Fiona Hill, former senior director for European and Russian Affairs was called to appear before the U.S. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee.
Fiona Hill, former senior director for European and Russian Affairs testified behind closed doors as the latest witness summoned in the Democratic-led impeachment inquiry against Trump over his request that Ukraine investigate a domestic political rival.
Former Russia adviser on National Security Council was called to appear before the U.S. House of Representatives Intelligence Committee. She walked past journalists without saying anything as she arrived at the Capitol building, entering with sunglasses atop her head.
Trey Gowdy, a former Republican congressman who last Wednesday was announced as joining Trump’s outside legal team for the impeachment fight, no longer will be doing so at least for now, according to Jay Sekulow, a lawyer for Trump. Sekulow last week had praised Gowdy as “a great asset” to the legal team.
The British-born Hill, who left her White House job shortly before the July 25 call but remained on the payroll into August, had advocated a tough U.S. approach on Moscow even as Trump was more accommodating toward Russian President Vladimir Putin. U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded that Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. election with a campaign of hacking and propaganda intended to boost Trump’s candidacy.
Trump administration’s removal in May of Marie Yovanovitch as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine could figure in Hill’s testimony.
Reuters informed that Yovanovitch testified on Friday that she had been expelled based on “unfounded and false claims” after coming under attack by Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, who had been working to get Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden, a top contender for the Democratic nomination to face Republican Trump in the November 2020 presidential election.
The research focuses on a July 25th phone call in which American mandatary asked his Ukrainian homologue Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate former VP Biden and his son Hunter Biden.
Democrats have accused Trump of pressuring a vulnerable U.S. ally to dig up dirt on a domestic rival after withholding $391 million in U.S. security aid intended to help combat Russian-backed separatists in the eastern part of Ukraine. Trump eventually allowed the aid.
Wow! Hunter Biden is being forced to leave a Chinese Company. Now watch the Fake News wrap their greasy and very protective arms around him. Only softball questions of him please!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 14, 2019
Republican congressman Matt Gaetz, an outspoken defender of Trump, was asked to leave the closed session about an hour into Hill’s testimony. Gaetz is not a member of any of the three House committees conducting the impeachment inquiry and Gaetz told reporters the House parliamentarian said he could not attend.
Giuliani faces a Tuesday deadline to produce documents related to the Ukraine matter subpoenaed by the House Intelligence Committee. He has not said whether he will comply.
Lawmakers this week are returning from a two-week recess, with testimony from current and former administration officials on the schedule. A key event could be testimony on Thursday from Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union.
Sondland, a Trump supporter and not a career diplomat, participated in a text message exchange with Bill Taylor, top U.S. diplomat in Ukraine. Democrats say it reveals concern among aides that Trump’s pressure on Ukraine to investigate Biden was improper. He is expected to be asked why he relayed from Trump to other diplomats that the president said no “quid pro quos” connecting the Biden investigation with the U.S. aid. Quid pro quo is a Latin term meaning a favor for a favor.
However, Trump denies wrongdoing. The inquiry could prompt the House to approve articles of impeachment - formal charges - leading to a trial in the Senate on whether to remove Trump from office. The Senate is led by Trump’s fellow Republicans, who have shown little inclination to remove him.