Donald Trump‘s former Russia expert said she was shocked to read the partial transcript of his phone call with his Ukrainian counterpart because it was “pretty blatant” he was asking for his political opponents to be investigated.
Fiona Hill told the impeachment hearings the call “really was kind of my worst fears and nightmares” in terms of being an effort “to subvert the national security process” and was “basically turning a White House meeting into some kind of asset”.
Mr Trump’s 25 July conversation with Volodymyr Zelensky prompted a complaint by a whistleblower and has led to an impeachment inquiry against the US president which could lead to him being dismissed from office.
Democrats accuse him of abusing his office by pressuring a foreign leader to dig up dirt on his political opponents by withholding vital military aid and dangling the chance of a White House meeting.
The US president denies doing anything wrong and insists that the call was “perfect”.
British-born Dr Hill gave evidence behind closed doors to the House committees leading the impeachment probe on 14 October. The full transcript of her testimony has now been released.
It reveals that she told politicians she was shocked to read Mr Trump’s comments in the phone call about the former US ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, who was abruptly recalled in May after apparently failing to cooperate with Rudy Giuliani, the president’s personal lawyer, in his efforts to find dirt on Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden.
Mr Trump referred to Ms Yovanovitch as “the woman”, “bad news” and warned that “she’s going to go through some things”.
Dr Hill said she was “very saddened because, again, Ambassador Yovanovitch is a great American, and I don’t think any American citizen should be disparaged by their President, just put it out there. So that made me very sad and very shocked and, yeah, not too happy.”
She said she thought it was “pretty blatant” that Mr Trump was asking Ukraine to announce investigations into the US president’s political opponents. “And I was also very shocked, to be frank, that we ended up with a telephone conversation like this because all of the – and, you know, this is obviously going into executive privilege, and I’m not going to say anything more about this, but I sat in an awful lot of calls, and I have not seen anything like this. And I was there for two and a half years. So I was just shocked.”
The former National Security Council adviser added: “My worst nightmare is the politicisation of the relationship between the US and Ukraine and, also, the usurpation of authorities, you know, for other people’s personal vested interests.”
She also said it was a “fiction” that the Ukrainian government had been trying to interfere in the 2016 US presidential election, a conspiracy theory the president is thought to believe.
US intelligence agencies have determined that Russia did interfere in 2016 with a view to helping Mr Trump, something he has said he does not believe, publicly siding with Russian president Vladimir Putin over his own officials on the issue.