Impeachment witness knocks GOP over 'fictional narrative'

Fiona Hill, a former top Russia analyst for the White House, fiercely disputed Republican claims that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 presidential election and warned that Russia is benefiting from the spread of this “fictional narrative” during a Thursday impeachment hearing examining President TrumpDonald John TrumpThe Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - House panel expected to approve impeachment articles Thursday Democrats worried by Jeremy Corbyn's UK rise amid anti-Semitism Warren, Buttigieg duke it out in sprint to 2020 MORE's contacts with Ukraine.

Hill, the former National Security Council senior director for Europe and Russia, directly addressed members of the House Intelligence Committee who she says appear to believe that Ukraine, not Russia, carried out a campaign to sow discord during the 2016 election.

“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 said in her opening statement.

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“This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves,” she added.

Hill offered a sharp warning that while Republicans and Democrats battle over such claims, Russia is exploiting these differences to continue to undermine the U.S. political system.

“The impact of the successful 2016 Russian campaign remains evident today. Our nation is being torn apart. Truth is questioned. Our highly professional and expert career foreign service is being undermined,” Hill warned.

“The unfortunate truth is that Russia was the foreign power that systematically attacked our democratic institutions in 2016,” she said, pointing to the bipartisan congressional and intelligence community reports that concluded Russia was the 2016 aggravator.

Hill’s public appearance on the Hill comes after 10 other witnesses publicly testified about Trump’s contacts with Ukraine, including whether he sought to use nearly $400 million in U.S. aid as leverage to press Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to open two investigations that would benefit him politically.

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A career foreign officer, Hill said in her opening statement that she takes “great pride in the fact that I am a nonpartisan foreign policy expert, who has served under three different Republican and Democratic presidents.”

But the Russia expert said it is Congress’s own prerogative to investigate whether the president is putting U.S. national security at risk for his own possible benefit.

“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,” she added.

But in the process, Hill said, U.S. support of Ukraine is being tested.

“U.S. support for Ukraine—which continues to face armed Russian aggression—has been politicized,” she warned.

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Her remarks come after GOP lawmakers like Rep. Devin NunesDevin Gerald NunesHillicon Valley: Apple, Facebook defend encryption during Senate grilling | Tech legal shield makes it into trade deal | Impeachment controversy over phone records heats up | TikTok chief cancels Capitol Hill meetings The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - Democrats to release articles of impeachment today Controversy on phone records intensifies amid impeachment MORE (Calif.), the top Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, repeatedly raised the issue of Ukrainian interference.

In particular, some of the president’s defenders have embraced claims that Ukraine sought to dig up damaging information about Trump campaign officials by reaching out to Alexandra Chalupa, a Democratic National Committee (DNC) contractor.

A Politico article in 2017 claimed that Chalupa, who left the DNC in 2016, continued to research ties between former Trump campaign chairman Paul ManafortPaul John ManafortDOJ backs ex-Trump campaign aide Richard Gates's probation request Former FBI general counsel wants apology from Trump The Hill's Morning Report - Sponsored by AdvaMed - Democrats to release articles of impeachment today MORE and former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, during which she is said to have asked Ukrainian Embassy officials for help. She then, the story says, turned over some of her findings to officials at the DNC and Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton's campaign.

But Chalupa denied how her work was framed in the story, and it also remains unclear what role the embassy officials played. Additionally, both DNC and former Clinton campaign officials have denied receiving information from Chalupa, CNN reported in 2017.

Hill has also batted down this narrative.

“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 on Thursday, warning that the “Russian government’s goal is to weaken our country.

“And as I told this Committee last month, I refuse to be part of an effort to legitimize an alternate narrative that the Ukrainian government is a U.S. adversary, and that Ukraine—not Russia—attacked us in 2016.”

Updated at 11:57 a.m.