'I was just shocked': Here are the biggest takeaways from Fiona Hill’s damning impeachment testimony against Trump

John Haltiwanger
Fiona Hill

Leah Millis/Reuters


  • The transcript from the testimony of President Donald Trump's former top adviser on Russia was released on Friday by House investigators leading the impeachment inquiry into the president. 
  • Fiona Hill's testimony presented a damning picture of a shadow effort to pressure Ukraine into launching investigations desired by Trump. 
  • "I was shocked," Hill said in reference to the White House summary Trump's phone call with Ukraine's president. Trump has said the phone call was "perfect."
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The transcript of testimony from Fiona Hill, the former top adviser on Russia in the Trump administration, was released on Friday by House investigators leading the impeachment inquiry into President Donald Trump

Hill, who previously served as a senior director for Russian and Eurasian affairs before stepping down this summer, testified before House lawmakers in mid-October. 

Her testimony presented a damning picture of a shadow effort to pressure Ukraine into launching investigations into former Vice President Joe Biden, and a conspiracy theory linked to the 2016 presidential election.

Hill began working in the Trump administration in April 2017. Prior to that, she was a widely respected academic and expert on Europe and Russia, directing the Center on the United States and Europe at the Brookings Institution from 2009 to 2017. She also served as national intelligence officer for Russia and Eurasia at the National Intelligence Council from 2006 to 2009.

Former National Security Adviser John Bolton's refusal to testify thus far makes Hill's account crucial in terms of the view from the National Security Council on Trump's dealings with Ukraine. 

Upon the release of the transcript of Hill's testimony, House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff tweeted: "This is first-hand testimony on how the levers of government were abused to help the president politically, at the cost of our national security."

Some of the biggest takeaways from Hill's testimony: 

  • Hill's former boss, former National Security Adviser John Bolton, was not interested in getting involved in the president's efforts to urge Ukraine to launch certain investigations.
    • According to Hill, Bolton did not initially realize the extent to which Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, was involved in matters pertaining to Ukraine.
    • She said: "I asked my, you know, direct superior Ambassador Bolton if he was aware of Mr. Giuliani being given some direct taskings related to Ukraine, and he was not aware of this."
    • Hill said Bolton described Giuliani as a "hand grenade that is going to blow everybody up."  
  • Hill said that Bolton told her to inform the National Security Council's lawyer, John Eisenberg, of the efforts to pressure Ukraine to launch investigations. Bolton referred to the arrangement as a "drug deal" that he didn't want to be a part of.   
    • Bolton abruptly ended a meeting with Ukrainian officials on July 10 after Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union, broached the subject of Ukraine launching investigations. 
    • Sondland then told the Ukrainian officials and other US officials present to come continue to conversation in another room. Bolton told Hill to go see what they were discussing.
    • Hill said she encountered Sondland telling the Ukrainians that he had an arrangement with acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney for a "meeting with the Ukrainians if they were going to go forward with investigations." 
    • She informed Bolton of what she encountered, and she was instructed to go speak with the NSC lawyer. Bolton told Hill: "You go and tell Eisenberg that I am not part of whatever drug deal Sondland and Mulvaney are cooking up on this, and you go and tell him what you've heard and what I've said."
  • Bolton "made it clear" to Hill that he believed Mulvaney, Sondland, and Giuliani were making an "improper arrangement" for a meeting between Trump and the Ukrainian president on the condition of an investigation being launched into a natural gas company Biden's son, Hunter Biden, served on the board of, Burisma Holdings.
    • Explaining what Bolton meant in his reference to a "drug deal," Hill said: "He made it clear that he believed that they were making, basically, an improper arrangement to have a meeting in the White House, that they were predicating the meeting in the White House on the Ukrainians agreeing, in this case, based on the meeting on July 10th, to restart investigations that had been dropped in the energy sector…by which point it was apparent that this was code, at least, for Burisma." 
  • The removal of Maria Yovanovitch as US ambassador to Ukraine was a "result of the campaign that Mr. Giuliani had set in motion."
    • Hill said there was "no basis" for Yovanovitch's removal as the top US diplomat to Ukraine, which she described as a "turning point" for her.
    • She referred to Yovanovitch's removal as "dispiriting" and a result of a smear campaign Giuliani had "set in motion." 
    • Speaking on Giuliani's efforts to discredit Yovanovitch, Hill said: "He had created an atmosphere in which she was under great suspicion, and it was obvious that she would lose the confidence of senior people because these accusations seem to stick to people even when they're proved not to be true."
    • Bolton had a "pained" reaction to Giuliani's efforts to undermine Yovanovitch. 
  • Hill said she was "very shocked" and "very saddened" when she read the White House memo on the July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.
    • "I sat in an awful lot of calls, and I have not seen anything like this. And I was there for 2 and a half years. So I was just shocked," Hill said of what she read in the White House summary in the call.
    • Trump has maintained he did nothing wrong on the call, which he said was "perfect."
    • In the July 25 phone call, Trump urged Zelensky to launch investigations into Biden and his son, as well as conspiratorial allegations regarding election interference in 2016. 
    • During the call, Trump referred to Yovanovitch as "bad news," which Hill said she was particularly "saddened" by.
    • Hill said: "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."
  • Sondland told Hill that Trump put him "in charge" of the "Ukraine portfolio."
    • Hill said Sondland in late June told her that he'd been placed "in charge of Ukraine" by Trump. 
    • Speaking to reporters about Sondland on Friday, Trump said, "I hardly knew the gentleman."
    • In early October, however, Trump tweeted that Sondland is a "really good man and great American."
    • Hill in her testimony also described Sondland as a "counterintelligence risk." She said he would "frequently" give out her personal number to people seeking meetings with her or Bolton.
    • "I actually went to our Intelligence Bureau and asked to have a sit down with him and explain that this was a counterintelligence risk, particularly giving out our personal phone numbers," Hill said of Sondland.

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