Politics

a whole lot of bad mixed in with the good

I’ve read Fiona Hill’s deposition, and I regret to say that her testimony, while very admirable in many ways, is also weak and problematic in important respects. 1/74 tinyurl.com/y25km4q6

To judge from the likes and RTs that a post of mine yesterday on Hill has received, I won’t be surprised if my criticisms of her testimony are not received well by some of my followers.

If so, so be it.

As the man said, I can do no other. 2/74

Before getting into the criticisms, let me give Hill credit where credit is due.

She certainly does deserve a lot of it. 3/74

Hill is obviously a very strong woman. She courageously faced down Rs on the panel on a number of extremely important points. Her testimony was articulate and thoroughly professional. She is smart and well-informed. She wants to do well by the country. 4/74

The problem is, basically, that she believes that doing the right thing for the country at this point in time requires being *non-political*. 5/74

And the problem with that is that she fails to see that we are up against a president and administration that is *corruptly and unconstitutionally political up to its eyeballs.* 6/74

Bearing witness now forces one to be political, and to call out the towering inferno of false equivalences and both-sidesing that the Right has tried to create in order to defend the indefensible.

We are in a constitutional crisis and impeachment proceedings in the House. 7/74

Consequently, any criticism of President Trump in this context is by definition a political act, even if the *motives* are not political. 8/74

Ds are insisting, rightly, that Trump is such a danger and such a disgrace to the country that impeachment should be *bipartisan*, but even this doesn’t mean that impeachment can ever be non-political. 9/74

By definition, impeachment is a *political* act, and it would not cease to be that even if the present impeachment were *bipartisan* (which it clearly isn’t). 10/74

Because she has failed to grasp this fundamental point, Hill comes across at many points, I regret to say, as quite naive and unhelpful, even clueless, and yes, even damaging. 11/74

In her effort to appear non-political, Hill makes every effort to avoid blaming TRUMP for anything. (To listen to Hill, Trump was as much a victim of Russian election interference as Hillary! Poor Donald!) 12/74

Hill, it seems, would be happier if she could make all the blame go to Giuliani and Sondland. 13/74

To her credit, Hills’ testimony against Giuliani and Sondland *is* devastating, but it took some aggressive testimony from Ds to get her to concede that everything the two of them did must have been with the approval, if not the direction, of Trump himself. 14/74

Here’s a typical sample passage from the deposition. (The discussion concerns the firing of Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, and the questioner is Daniel Goldman, the Democratic counsel for the House Intel Committee): 15/74

16/74

As the saying goes, like pulling teeth. And this happens repeatedly in her testimony.

Why pull punches to try to protect Trump? After all, Trump obviously IS the problem. 17/74

Hill pulls her punches because Giuliani is a private citizen and Sondland is a political appointee, whereas Trump is a POLITICIAN (indeed the only nationally elected politician in American political life), so criticizing him might appear to be POLITICAL. 18/74

But, as I’ve said, any criticism of Trump is not only going to be interpreted by the Right as political, it actually will be political, by definition. 19/74

The only real question is what the motive is, and whether the criticism is JUSTIFIED. (In Trump’s case, the criticism, it appears, is ALWAYS justified.) 20/74

Comey, Brennan, Clapper, Mueller, and all the others always knew that the investigations would be controversial simply because they involved investigating a candidate for the presidency who then got elected president. 21/74

They understood this clearly, but it is obvious from her testimony that HIll does not understand it clearly, even though 22/74

Trump appointed Hill as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for European and Russian Affairs on his National Security Council staff in April 2017, 23/74

when it was already clear to everybody who was paying attention that Russia had intervened to help the TRUMP campaign and hurt the CLINTON campaign. 24/74

Hill criticizes Mueller for beginning with an inquiry into Russian interference in the election as well as possible ties between the Kremlin and the Trump campaign. She would have preferred, she says, for Mueller to have begun only with Russian interference in general, 25/74

even though she acknowledges that a more general and less focussed inquiry would have ended up with the same outcome: Russia interfered on TRUMP’s behalf. (She mentions Paul Manafort, at one time Trump’s campaign manager, in this connection.) 26/74

It is true, as Hill emphasizes over and over again, that Putin wants to discredit the presidency and American democracy in general, but that doesn’t mean 27/74

that he didn’t have a favorite in the 2016 election and that he didn’t interfere for one candidate rather than the other. (It has been the unanimous conclusion of the US intel community that he intervened to benefit TRUMP.)

But HIll never does really own up to this. 28/74

Hill begins her testimony with the denial that she is Anonymous.

She deems this to be important enough to mention at the very outset because she doesn’t want to be seen as political (and obviously Anonymous is political). 29/74

Actually, “being political” is not the problem with Anonymous at all. The real problem is that Anonymous wants to remain *anonymous*, rather than to come out into the open with his or her criticisms, as others have done. 30/74

(Note also that Anonymous is known, from the available excerpts, to be an establishment Republican who supports virtually all of Trump’s *policies,* so Anonymous isn’t even politically *partisan*.) 31/74

Which brings me, dear Reader, to the most problematic and troublesome thing about Hill’s deposition: that she threw Christopher Steele under the bus 32/74

and that she did it for an utterly specious reason: the dossier, she says, was a matter of “rolling the dice” because what Steele did was political. 33/74

Shortly after Jim Jordan starts going after Hill to get her to throw shade on Steele, Hill actually says: 34/74

Amazing.

Yes, Fiona, they did — at the OUTSET. But the Russians quickly realized, after some testing of the waters that Trump was their guy, and they went with that. 35/74

Steele went after Trump and no one went after Clinton on this score because in Clinton’s case, unlike Trump’s, there WAS NO REASON TO INVESTIGATE! 36/74

At one place in the deposition, Hill is asked by Jim Jordan if she thinks that the Steele dossier was a rabbit hole, and she says yes.

(It is not at all clear what she means when she says almost immediately afterward: “But that was not on any basis… ”) 37/74

The most detailed remarks by Hill on Steele are these (p. 183): 38/74

This is utterly irresponsible.

Hill had previously described the dossier as a “rabbit hole” (a term she also used to describe Giuliani’s LIES about Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election),

so her calling the dossier a “rabbit hole” was a particularly serious charge. 39/74

Hill acknowledges that she has no idea how Steele developed the dossier, which must mean that she has no idea who his sources were. 40/74

She thinks it likely that Russians would have tried to feed deza (disinformation) to Steele, but also acknowledges that she has no reason to think that they *succeeded.* 41/74

Note, too, that Hill is in no position to question Steele’s bona fides as an expert on Russia and Ukraine. 42/74

(One of Hill’s friends told Politico recently “She had a high opinion of Steele, and thought he was very smart,” but even that concession isn’t in her deposition. She didn’t have the decency to give him that much credit.) 43/74

The Russia Hawk in the White HouseNobody ever expected Fiona Hill to become a Trump adviser. She ended up staying far longer than anyone predicted — including her.https://tinyurl.com/y3w88xzx

Steele worked the MI6 desk in Moscow from 1987 until 2009 (twelve years); he then ran the Russia desk at MI6 headquarters in London between 2006 and 2009 (three years), all for a total of 15 years. 44/74

Hill, by comparison, only worked for three years at the National Security Council (in the George W. Bush Administration and for a short time during the transition period to the Obama Administration), before going to work for Brookings and then the Trump Administration. 45/74

And unlike Steele, Hill has never had first hand experience living and working in Russia. (She does mention in her testimony that she made a short official visit there recently.) 46/74

As Luke Harding relates in his book *Collusion*, Steele was well aware of the dangers of being given disinformation by the Russians, and Hill is in no position to lecture him about it. 47/74

In the course of his very long professional career, Steele has probably forgotten more about Russian deza than Hill will ever know. 48/74

Hill even drags out an old canard about Steele. “And if he started going back through his old contacts and asking about…” she says. 49/74

Note the “if” here (because she also testified that she has no idea how Steele put the dossier together, so all she can do is speculate that he might have used his old contacts in Moscow). 50/74

In any case, whatever sources Steele has used, we know that his previous work for MI6 was superb. (All of his superiors and colleagues in British intelligence speak highly of him.) 51/74

His previous work for the U.S. has also been superb. 52/74

Victoria Nuland (who started working originally in national security for Dick Cheney of all people) said the reports on Ukraine by Steele that she was shown recently at the State Department were every bit as good and reliable as anything she saw from our own CIA. 53/74

And while we don’t know many details about Steele’s sources, we can be virtually certain that he has given them to the FBI and DOJ — first to Mueller’s team, and then more recently to DOJ IG MIchael Horowtiz, when Horowitz sent a team to talk to Steele in London. 54/74

It has been reported by Natasha Bertrand and others that Horowitz’s team, which started out with a very hostile attitude towards Steele, left London favorably impressed, 55/74

and these reports are all the more believable because, as a result of interviewing Steele, Horowitz *extended the timetable of his investigation.* 56/74

Let me also observe that there is another detail about Steele’s sources for the dossier that Hill misses completely with the old (pro-Trump, pro-Republican) canard about Steele’s out-of-date sourcing. 57/74

Steele does cite (without identifying or naming) a number of his sources in Moscow, but it is also clear that much of the information and leads in the dossier came, not from Moscow, but from oligarchs and the Russian émigré community in the West. 58/74

In fact, the most explosive allegations about the Trump campaign itself in the dossier (as in memo #095) got to Steele via an intermediary who is a Russian ethnic émigré who lives in the West but who travels frequently to Moscow. 59/74

Steele works now in *business* intelligence, and his company ORBIS reportedly has on its clients list a number of powerful and important Russian oligarchs, including Oleg Deripaska. 60/74

Reportedly, oligarchs have hired Steele to dig up dirt and find out what other oligarchs are doing, which if true (and it probably is) provides Steele with an ideal perch to know what the oligarchs are doing in the West, 61/74

and this is important, because the oligarchs are the principal means by which Putin has infiltrated and corrupted wealthy and powerful people and politicians in Western countries, including the U.S. 62/74

I have gone on at some length about Steele, because, as a result of HIll’s serious missteps in her deposition, I have had to endure yesterday and today reading no less than FIVE articles about Hill and Steele in the right wing media. 63/74

Not surprisingly, this media has had one and only one thing to say about Hill’s deposition: that she testified (in the words of the Washington Examiner) that the Steele dossier was a ‘rabbit hole’ and likely contained Russian ‘disinformation.’ 64/74

Ukraine witness said Steele dossier was ‘rabbit hole’ and likely contained Russian ‘disinformation’Fiona Hill, formerly President Trump’s top Russia adviser on the National Security Council, testified that British ex-spy Christopher Steele’s dossier was a “rabbit hole” that “very likely” contained…https://tinyurl.com/yy2xmv9k

(Even the Kyiv Post, which is pretty reliably anti-Putin and anti-Russian, has picked up the same narrative about Hill’s deposition.) 65/74

Washington Examiner: Ukraine witness said Steele dossier likely contained Russian ‘disinformation’ | KyivPost — Ukraine’s Global VoiceFiona Hill, formerly President Trump’s top Russia adviser on the National Security Council, testified that British ex-spy Christopher Steele’s dossier was a “rabbit hole” that “very likely” contained…https://tinyurl.com/smec4lh

It was entirely predictable that this would be the one and only aspect of her testimony that the right wing press would cover.

They have no defense for Trump, so of course they chose to cover what Hill said that maligned Christopher Steele. 66/74

In fact, that is what they have always done, and that is what they will always do until the cows come home.

On this note, here’s something that I RTed yesterday (but I have long observed the same thing myself): 67/74

Let me emphasize before closing that it would be entirely different if Hill had felt compelled to distance herself from Steele because she had a reasoned basis for throwing shade on him, 68/74

but as I have taken some pains to show, she did not have such grounds. Indeed, in her deposition she admits as much.

The only basis she had was the observation that the dossier was tainted as political opposition research! 69/74

But hey, the FISA court knew that the dossier was oppo research (the DOJ told FISC that it was), and FISC still — and quite appropriately — used the dossier as *part* of the evidence for issuing a search warrant against Carter Page. 70/74

Obviously, as the DOJ and the FISA court recognized, the fact that a document is a product of oppo research doesn’t mean it’s INVALID.

If that were the case, most of the legal briefs and policy papers churned out every week in Washington DC would be invalid. 71/74

If Fiona Hill is surprised today about how the Right has spun her deposition, she has no right to be. That would just be another sign of her political naiveté and cluelessness. 72/74

All I can say is thank God we have Pelosi and Schiff running the impeachment inquiry (they’re doing a great job of it, which is why Trump and other Rs are going absolutely nuts!) instead of Fiona Hill. 73/74

And yes Fiona, that is a *political* point — but that’s inevitable because Trump and his enablers have made this political from beginning to end.

Wise up, Fiona: that’s just an unavoidable, albeit regrettable, fact. 74/74

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