Trump ex-adviser Hill testifies Ukraine conspiracy is ‘untrue’

WASHINGTON: President Donald Trump’s former Russia adviser Fiona Hill urged lawmakers in the House of Representatives impeachment inquiry on Thursday not to promote “politically driven falsehoods” that cast doubt on Russia’s interference in the 2016 US election.
In her prepared testimony, Hill said some members of the House Intelligence Committee, based on their questions and statements, appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against the United States during the 2016 presidential race and that perhaps Ukraine did.
Hill appeared to be referring to some of President Donald Trump’s Republican allies and defenders on the committee in the impeachment inquiry focusing on his actions towards Ukraine.
“This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves,” said Hill, who until July served as the director for European and Russian affairs at the White House National Security Council.
“In the course of this investigation, I would ask that you please not promote politically driven falsehoods that so clearly advance Russian interests,” she said.
Some Republican members of the committee have advanced a discredited conspiracy theory, embraced by Trump and some of his allies in Congress and the conservative media, that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the last presidential election.
Thursday’s hearing marks the fifth and last scheduled day of public hearings by the Democratic-led House Intelligence Committee. The inquiry is focused on Trump’s June 25 telephone request that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy investigate former vice-president Joe Biden, a leading contender in the field of Democrats seeking to challenge Trump in the 2020 election. Trump also asked Zelenskiy to investigate the debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election.
Lawmakers also will question David Holmes, a staffer from the US Embassy in Ukraine, as they seek to learn more about a July 26 phone call in which he says he overheard Trump ask about the status of the investigation.
In his opening statement, Holmes said his work at the embassy started to become overshadowed in March 2019 by the work of Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who was pushing Ukraine to carry out the two probes.
“I became aware that Mr Giuliani, a private lawyer, was taking a direct role in Ukrainian diplomacy,” Holmes said.
HACKING AND PROPAGANDA
US intelligence agencies and former Special Counsel Robert Mueller have determined that Russia interfered in the 2016 election with a campaign of hacking and propaganda intended to sow discord in the United States, boost Trump’s candidacy and harm his Democratic opponent Hillary Clinton.
Mueller’s team brought criminal charges against 12 Russian intelligence officers in the hacking effort, accusing them of covertly monitoring employee computers and planting malicious code, as well as stealing emails and other documents.
Hill warned lawmakers that Russia is gearing up to repeat its election interference activities in 2020.
“We are running out of time to stop them,” she said.
The committee’s top Republican, Devin Nunes, took issue with Hill’s prepared testimony.
Nunes said Hill “claimed that some committee members deny that Russia meddled in the 2016 election” but said a March 2018 report by Intelligence Committee Republicans “analysed the 2016 Russia meddling campaign.”
“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, regardless of which campaign is the target,” Nunes said, appearing to embrace the notion of Ukrainian election meddling.
 — Reuters