Fiona Hill, Trump's former Russia aide, to testify


Published 8:03 AM EDT Oct 14, 2019

WASHINGTON – Just months ago, Fiona Hill was a top Russia adviser in the White House. 

She helped navigate U.S. policy with Moscow during what appeared to be the biggest threat to Donald Trump's presidency: the special counsel investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election. 

Now, months after leaving her post, Hill will be questioned by lawmakers as he faces an even bigger threat: a rapidly moving impeachment inquiry. 

Hill, a former intelligence officer who served as the White House's senior director for Russia and Europe –which included work on Ukraine - is scheduled to appear for questioning before Congress on Monday for a private deposition, according to a congressional aide. She left her post in the Trump administration this summer. 

She will face questions about the deepening scandal related to Trump's request to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that the country investigate his political rival, Joe Biden, and concerns over whether a meeting and military aid was withheld until the probe was announced. That aid was imperative in helping Ukraine hold off Russian aggression in the country.  

Hill left her post just before Trump's July call with Zelensky in which he pressed for the investigation, but NBC and CNN report she was was aware of the efforts by Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal attorney, to find dirt on Biden in Ukraine. 

NBC reported that Hill plans to tell congressional panels leading the impeachment effort that Giuliani and Gordan Sondland, the European Union ambassador who has been subpoenaed to appear before the panels, led a shadow policy on Ukraine that went around normal procedures and side-stepped the National Security Council. 

Her attorney did not respond to an inquiry from USA TODAY. 

Before helping guide the Trump administration on Russia and Euroasia policy, Hill was a Brookings Institution scholar, a frequent Putin critic and authored multiple books on Russia and Vladimir Putin, including "Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin," which criticized the Russian president's ruling of the country. She holds master's degrees in Soviet studies, along with Russian and modern history, according to her Brookings Institution biography. 

At least three other witnesses are expected to appear before the House Democrats' impeachment panel this week. Here's what you need to know about each:

• George P. Kent is an expert on Ukraine and Russia who now serves as a deputy assistant secretary at the State Department. He is scheduled to be deposed on Tuesday.

Kent landed in Giuliani’s crosshairs earlier this year, as the former New York mayor ramped up his pressure on the Ukrainian government to open investigations that could benefit Trump. In an interview with a Ukrainian news site in May, Giuliani alleged, without evidence, that Kent was working with George Soros, the liberal billionaire philanthropist, to find “dirty information” on Trump campaign officials.

Before taking his current post, Kent served as the deputy chief of mission in Kiev, and he also spent years working on anti-corruption efforts across Europe. He joined the foreign service nearly 30 years ago, and speaks Ukrainian, Russian and Thai, among other languages.

“He always struck me as a very professional person who was focused on trying to advance American interests,” said Michael McFaul, who served as the U.S. ambassador to Russia in the Obama administration.

• Gordon Sondland, Trump ambassador to the European Union, will return to Capitol Hill this week. The State Department blocked him from testifying last week. Sondland, A wealthy former hotel magnate from Oregon, he has emerged as a central player in the Ukraine affair.

Text messages released earlier this month show that he and Kurt Volker, Trump's former special envoy to Ukraine, orchestrated a months-long effort to push Ukraine's newly elected president, Zelensky, to make a public promise that he would order probes into Biden and Ukraine's alleged role in 2016 election meddling. 

• T. Ulrich Brechbuhl is the State Department’s top lawyer and a long-time friend of Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Pompeo and Brechbuhl both graduated from West Point in 1986, and they served together in Germany before the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Brechbuhl – who was born in Switzerland and speaks French, German and Swiss-German – came to the State Department after a long private-sector career. Before either Pompeo or Brechbuhl came to Washington, they were business partners at Thayer Aerospace, a Kansas defense company.

He joined the State Department in 2018 and has served as the agency’s counsel and senior adviser to Pompeo. Brechbuhl’s name first emerged in the Ukraine controversy last month, with the release of the explosive whistleblower complaint that alleged that Trump used the power of his office to solicit foreign interference in the 2020 election.

Brechbuhl was among those who listened to Trump’s July 25 phone call with Zelensky.

Contributing: Deirdre Shesgreen

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