“Based on questions and statements I have heard, some of you on the committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country — and that perhaps, somehow, for some reason, Ukraine did,” she said. “This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.”
Dr. Hill warned that Russia’s “goal is to weaken our country” and that indulging such fantasies played into Vladimir Putin’s hands. (Dr. Hill, it should be noted, co-wrote a 500-page book analyzing the Russian president’s psyche.) She stressed, “These fictions are harmful even if they are deployed for purely domestic political purposes.”
Dr. Hill is not one to get intimidated or flustered. This is, after all, a woman who, at age 11, once had a classmate set fire to one of her pigtails. She put out her flaming hair with her bare hands and finished the test she was taking.
With her crisp British accent, she at times came across as an exasperated adult chiding naughty children. “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. “If the president, or anyone else, impedes or subverts the national security of the United States in order to further domestic political or personal interests, that is more than worthy of your attention.”
Dr. Hill also recalled her frustration over Mr. Sondland working at cross purposes with what she and other colleagues understood to be official United States policy aims. “He was being involved in a domestic political errand, and we were being involved in national security foreign policy, and those two things had just diverged.” She acknowledged that Mr. Sondland had not been wrong in feeling “that the National Security Council was always trying to block him. What we were trying to do was block us from straying into domestic or personal politics.”
Both witnesses seemed intent on conveying the serious national security implications of the behavior being investigated by the committee. It was a critical message both for the general public and for the assembled lawmakers.
The Republicans’ pushback was what we have come to expect. They relied heavily on a swirl of distractions and conspiracy theories, with frequent invocations of the Steele dossier, alleged Ukrainian meddling in the 2016 race and deep-state actors ostensibly intent on bringing down Mr. Trump.