Former Trump adviser: Republicans' Ukraine conspiracy is untrue

WASHINGTON, Shabtai Gold (dpa)- A former national security adviser to US President Donald Trump told Congress on Thursday that a Republican-pushed conspiracy theory, alleging that Ukraine significantly interfered in the 2016 presidential election, is false.
The statement by Fiona Hill, once the top Russia adviser in the White House, comes on the fifth day of public hearings in the ongoing impeachment inquiry against Trump.

Fiona Hill
Fiona Hill

Trump and his allies have promoted the idea that Ukraine intervened to hurt the president's 2016 campaign, often while dismissing the more accepted understanding that Russia intervened and effectively aided Trump.
"Based on questions and statements I have heard, some of you on this 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," Hill told the hearing.
"This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves," she said, warning against promoting narratives that suit Russia's foreign policy agenda. She said Moscow maintained malign intentions in the US.
The president is accused of abusing his power to pressure Ukraine to announce a probe into his domestic rival, Joe Biden, a Democrat. The theory about Ukraine in 2016 has been used to justify the pressure.
David Holmes, a career diplomat who worked at the embassy in Kiev, further told lawmakers the Ukraine theory helped distract from Russia's real interference.
Holmes also said that top US officials, apparently at the behest of Trump, pressured Ukraine to investigate the president's domestic political rival, including through withholding security assistance.
"Those senior officials were using the levers of our diplomatic power to induce the new Ukrainian president to announce the opening
of a criminal investigation against President Trump's political opponent," Holmes said.
"My clear impression was that the security assistance hold was likely intended by the president either as an expression of dissatisfaction with the Ukrainians who had not yet agreed to the Burisma-Biden investigation or as an effort to increase the pressure on them to do so," Holmes said.
Biden's son Hunter Biden was on the board of a Ukrainian energy company, Burisma, which has raised questions, notably from Republicans, about corruption.
The witnesses have testified that Trump and his team wanted the company investigated, apparently in order to harm the father's political reputation and benefit the president.
Ahead of the hearing, Trump dubbed his critics "human scum" on his Twitter account.
In bombshell testimony on Wednesday, Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union, said he was under "orders" from Trump, and that there was a "quid pro quo" as he and others pressured Ukraine to announce the probe, which would have aided Trump.
Hill also said that she understood that Sondland was engaged in a "a domestic political errand," rather than foreign policy. "I think this is all going to blow up," she recalled telling the ambassador. "And here we are," she added to lawmakers.
Holmes said he overhead Trump and Sondland talking on the phone, and the president being focused on the investigation of Biden. Trump did not really care about Ukraine, Holmes was told, and focused only on "big stuff," which meant the Biden probe.
"I've never seen anything like this in my foreign service career," he said.
Holmes also described the formation of an informal diplomatic channel, used to pressure Ukraine, which was run by Trump's private lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.
The role of Giuliani has also raised red flags in the inquiry into the president and was part of what sparked a whistleblower complaint that helped lead to the impeachment investigation, amid concerns within the government over what was going on.
Hill said the former national security adviser, John Bolton, had called Giuliani a "hand grenade" and was concerned by the "drug deal" that Sondland and White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney were "cooking up."

Saturday, November 23rd 2019
Shabtai Gold (dpa)

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