Fiona Hill was born almost exactly 300 miles from where I am currently typing this, a dawdle in American terms but half a nation away in English terms. I mention this because it brings to my mind two germane realities. The first is that even today America is composed of immigrants of all hues and origins. These days you cannot get through a Congressional hearing without being reminded of that fact by way of the testimony of an Alexander Vindman or of a Fiona Hill. The second is that most seldom-considered and underrated human virtue – integrity – still occasionally resides in the human breast, and is indifferent to the irrelevance of which part of the planet your mother happened to be occupying when you were born.
The fact that Fiona Hill was born in England and not, say, Ukraine, will play somewhat less well at the propaganda mill of the shivering, superstitious, conspiracy-mongering camp of the alt-right. Fear not, however, it didn’t stop them from finding other ways to try to get to her. As Dr. Hill relates in her just-released testimony of October 14, “My entire first year of my tenure at the National Security Council was filled with hateful calls, conspiracy theories, which has started again, frankly, as it’s been announced that I’ve been giving this deposition, accusing me of being a [left-leaning billionaire philanthropist George] Soros mole in the White House, of colluding with all kinds of enemies of the President, and, you know, of various improprieties.” It is instructive to note that many of these conspiracy theories Dr. Hill relates come straight from Roger Stone, Donald Trump’s Nixon-adulating acolyte, and Alex Jones, he of the alt-right “InfoWars,” the propaganda machine of which Jones is the chief villain. Both Stone and Jones unreservedly love the Constitution when it comes to the Second Amendment and occasionally hate it when it comes to the First.
It is also instructive to note that, a full week before Matt Gaetz and company stormed the SCIF and ordered out for pizza, the transcript relates that Congressman Gaetz attempted to illegally insinuate himself into Fiona Hill’s hearing. Chairman Adam Schiff had to repeatedly point out that, as Mr. Gaetz was not a member of any of the invited committees, he was not permitted to remain. Gaetz wouldn’t budge. It wasn’t until the Chairman threatened to deduct Gaetz’ time-wasting antics from the time allotted for questioning the witness by (actually invited) Republican members of the committee, that Gaetz relented and left the room – in an infantile pout.
What Gaetz pretends not to get and what everyone else bothers to think about and understand is, the reason for the closed door nature of these hearings is to ensure that witnesses do not collude with each other, either accidentally or on purpose. This practice bore some interesting fruit when, 15 days later, Alexander Vindman testified. The juxtaposition of Vindman’s and Hill’s testimonies is what made it necessary for Ambassador to the European Union Gordon D. Sondland to recently amend his testimony in order to avoid perjury charges. Notice the similarities in side by side statements.
Vindman transcript, Page 29: “I heard him [Gordon D. Sondland] say that this had been coordinated with White House Chief of Staff Mr. Mick Mulvaney.”
Hill transcript, Page 69: “And Ambassador Sondland, in front of the Ukrainians, as I came in, was talking about how he had an agreement with Chief of Staff Mulvaney for a meeting with the Ukrainians if they were going to go forward with investigations. And my director for Ukraine was looking completely alarmed.”
In her testimony Dr. Hill quotes John Bolton referencing Rudy Giuliani as a “hand grenade,” the same piece of imagery that she contemporaneously related to Colonel Vindman, who verified it 15 days later in separate testimony:
Hill transcript, Page 45: “His [John Bolton’s] reaction was pained. And he basically said — in fact, he directly said: Rudy Giuliani is a hand grenade that is going to blow everybody up. He did make it clear that he didn’t feel that there was anything that he could personally do about this.
Vindman transcript, Page 67: A. “She [Dr. Hill] said that he [Bolton] was upset with what Ambassador Sondland was attempting to orchestrate. And in her account to me, she did specifically say, you know, he was a live hand grenade, or something to that extent.”
Q. “Who was a live hand grenade?”
A. “So, I guess, let me complete that logic. So that Ambassador Sondland was trying to orchestrate an investigation being called by Mayor Giuliani, who was a live hand grenade.”
Dr. Hill also consistently disavowed the conspiracy theory that Ukraine was involved in the 2016 American presidential elections, saying, “I am very confident based on all of the analysis that has been done — and, again, I don’t want to start getting into intelligence matters — that the Ukrainian government did not interfere in our election in 2016.” When Steve Castor, chief investigative counsel for GOP Rep. Jim Jordan, tried to get Dr. Hill to admit that a Ukrainian-U.S. Democratic Party operative was responsible for influencing the 2016 presidential election, Hill responded:
Hill transcript, Page 336-337: “It does not amount to a large-scale Ukrainian government effort to subvert our elections, which is comparable to anything that the Russians did in 2016. And if we start down this path, not discounting what one individual or a couple of individuals might have done, ahead of our 2020 elections, we are setting ourselves up for the same kind of failures and intelligence failures that we had before. Look, and I feel very strongly about this. I’m not trying to mess about here. … And so you should, too, in terms of our national security.”
I mentioned at the top of this article the irrelevance of the place of Fiona Hill’s birth. But that tells only one part of the story. Though she and I may be worlds apart politically, I still respect and admire her, the way it was once commonly possible to respect and admire a Republican. Even more, I cannot help but feel a sting of pride, knowing that this courageous and forthright woman was born so close to where I am writing this just now.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.