overshadowed by a political agenda promoted by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and a cadre of officials operating with a direct channel to the White House.”

Mr. Holmes describes what other witnesses have disclosed — that the sudden involvement of President Trump’s private lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, in foreign policy involving Ukraine was disruptive and damaging to the American goal of helping Ukraine defend itself against Russia. While Mr. Holmes described how the Giuliani-led campaign evolved starting in March, Representative Devin Nunes, Republican of California and the ranking member on the House Intelligence committee, focused on one date — July 25 — when Mr. Trump and Mr. Zelensky spoke to each other by phone. That call was at the center of the whistle-blower complaint that led to the current impeachment inquiry.

Hill: “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 has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.”

Hill: “I would ask that you please not promote politically driven falsehoods that so clearly advance Russian interests.”

Dr. Hill bluntly stated that Russia was behind the 2016 election interference and theft of Democrats’ emails. American intelligence agencies and congressional panels came to the same conclusion years ago. One of the investigations that Mr. Trump sought Ukraine to initiative was one looking into a debunked theory that Ukraine, not Russia, hacked the Democratic National Committee in 2016.

Hill: “I refuse to be part of an effort to legitimize an alternate narrative that the Ukrainian government is a U.S. adversary, and that Ukraine — not Russia — attacked us in 2016.”

One of the Republican defenses for Mr. Trump’s decision to place a hold on nearly $400 million in military aid is that he was always suspicious of Ukraine because of its systemic corruption. This, Republicans say, is why he wanted a commitment from Mr. Zelensky to pursue corruption investigations. Dr. Hill, in her opening remarks, attempted to shut down this and other theories, often promoted by the committee’s top Republican, Mr. Nunes, who described the impeachment hearings as “bizarre” on Thursday.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Hill and Holmes Impeachment Hearings: What We’ve Learned So Far

Westlake Legal Group 21dc-hilights-vid-facebookJumbo Hill and Holmes Impeachment Hearings: What We’ve Learned So Far Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry State Department Sondland, Gordon D (1957- ) Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Russia Republican Party Nunes, Devin G Holmes, David (Diplomat) Hill, Fiona (1965- ) Diplomatic Service, Embassies and Consulates Democratic Party

WASHINGTON — David Holmes, a career diplomat and political counselor to the United States embassy in Ukraine, and Fiona Hill, a former Europe and Russia expert at the White House, schooled lawmakers on Thursday on the United States’ geopolitical relationship with Ukraine and provided some new details about the efforts to pressure Ukraine to announce investigations into President Trump’s political rivals.

They both highlighted their apolitical and nonpartisan expertise and experience in foreign policy, a direct contrast to the witness a day earlier, Gordon D. Sondland, the United States ambassador to the European Union — a wealthy Republican donor with no diplomatic experience before his 2018 appointment to the plum post in Brussels.

Here are some key points from the testimony so far.

Holmes: “This was a very distinctive experience. I’ve never seen anything like this in my foreign service career, someone at a lunch in a restaurant making a call on a cellphone to the president of the United States, being able to hear his voice, very distinctive personality.”

Mr. Holmes provided more details on Thursday about the now infamous lunch he had with Mr. Sondland and two other State Department staffers on July 26 in Kyiv. It was at this lunch that Mr. Holmes overheard a phone call between Mr. Sondland and Mr. Trump — one in which Mr. Trump asked Mr. Sondland if the Ukrainian president planned “to do the investigation.”

Mr. Holmes described a relaxed setting at an outdoor terrace with the weather that day in the upper 70s. Mr. Sondland ordered a bottle of wine, he said, which the four of them shared, and discussed marketing strategies for Mr. Sondland’s boutique hotel business.

The additional details add more credibility to Mr. Holmes’s recollection, which Republicans have tried to diminish. Mr. Sondland on Wednesday told lawmakers that he did not remember all of the details of that conversation with Mr. Trump, but he agreed that a friendly comment recalled by Mr. Holmes — Mr. Sondland telling the president that President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine “loves your ass” — sounded like something he would say.

Mr. Trump on Thursday said that what Mr. Holmes described — a conversation that was not on speaker phone but could still be overheard — was virtually impossible.

Holmes: “Specifically, the three priorities of security, economy, and justice, and our support for Ukrainian democratic resistance to Russian aggression, became overshadowed by a political agenda promoted by former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani and a cadre of officials operating with a direct channel to the White House.”

Mr. Holmes describes what other witnesses have disclosed — that the sudden involvement of President Trump’s private lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, in foreign policy involving Ukraine was disruptive and damaging to the American goal of helping Ukraine defend itself against Russia. While Mr. Holmes described how the Giuliani-led campaign evolved starting in March, Representative Devin Nunes, Republican of California and the ranking member on the House Intelligence committee, focused on one date — July 25 — when Mr. Trump and Mr. Zelensky spoke to each other by phone. That call was at the center of the whistle-blower complaint that led to the current impeachment inquiry.

Hill: “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 has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.”

Hill: “I would ask that you please not promote politically driven falsehoods that so clearly advance Russian interests.”

Dr. Hill bluntly stated that Russia was behind the 2016 election interference and theft of Democrats’ emails. American intelligence agencies and congressional panels came to the same conclusion years ago. One of the investigations that Mr. Trump sought Ukraine to initiative was one looking into a debunked theory that Ukraine, not Russia, hacked the Democratic National Committee in 2016.

Hill: “I refuse to be part of an effort to legitimize an alternate narrative that the Ukrainian government is a U.S. adversary, and that Ukraine — not Russia — attacked us in 2016.”

One of the Republican defenses for Mr. Trump’s decision to place a hold on nearly $400 million in military aid is that he was always suspicious of Ukraine because of its systemic corruption. This, Republicans say, is why he wanted a commitment from Mr. Zelensky to pursue corruption investigations. Dr. Hill, in her opening remarks, attempted to shut down this and other theories, often promoted by the committee’s top Republican, Mr. Nunes, who described the impeachment hearings as “bizarre” on Thursday.

Real Estate, and Personal Injury Lawyers. Contact us at: https://westlakelegal.com 

Republicans Seek to Muddy Impeachment Evidence as Their Defense of Trump

Westlake Legal Group 20DC-REPUBS-facebookJumbo Republicans Seek to Muddy Impeachment Evidence as Their Defense of Trump United States Politics and Government Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry Sondland, Gordon D (1957- ) Schiff, Adam B Russian Interference in 2016 US Elections and Ties to Trump Associates Republican Party Nunes, Devin G impeachment House Committee on Intelligence Foreign Aid Ethics and Official Misconduct Biden, Hunter

WASHINGTON — Republicans mounted an array of defenses of President Trump at this week’s impeachment hearings — making arguments that at times seemed to conflict with one another logically, but that dovetailed in a key way: All served to undermine Democrats’ allegations that Mr. Trump abused his power.

In angry statements from the hearing dais, lines of questioning to witnesses and comments during breaks to reporters, Republicans sought to poke holes in the strength of evidence that Mr. Trump personally put a condition on the government committing official acts — namely, that Ukraine publicize investigations that could benefit him.

But at other times, Republicans suggested that Mr. Trump’s pursuit of those investigations was justified — reading into the record related facts and allegations about Ukrainian actions in 2016 and about the Ukrainian gas company Burisma and its decision to give Hunter Biden, the son of Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr., a lucrative board seat.

Republicans’ tactics seemed geared to play to different audiences — independent voters, hard-core Trump supporters and the president himself. The approach underscored a political asymmetry about the proceedings: The Democrats are trying to paint a coherent picture, while Republicans need only muddy it — and they have lots of ways to do so.

Indeed, at still other times, Republicans dismissed the entire impeachment inquiry as a witch hunt and tried to associate it with the fact that the special counsel, Robert S. Mueller III, found insufficient evidence of any criminal conspiracy between the Trump campaign and Russia’s 2016 election manipulation operation.

“You have to keep that history in mind as you consider the Democrats’ latest catalog of supposed Trump outrages,” the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, Representative Devin Nunes of California, said on Wednesday.

The Republicans sharpened their counterarguments and defenses as Gordon D. Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, delivered damaging testimony about what he witnessed as one of the Trump proxies orbiting Rudolph W. Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, as they pushed Ukraine to announce the investigations.

Mr. Sondland said there was a clear quid pro quo that attached a condition — a public announcement of the investigations — to a potential official action by Mr. Trump, inviting President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to the White House. But Mr. Sondland said no one told him that Mr. Trump was also holding up a package of military aid to Ukraine for the same purpose, though he assumed that was the explanation.

In opening questioning to Mr. Sondland, Mr. Nunes seemed to make the case that Mr. Trump had good reason to seek investigations. He asked Mr. Sondland whether he was aware of a series of facts and various allegations about Hunter Biden and Burisma, and about Ukrainians who expressed support for Hillary Clinton or opposition to Mr. Trump.

“So knowing all these facts from high-ranking Ukrainian officials, ambassador, it probably makes a little more sense now as to why the president may think that there’s problems with Ukraine and that Ukraine was out to get him?” Mr. Nunes asked Mr. Sondland.

“I understand your — I understand your point, yes, Mr. Chairman,” Mr. Sondland replied.

But if the premise of Mr. Nunes’s line of questioning was that it was righteous to seek the investigations, a line of questioning that followed, by the Republicans’ top staff lawyer, Stephen R. Castor, pointed to a different conclusion: The important point was that there was no clear proof that Mr. Trump himself was behind the pressure.

Mr. Castor marched Mr. Sondland through a lengthy series of questions to emphasize the point that Mr. Trump never personally told him there was any quid pro quo — highlighting that Mr. Sondland had no clear proof that the president was personally orchestrating anything untoward.

“So the president never told you about any preconditions for aid to be released?” Mr. Castor asked.

“No,” Mr. Sondland replied.

“The president never told you about preconditions for a White House meeting?” Mr. Castor followed up.

“Personally, no,” Mr. Sondland said.

Mr. Sondland said his understanding that Mr. Trump was offering a White House meeting to Mr. Zelensky on the condition that he announce investigations was based on what Mr. Giuliani told him. Pressed on how he could know that, Mr. Sondland replied that Mr. Trump had directed him to talk to Mr. Giuliani about the matter.

Other Republican lawmakers including, Elise Stefanik of New York, repeated Mr. Castor’s line of questioning and its implication that no direct evidence of Mr. Trump’s motivations had emerged.

Left unsaid was that Mr. Trump was keeping other potential witnesses whom he spoke to about Ukraine from testifying — including Mr. Giuliani; his former national security adviser, John R. Bolton, who was opposed to blocking the aid and met one on one with Mr. Trump about it in August; and his acting chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney, who relayed the order to block the aid to the bureaucracy.

Later in the hearing, Representative Adam B. Schiff, the California Democrat who leads the Intelligence Committee, pushed back against any suggestion that Mr. Trump’s proxies were carrying out a rogue Ukraine policy.

“I do not believe that the president would allow himself to be led by the nose by Rudy Giuliani or Ambassador Sondland or anybody else,” Mr. Schiff asserted. “I think the president was the one who decided whether a meeting would happen, whether aid would be lifted, not anyone who worked for him.”

Several Republicans pushed Mr. Sondland to reiterate his account of a conversation he had with Mr. Trump on Sept. 9. Mr. Sondland recounted that he directly asked Mr. Trump what he wanted from Ukraine, and the president, in a surly mood, responded that he wanted “nothing” from Mr. Zelensky, wanted no quid pro quo, and only wanted Mr. Zelensky to do “the right thing” that he had run for office on — apparently a reference to fighting corruption.

On Sept. 11, two days after that conversation, Mr. Trump finally released the aid to Ukraine. Because Mr. Zelensky had not announced any investigations, defenders of Mr. Trump have said that means there was no quid pro quo.

Critics have responded that Mr. Trump released the security assistance only after he learned that a whistle-blower was trying to tell Congress that the president was using his official powers to force Ukraine to do something for his own personal benefit, noting that someone who gets caught trying to commit a crime is still guilty even if the plot is discovered and thwarted.

But Representative Jim Jordan, Republican of Ohio and a fierce defender of Mr. Trump, tried that argument again on Wednesday. He thunderously demanded that Mr. Sondland tell him when Mr. Zelensky made an announcement of investigations as part of the quid pro quo, leading Mr. Sondland to reply that it never happened.

“They didn’t have to do anything,” Mr. Jordan said in disgust. “I’ve never seen anything like this.”

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Fiona Hill Viewed Serving Trump as Risky. Now She’s an Impeachment Witness.

Westlake Legal Group 20DC-HILL-facebookJumbo Fiona Hill Viewed Serving Trump as Risky. Now She’s an Impeachment Witness. United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry National Security Council impeachment House Committee on Intelligence Hill, Fiona (1965- ) Brookings Institution Bolton, John R

WASHINGTON — Fiona Hill knew she was taking a risk in going to work for President Trump.

A British-born coal-miner’s daughter with a Ph.D. from Harvard, Ms. Hill is a respected Russia expert, former intelligence analyst and co-author of a 500-page book analyzing the psyche of its president, Vladimir V. Putin. So the prospect of working for a president who speaks admiringly of Mr. Putin and has expressed doubts that Russia interfered in the 2016 election gave her pause.

Her decision to join the National Security Council in April 2017 — and to stay for more than two years after Mr. Trump cozied up to Mr. Putin and publicly disparaged the nation’s intelligence agencies — strained friendships and made her a target of right-wing conspiracy theorists who spread rumors that she was a Democratic mole.

Now, it has landed her near the center of the impeachment inquiry into whether Mr. Trump abused his power to enlist a foreign leader to help him in the 2020 presidential election. Her planned appearance before the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday represents the fulfillment of Ms. Hill’s worst fears about what could happen if she swallowed her reservations and went to work for Mr. Trump.

“The risk was what we see playing out in front of us — that something wrong would happen, that she would do the right thing and other people wouldn’t, and there would be a reckoning,” said Tom Wright, a former colleague and friend of Ms. Hill’s. “And afterward there could be hearings — with, at worst case, the fate of the presidency riding on it.”

On Thursday, Ms. Hill will take her turn as the latest in a series of witnesses to testify publicly before Congress. Many have been nonpartisan diplomats and national security experts who went to work for the president thinking they might be the proverbial “adults in the room” checking Mr. Trump’s impulses, only to find themselves caught up in a mess of his making, and in danger of being attacked.

Ms. Hill called her gripping account “my worst nightmare” in closed-door testimony. In it, she revealed how she and her boss at the time, John R. Bolton, the former White House national security adviser, was alarmed at a rogue effort by allies of Mr. Trump, led by his personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, to deliver on the president’s desire for Ukraine to announce investigations into his political rivals.

In testimony on Wednesday, one of those allies — Gordon D. Sondland, a Trump megadonor turned ambassador to the European Union — turned on the president and top administration officials. He told lawmakers that he was only doing Mr. Trump’s bidding in pressing Ukraine for the investigations, and that Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Mick Mulvaney, the acting chief of staff, were among those well aware of it.

In Mr. Sondland’s telling during a private interview with impeachment investigators last month, Ms. Hill was furious to the point of shaking when he stopped by her office to say goodbye to her before she left the White House, about a week before the now-infamous July 25 telephone in which Mr. Trump pressed President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son Hunter. (Ms. Hill had argued against the call, saying she did not understand its purpose.)

“She was pretty upset about her role in the administration, about her superiors, about the president,” Mr. Sondland recalled in a closed-door deposition. “She was sort of shaking. She was pretty mad.”

A lawyer for Ms. Hill, Lee Wolosky, has disputed that characterization, writing on Twitter that Mr. Sondland “fabricated communications with Dr. Hill.”

Ms. Hill is neither pro-Trump nor a “Never Trumper,” and she was always circumspect in talking about Mr. Trump, friends said. She refused speaking invitations of the sort that would be routine for top advisers in past administrations — even at the Brookings Institution, where she was on leave as director of the Center on the United States and Europe.

But her own closed-door testimony reveals how fraught her time in the administration was.

In it, she described a tense White House meeting with Mr. Sondland, Mr. Bolton, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Ukrainian officials in which it became apparent that Mr. Mulvaney was working with Mr. Sondland and Mr. Giuliani to execute the president’s plan.

Ms. Hill described her horror that the Ukranians — foreign nationals — were hanging around the West Wing, outside the Situation Room, one of the most secure and sensitive spots in the White House. When Mr. Sondland moved the meeting down to a room in the White House basement, Mr. Bolton instructed her to follow them to find out what was going on.

She did so, and confronted Mr. Sondland, cutting him off when he dangled the prospect of a White House meeting between Mr. Trump and Mr. Zelensky.

“It has to go through proper procedure,” Ms. Hill insisted. Then she reported back to Mr. Bolton, who told her to report it to the National Security Council’s top lawyer, John A. Eisenberg.

“You go and tell Eisenberg that I am not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up on this,” she recalled Mr. Bolton saying.

Friends said that sounded like the Ms. Hill they know: straight, to the point, unafraid to push back.

“Fiona has served impeccably in the executive branch,” said Strobe Talbott, the former president of the Brookings Institution, “and, now, she’s helping Congress understand the disaster Trump has visited on the country and the world.”

Republicans view her as suspect because she worked with Christopher Steele, who later wrote an infamous dossier on Mr. Trump’s ties to Russia, when she was an intelligence officer and he was her British counterpart. And her time as an unpaid adviser to the Central Eurasia Project of the Open Society Foundation, founded by the Democratic philanthropist George Soros, fueled rumors spread by the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.

“My entire first year of my tenure at the National Security Council was filled with hateful calls, conspiracy theories, which has started again,” she told House investigators, saying her attackers accused her “of being a Soros mole in the White House, of colluding with all kinds of enemies of the president.”

Ms. Hill, 54, had an unusual path to academia. The daughter of a coal miner and a midwife, she had a hardscrabble childhood in northeast England — a childhood that bred toughness, her friends say. Once, when she was 11, a boy in her class set one of her pigtails on fire while she was taking a test. She put the fire out with her hands, and finished the test.

She learned to speak Russian and eventually made her way across the Atlantic to Harvard for a fellowship, where she studied under the scholar Richard Pipes, known for his hard-line views about what was then the Soviet Union.

Ms. Hill’s own views are more nuanced, friends and colleagues say; she is not so much a Russia hawk as a cleareyed realist. She was also very clear about the threat Russia posed to Ukraine.

“She comes from this realist tradition where you start with the proposition that this other actor is capable of killing me,” said Graham Allison, a Harvard political scientist who worked with Ms. Hill on an initiative to teach foreign governments about democracy. “I can’t figure out how to kill them without committing suicide, so now I have to find a way to live with them.”

In 2006, Ms. Hill joined the National Intelligence Council as national intelligence officer for Russia and Eurasia, a job that required her to assess the Russian threat. In 2009, she rejoined Brookings, where she had previously been a fellow. In 2013, she and Clifford Gaddy published “Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin.”

“She confirmed what I thought, which is what I’ve said very publicly for a long time: He’s the most dangerous guy on Earth,” said Adm. Mike Mullen, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who got to know Ms. Hill when she was an intelligence analyst.

Yet for all of her scholarly work, it was an appearance on television that landed Ms. Hill her White House job. After Mr. Trump was elected, K.T. McFarland, a Fox News commentator, recommended her to Gen. Michael T. Flynn, Mr. Trump’s first national security adviser.

General Flynn, whose tenure ended in scandal after 24 days, offered her the job as the National Security Council’s senior director for Europe and Russia, though she came on after he left. Some friends warned her against it. Among them was Marvin Kalb, a senior fellow at Brookings, who thought Ms. Hill might have trouble in part because she was an immigrant.

“I was concerned that she might run into problems that others might not run into, and I thought that her judgment of Putin might not sit well with the president,” he said, adding: “My recommendation to her was to stay away. But she believed very strongly in the opportunity to serve.”

She got off to an uncertain start; Mr. Trump once mistook her for a low-level member of support staff. And if there was any doubt that the president had little interest in national security protocol and would rely on no one but himself, it was erased when he took notes away from his interpreter during a private meeting with Mr. Putin in Hamburg, Germany, in 2017.

Then came the disastrous Helsinki, Finland, summit in 2018, where Mr. Trump accepted the Russian president’s denial that his country had interfered in the 2016 race. In a stunning break with protocol, he also told Mr. Putin that he might let Russia interrogate a former American ambassador, Michael A. McFaul, a staunch critic of Russia’s record on human rights.

Mr. McFaul visited her at the White House to complain.

“I thought they were going to clean it up when they got back to Washington, and they didn’t,” Mr. McFaul said. “They just doubled down.”

Some colleagues of Ms. Hill’s wondered why she did not quit then. Others, like Angela Stent, a Russia expert at Georgetown University and mentor to Ms. Hill, said she contemplated leaving at times, but stayed because she wanted “to minimize the damage of some things that were happening with Russia.”

When she left the White House in July, it was as planned; she wanted to spend more time with her husband and 12-year-old daughter and her mother, who is ill. If she had been frustrated there, Mr. Wright said, she kept it to herself.

“This exit was not what she had planned,” Mr. Wright said. “I don’t think she was thinking, ‘I’m going to go out in a blaze of glory, take a moral stand and testify.’ That was definitely not her intention. She just wanted to her job with no fuss or drama.”

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Fiona Hill Viewed Serving Trump as Risky. Now She’s an Impeachment Witness.

Westlake Legal Group 20DC-HILL-facebookJumbo Fiona Hill Viewed Serving Trump as Risky. Now She’s an Impeachment Witness. United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry National Security Council impeachment House Committee on Intelligence Hill, Fiona (1965- ) Brookings Institution Bolton, John R

WASHINGTON — Fiona Hill knew she was taking a risk in going to work for President Trump.

A British-born coal-miner’s daughter with a Ph.D. from Harvard, Ms. Hill is a respected Russia expert, former intelligence analyst and co-author of a 500-page book analyzing the psyche of its president, Vladimir V. Putin. So the prospect of working for a president who speaks admiringly of Mr. Putin and has expressed doubts that Russia interfered in the 2016 election gave her pause.

Her decision to join the National Security Council in April 2017 — and to stay for more than two years after Mr. Trump cozied up to Mr. Putin and publicly disparaged the nation’s intelligence agencies — strained friendships and made her a target of right-wing conspiracy theorists who spread rumors that she was a Democratic mole.

Now, it has landed her near the center of the impeachment inquiry into whether Mr. Trump abused his power to enlist a foreign leader to help him in the 2020 presidential election. Her planned appearance before the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday represents the fulfillment of Ms. Hill’s worst fears about what could happen if she swallowed her reservations and went to work for Mr. Trump.

“The risk was what we see playing out in front of us — that something wrong would happen, that she would do the right thing and other people wouldn’t, and there would be a reckoning,” said Tom Wright, a former colleague and friend of Ms. Hill’s. “And afterward there could be hearings — with, at worst case, the fate of the presidency riding on it.”

On Thursday, Ms. Hill will take her turn as the latest in a series of witnesses to testify publicly before Congress. Many have been nonpartisan diplomats and national security experts who went to work for the president thinking they might be the proverbial “adults in the room” checking Mr. Trump’s impulses, only to find themselves caught up in a mess of his making, and in danger of being attacked.

Ms. Hill called her gripping account “my worst nightmare” in closed-door testimony. In it, she revealed how she and her boss at the time, John R. Bolton, the former White House national security adviser, was alarmed at a rogue effort by allies of Mr. Trump, led by his personal lawyer, Rudolph W. Giuliani, to deliver on the president’s desire for Ukraine to announce investigations into his political rivals.

In testimony on Wednesday, one of those allies — Gordon D. Sondland, a Trump megadonor turned ambassador to the European Union — turned on the president and top administration officials. He told lawmakers that he was only doing Mr. Trump’s bidding in pressing Ukraine for the investigations, and that Vice President Mike Pence, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Mick Mulvaney, the acting chief of staff, were among those well aware of it.

In Mr. Sondland’s telling during a private interview with impeachment investigators last month, Ms. Hill was furious to the point of shaking when he stopped by her office to say goodbye to her before she left the White House, about a week before the now-infamous July 25 telephone in which Mr. Trump pressed President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and his son Hunter. (Ms. Hill had argued against the call, saying she did not understand its purpose.)

“She was pretty upset about her role in the administration, about her superiors, about the president,” Mr. Sondland recalled in a closed-door deposition. “She was sort of shaking. She was pretty mad.”

A lawyer for Ms. Hill, Lee Wolosky, has disputed that characterization, writing on Twitter that Mr. Sondland “fabricated communications with Dr. Hill.”

Ms. Hill is neither pro-Trump nor a “Never Trumper,” and she was always circumspect in talking about Mr. Trump, friends said. She refused speaking invitations of the sort that would be routine for top advisers in past administrations — even at the Brookings Institution, where she was on leave as director of the Center on the United States and Europe.

But her own closed-door testimony reveals how fraught her time in the administration was.

In it, she described a tense White House meeting with Mr. Sondland, Mr. Bolton, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and Ukrainian officials in which it became apparent that Mr. Mulvaney was working with Mr. Sondland and Mr. Giuliani to execute the president’s plan.

Ms. Hill described her horror that the Ukranians — foreign nationals — were hanging around the West Wing, outside the Situation Room, one of the most secure and sensitive spots in the White House. When Mr. Sondland moved the meeting down to a room in the White House basement, Mr. Bolton instructed her to follow them to find out what was going on.

She did so, and confronted Mr. Sondland, cutting him off when he dangled the prospect of a White House meeting between Mr. Trump and Mr. Zelensky.

“It has to go through proper procedure,” Ms. Hill insisted. Then she reported back to Mr. Bolton, who told her to report it to the National Security Council’s top lawyer, John A. Eisenberg.

“You go and tell Eisenberg that I am not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up on this,” she recalled Mr. Bolton saying.

Friends said that sounded like the Ms. Hill they know: straight, to the point, unafraid to push back.

“Fiona has served impeccably in the executive branch,” said Strobe Talbott, the former president of the Brookings Institution, “and, now, she’s helping Congress understand the disaster Trump has visited on the country and the world.”

Republicans view her as suspect because she worked with Christopher Steele, who later wrote an infamous dossier on Mr. Trump’s ties to Russia, when she was an intelligence officer and he was her British counterpart. And her time as an unpaid adviser to the Central Eurasia Project of the Open Society Foundation, founded by the Democratic philanthropist George Soros, fueled rumors spread by the conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.

“My entire first year of my tenure at the National Security Council was filled with hateful calls, conspiracy theories, which has started again,” she told House investigators, saying her attackers accused her “of being a Soros mole in the White House, of colluding with all kinds of enemies of the president.”

Ms. Hill, 54, had an unusual path to academia. The daughter of a coal miner and a midwife, she had a hardscrabble childhood in northeast England — a childhood that bred toughness, her friends say. Once, when she was 11, a boy in her class set one of her pigtails on fire while she was taking a test. She put the fire out with her hands, and finished the test.

She learned to speak Russian and eventually made her way across the Atlantic to Harvard for a fellowship, where she studied under the scholar Richard Pipes, known for his hard-line views about what was then the Soviet Union.

Ms. Hill’s own views are more nuanced, friends and colleagues say; she is not so much a Russia hawk as a cleareyed realist. She was also very clear about the threat Russia posed to Ukraine.

“She comes from this realist tradition where you start with the proposition that this other actor is capable of killing me,” said Graham Allison, a Harvard political scientist who worked with Ms. Hill on an initiative to teach foreign governments about democracy. “I can’t figure out how to kill them without committing suicide, so now I have to find a way to live with them.”

In 2006, Ms. Hill joined the National Intelligence Council as national intelligence officer for Russia and Eurasia, a job that required her to assess the Russian threat. In 2009, she rejoined Brookings, where she had previously been a fellow. In 2013, she and Clifford Gaddy published “Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin.”

“She confirmed what I thought, which is what I’ve said very publicly for a long time: He’s the most dangerous guy on Earth,” said Adm. Mike Mullen, the former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who got to know Ms. Hill when she was an intelligence analyst.

Yet for all of her scholarly work, it was an appearance on television that landed Ms. Hill her White House job. After Mr. Trump was elected, K.T. McFarland, a Fox News commentator, recommended her to Gen. Michael T. Flynn, Mr. Trump’s first national security adviser.

General Flynn, whose tenure ended in scandal after 24 days, offered her the job as the National Security Council’s senior director for Europe and Russia, though she came on after he left. Some friends warned her against it. Among them was Marvin Kalb, a senior fellow at Brookings, who thought Ms. Hill might have trouble in part because she was an immigrant.

“I was concerned that she might run into problems that others might not run into, and I thought that her judgment of Putin might not sit well with the president,” he said, adding: “My recommendation to her was to stay away. But she believed very strongly in the opportunity to serve.”

She got off to an uncertain start; Mr. Trump once mistook her for a low-level member of support staff. And if there was any doubt that the president had little interest in national security protocol and would rely on no one but himself, it was erased when he took notes away from his interpreter during a private meeting with Mr. Putin in Hamburg, Germany, in 2017.

Then came the disastrous Helsinki, Finland, summit in 2018, where Mr. Trump accepted the Russian president’s denial that his country had interfered in the 2016 race. In a stunning break with protocol, he also told Mr. Putin that he might let Russia interrogate a former American ambassador, Michael A. McFaul, a staunch critic of Russia’s record on human rights.

Mr. McFaul visited her at the White House to complain.

“I thought they were going to clean it up when they got back to Washington, and they didn’t,” Mr. McFaul said. “They just doubled down.”

Some colleagues of Ms. Hill’s wondered why she did not quit then. Others, like Angela Stent, a Russia expert at Georgetown University and mentor to Ms. Hill, said she contemplated leaving at times, but stayed because she wanted “to minimize the damage of some things that were happening with Russia.”

When she left the White House in July, it was as planned; she wanted to spend more time with her husband and 12-year-old daughter and her mother, who is ill. If she had been frustrated there, Mr. Wright said, she kept it to herself.

“This exit was not what she had planned,” Mr. Wright said. “I don’t think she was thinking, ‘I’m going to go out in a blaze of glory, take a moral stand and testify.’ That was definitely not her intention. She just wanted to her job with no fuss or drama.”

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Sondland Says He Followed Trump’s Orders to Pressure Ukraine

WASHINGTON — An ambassador at the center of the House impeachment inquiry testified on Wednesday that he was following President Trump’s orders, with the full knowledge of other top administration officials, when he pressured the Ukrainians to conduct investigations into Mr. Trump’s political rivals in what he called a clear “quid pro quo.”

Gordon D. Sondland, Mr. Trump’s envoy to the European Union, told the House Intelligence Committee that he reluctantly followed Mr. Trump’s directive. He testified that the president instructed him to work with Rudolph W. Giuliani, Mr. Trump’s personal lawyer, as he pressured Ukraine to publicly commit to investigating former Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. and an unsubstantiated theory that Democrats conspired with Kyiv to interfere in the 2016 election.

“We followed the president’s orders,” Mr. Sondland said.

His appearance amounted to an act of defiance by an official who has been described by other witnesses as a point man in the push to extract the investigations. In his testimony, Mr. Sondland linked the most senior members of the Trump administration to the effort — including the vice president, the secretary of state, the acting chief of staff and others. He said they were informed of it at key moments, an account that severely undercut Mr. Trump’s frequent claims that he never pressured Ukraine.

Instead, Mr. Sondland, a wealthy Republican megadonor, described an expansive effort to help the president do just that.

Later on Wednesday, a Defense Department official, Laura K. Cooper, testified that Ukrainian officials may have known as early as late July that a $391 million package of security assistance was being withheld by the Trump administration.

The testimony by Ms. Cooper called into question another central element of the president’s defense: that there was no pressure because Ukrainian officials were unaware that the money was frozen.

Two months into the investigation, Mr. Sondland’s account came as close as investigators have gotten to an admission from an official who dealt directly with Mr. Trump. But Mr. Sondland’s accounts have shifted since the committee first deposed him in October, opening him up to Republican criticism that he is not credible.

Mr. Sondland has repeatedly claimed not to have recalled key episodes, and he conceded during testimony on Wednesday that he did not record precisely what had happened. He blamed the State Department for not providing him with all his emails, call logs and other records.

Still, he offered revelations and had the evidence to corroborate them.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo signed off on parts of the pressure campaign, Mr. Sondland testified, and Mick Mulvaney, the acting White House chief of staff, was deeply involved. They understood, as he did, that there was a quid pro quo linking a White House meeting for President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine to a promise by him to announce investigations into Mr. Trump’s political rivals, he said.

“I know that members of this committee have frequently framed these complicated issues in the form of a simple question: Was there a quid pro quo?” Mr. Sondland said. “As I testified previously, with regard to the requested White House call and White House meeting, the answer is yes.”

“Everyone was in the loop,” he said. “It was no secret.”

Mr. Sondland testified that he came to believe that Mr. Trump was also linking congressionally approved military assistance to Ukraine with a public commitment by Mr. Zelensky to investigate Mr. Trump’s political adversaries. Mr. Sondland said he informed Vice President Mike Pence of his concern about that connection during a Sept. 1 meeting in Warsaw.

Ms. Cooper testified that Ukrainian officials had reached out to the State and Defense Departments with questions about the status of the military funding on July 25, only hours after Mr. Trump pressed Mr. Zelensky during a phone call for the investigations. Republicans have insisted that Ukraine did not know that the aid had been held up until it was reported in the news media in late August.

Beyond the evolving timeline, Mr. Sondland’s testimony raised questions about whether the other top administration figures he mentioned — including Mr. Pompeo, Mr. Mulvaney and John R. Bolton, the president’s former national security adviser — would come forward to testify.

The Trump administration tried to block the testimony of Mr. Sondland, Ms. Cooper and David Hale, the No. 3 State Department official, who also appeared on Wednesday, and refused to allow Mr. Sondland access to certain documents, he said, which it also withheld from the committee despite a subpoena.

Democrats pointed to the administration’s stonewalling as yet another piece of evidence for an impeachment article against Mr. Trump for obstruction of Congress.

“It goes right to the heart of the issue of bribery, as well as other potential high crimes and misdemeanors,” Representative Adam B. Schiff, Democrat of California and the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, told reporters during a brief break in the hearing.

ImageWestlake Legal Group merlin_164733612_e5708ec4-1796-48de-86b5-683d6dc1b534-articleLarge Sondland Says He Followed Trump’s Orders to Pressure Ukraine United States Politics and Government Ukraine Trump, Donald J Trump-Ukraine Whistle-Blower Complaint and Impeachment Inquiry State Department Sondland, Gordon D (1957- ) Pompeo, Mike Perry, Rick Pence, Mike Mulvaney, Mick impeachment House Committee on Intelligence Diplomatic Service, Embassies and Consulates Biden, Joseph R Jr Biden, Hunter

Representatives Adam B. Schiff, the chairman of the Intelligence Committee, and Devin Nunes, the panel’s top Republican, listening to Mr. Sondland’s testimony.Credit…Doug Mills/The New York Times

Republicans, moving to discredit Mr. Sondland, seized on his assertion that Mr. Trump never personally or explicitly told him about conditions on the White House meeting or the security assistance. Mr. Sondland said under questioning that he came to the conclusion on his own.

Representative Michael R. Turner, Republican of Ohio, hammered on the point, his voice rising as he sharply questioned the ambassador.

“No one told you? Not just the president — Giuliani didn’t tell you, Mulvaney didn’t tell you, nobody?” Mr. Turner demanded. “Pompeo didn’t tell you?

“No one on this planet told you that President Trump was tying aid to investigations,” he added. “Yes or no?”

“Yes,” Mr. Sondland responded.

The ambassador, who smiled often during his appearance and cheerfully admitted to a flair for colorful language and frequent use of “four-letter words” in his conversations with Mr. Trump, appeared to relish pulling other top officials into the spotlight. For weeks, Republicans had cast him as a rogue actor.

“The suggestion that we were engaged in some irregular or rogue diplomacy is absolutely false,” he said, pointing to messages and phone calls in which he kept the White House and the State Department informed of his actions.

Some of the senior officials who figured prominently in Mr. Sondland’s testimony quickly challenged his account, and Mr. Trump tried to distance himself from the ambassador.

“I don’t know him very well — I have not spoken to him much,” Mr. Trump told reporters before leaving for Texas on Wednesday afternoon.

Holding a page of notes scrawled in marker in large block letters, Mr. Trump quoted Mr. Sondland’s closed-door deposition in which the ambassador described a phone call in which the president had told him he did not want a quid pro quo.

Before boarding Marine One, Mr. Trump shouted, “This is the final word from the president of the United States.”

The White House press secretary later put out a statement saying that Mr. Sondland’s testimony “completely exonerates President Trump of any wrongdoing.”

Through an aide, Mr. Pence denied that the two men had spoken one-on-one.

“There was never a time when Sondland was alone with the vice president in Warsaw, and if he’s recalling the pre-briefing, I was in that, and he never said anything in that venue either,” said Marc Short, Mr. Pence’s chief of staff.

Defying the State Department’s wishes, Mr. Sondland shared previously unseen emails and texts that demonstrated how he kept Mr. Pompeo and other administration officials apprised of his efforts to push the Ukranians. In one of them, Mr. Sondland tells Mr. Pompeo about a draft statement in which the Ukranians would commit to the investigations, and about a plan to have Mr. Zelensky speak directly with Mr. Trump about the matter.

“The contents will hopefully make the boss happy enough to authorize an invitation,” Mr. Sondland wrote in an email to Mr. Pompeo.

A week and a half later, Mr. Sondland sent Mr. Pompeo another email asking whether he should arrange a meeting in Warsaw for Mr. Trump where Mr. Zelensky would “look him in the eye” and promise him the investigations, breaking a “logjam.”

Mr. Pompeo issued a statement that appeared intended to deny Mr. Sondland’s testimony, but that did not directly address the ambassador’s assertion that the secretary of state knew and approved of his efforts.

“Gordon Sondland never told Secretary Pompeo that he believed the president was linking aid to investigations of political opponents,” according to the statement from Morgan Ortagus, the State Department spokeswoman.

Mr. Sondland even took shots at Mr. Bolton, who other witnesses have said harbored deep concerns over the ambassador’s actions and repeatedly instructed subordinates to report them to White House lawyers.

“Curiously — and this was very interesting to me — on Aug. 26, shortly before his visit to Kyiv, Ambassador Bolton’s office requested Mr. Giuliani’s contact information from me,” said Mr. Sondland, who repeated himself and then paused to smirk before continuing with his testimony.

One of the more dramatic moments of the day occurred in the final hour in an exchange between Mr. Sondland and Representative Sean Patrick Maloney, Democrat of New York, who elicited a grudging admission from the ambassador that the investigations that Mr. Trump wanted would benefit him politically.

“See? It didn’t hurt a bit,” Mr. Maloney said, drawing a testy response from Mr. Sondland, who said he was trying to be “forthright.”

“It didn’t work so well the first time, did it?” Mr. Maloney shot back, referring to the multiple changes Mr. Sondland has made to his story.

“We appreciate your candor,” Mr. Maloney said, “but let’s be really clear on what it took to get it out of you.”

Reporting was contributed by Michael D. Shear, Emily Cochrane, Maggie Haberman and Zach Montague.

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U.S. Bill Supporting Hong Kong Rights Heads to Trump’s Desk

Westlake Legal Group merlin_164755011_9f8a49f6-c42d-4b24-854b-03aff7c34856-facebookJumbo U.S. Bill Supporting Hong Kong Rights Heads to Trump’s Desk United States Politics and Government United States International Relations Trump, Donald J Senate Law and Legislation International Trade and World Market House of Representatives Hong Kong Embargoes and Sanctions

A bill compelling the United States to support pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong could arrive on President Trump’s desk as soon as Thursday morning, potentially complicating the administration’s talks with China to end the trade war.

The bill, passed by the Senate on Tuesday, would require the government to impose sanctions on Chinese officials responsible for human rights abuses in the territory. On Wednesday, the House passed the Senate version 417-1, sending it to the White House.

If signed into law by Mr. Trump, the bill will also require the State Department to annually review the special autonomous status it grants Hong Kong in trade considerations. That status is separate from the relationship with mainland China, and a revocation of the status would mean less favorable trade conditions between the United States and Hong Kong.

The Senate passed the bill, the Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act, by unanimous consent. The House had previously passed its own version unanimously, but gave assent to the Senate version in order to expedite the legislation. On the House floor on Wednesday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said, “If America does not speak out for human rights in China because of commercial interests, we lose all moral authority to speak out on human rights elsewhere.”

Because the bill, in theory, has the support of a veto-proof majority in Congress, it could be enacted even if Mr. Trump vetoes it. And its enactment would most likely strain relations with China at a delicate moment in the trade negotiations.

Eswar Prasad, the former head of the International Monetary Fund’s China division, said the injection of Hong Kong into the trade process could derail the talks with China, which is notoriously sensitive about outside political interference.

“The legislation will further fuel the narrative in Chinese domestic policy circles that the U.S. is attempting to infringe on the sovereignty of China in terms of its internal economic and political affairs,” Mr. Prasad said.

Although Mr. Trump announced last month that the United States and China had reached a “historic” so-called phase one trade agreement, signing a deal has proved elusive. The two sides continue to negotiate and could achieve a deal in the next few weeks. But Mr. Trump has given mixed signals about whether he wants a deal.

“I haven’t wanted to do it yet because I don’t think they’ve stepped up,” Mr. Trump said on Wednesday afternoon while touring an Apple manufacturing facility in Texas.

The United States and China have been grappling over the fate of tariffs that Mr. Trump imposed on $360 billion of Chinese imports and additional tariffs that are due to be imposed on Dec. 15. China wants all of the tariffs rolled back as part of an agreement in which it would buy as much as $50 billion of American agricultural products a year and begin to open its markets to American companies.

Mr. Trump, however, is reluctant to scale back all the tariffs, and his advisers remain skeptical that China will live up to its commitments.

Henrietta Treyz, director of economic policy at the investment firm Veda Partners, said that the Hong Kong legislation raised the odds that the December tariffs will be imposed. She pointed to a series of caustic posts on Twitter written by the editor of The Global Times, a Chinese state-controlled publication, warning American farmers that the deal Mr. Trump promised them was not yet complete.

“Tensions are rising between the two nations, not dissipating,” Ms. Treyz said. “The prospect of not reaching a deal and requiring escalation from here remains quite real.”

The possibility that the Hong Kong bill could be signed into law has shaken the confidence of Wall Street analysts who had become increasingly optimistic in recent weeks that tariffs could be rolled back as part of the first phase of a trade deal.

Economists at Goldman Sachs said in a note to clients this week that the Hong Kong legislation was a potential “complication,” warning that China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs had promised “strong countermeasures” if such a bill were enacted.

Still, the trade talks have continued over the last year despite several spikes in tension between the United States and China, including the arrest of the Huawei executive Meng Wangzhou in Canada and the sale of 66 F-16s to Taiwan this summer.

Mr. Trump, who rarely talks about human rights, has not spoken about the bill, nor has he made consistently strong statements in support of the Hong Kong activists. In June, he told China’s president, Xi Jinping, that he would not publicly back the protesters as long as trade talks were progressing.

While Mr. Trump’s advisers debate how much tariff relief to offer in the first phase of a trade deal, similar debates are playing out in China. The fact that the United States is weighing in so forcefully on Hong Kong is most likely exacerbating that internal tension.

“There’s an ongoing debate in Beijing between reformers who would like phase one and hard-liners who see themselves surrounded by hostile forces led by the United States, including in Hong Kong,” said Michael Pillsbury, a China scholar at the Hudson Institute who advises the Trump administration.

Ed Wong and Catie Edmondson contributed reporting.

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