Donald Trump impeachment inquiry: President's ex-adviser says Russia 'gearing up' to interfere in 2020 US election

21 November 2019, 13:54 | Updated: 21 November 2019, 21:44

Donald Trump's former top Russia adviser has claimed Moscow is "gearing up" to repeat its interference in the 2020 US presidential election.

Speaking at the impeachment inquiry into Mr Trump, Fiona Hill said the US was being "torn apart" by the impact of Russia's previous targeted campaign in 2016.

She said: "Right now, Russia's security services and their proxies have geared up to repeat their interference in the 2020 election. We are running out of time to stop them."

Ms Hill, former senior director for Europe and Russia at the national security council, also urged Republicans and the president not to push claims that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 election.

She said some members of the House intelligence committee listening to testimonies in the inquiry appeared to believe Russia did not target the US three years ago.

British-born Ms Hill, 54, said Republicans should not promote "politically driven falsehoods" that cast doubt on Moscow's interference.

She told the committee: "This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.

"In the course of this investigation, I would ask that you please not promote politically driven falsehoods that so clearly advance Russian interests."

The suggestion that Ukraine and not Russia interfered in 2016 was one of two issues that the US president urged his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, to investigate during a telephone call on 25 July this year.

The other was Mr Trump's political rival Joe Biden and his son Hunter, who had served on the board of Ukrainian gas company Burisma.

The inquiry by the Democrat-led House of Representatives is trying to assess if Mr Trump withheld nearly $400m military aid from Ukraine in order to pressure the country into investigating Mr Biden, a potential 2020 Democratic presidential candidate.

Mr Trump, who is accused of abusing his power in office, has denied any wrongdoing.

Ms Hill said the US ambassador to the EU, Gordon Sondland, told her that he and acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney had an agreement that Mr Zelenskiy could only get an Oval Office meeting with Mr Trump if he agreed to carry out "investigations".

Ms Hill, a coal miner's daughter from Bishop Auckland, County Durham, said Mr Sondland told her one of those investigations involved Burisma.

She also said she was aware at the time that Mr Trump's lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, had been urging Ukrainian officials to look into Hunter Biden's role at the firm.

She said she then spoke to former national security adviser John Bolton who referred to Mr Giuliani as "a hand grenade" who was "going to blow everyone up".

Meanwhile, President Trump was told by Mr Sondland that President Zelenskiy would do "anything you ask him to", the impeachment inquiry also heard.

David Holmes, from the US embassy in Kiev, claimed he heard a phone conversation on 26 July between Mr Sondland and Mr Trump.

Mr Holmes recalled "the president's voice was very loud and recognisable, and Ambassador Sondland held the phone away from his ear for a period of time, presumably because of the loud volume".

According to the diplomat, Mr Sondland told the US leader that President Zelenskiy "loves your ass".

Mr Holmes, who is political counsellor at the embassy, said he then heard Mr Trump ask: "So he's going to do the investigation?"

Ambassador Sondland replied that "he's going to do it", adding President Zelenskiy will do "anything you ask him to", according to Mr Holmes.

Mr Holmes told the House intelligence committee that he spoke to the ambassador afterwards and Mr Sondland said he agreed Mr Trump did not "give a s*** about Ukraine".

"I asked why not, and Ambassador Sondland stated the president only cares about 'big stuff'", Mr Holmes said.

The ambassador said "big stuff" meant things that benefit the president like the "Biden investigation" that Mr Trump's lawyer Rudy Giuliani was pushing for, Mr Holmes claimed.