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Former Trump adviser who testified to Ukraine pressure campaign said she was victim of harassment

NBC News logo NBC News 11/8/2019 Jane C. Timm

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Fiona Hill, President Donald Trump's former top adviser on Russia and Europe, told House investigators that her time in the Trump administration was marked by death threats, "hateful calls" and "conspiracy theories," a harassment campaign she said was revived after it was learned she would cooperate with the impeachment inquiry, according to a transcript of her deposition released Friday.

"I received, I just have to tell you, death threats, calls at my home. My neighbors reported somebody coming and hammering on my door," she told investigators in closed-door testimony of her time in the White House. "Now, I'm not easily intimidated, but that made me mad."

The transcript confirmed NBC News' reporting that Hill told Congress that Rudy Giuliani, Trump's personal attorney, and Gordon Sondland, the U.S. Ambassador to the European Union, sidestepped the National Security Council and typical White House process to advocate for a shadow policy on Ukraine, while revealing new details about how Giuliani's work undercut and derailed the diplomats charged with overseeing Ukrainian-U.S. relations.

Hill, who transitioned out of her role in July before officially leaving her job in early September, testified that the ousting of U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch was a turning point for her. Yovanovitch, she said, was subject to a similar campaign of harassment and "defamation," which she credited to Giuliani.

Asked about her conversations with national security adviser John Bolton about Yovanovitch, Hill testified that 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 everyone up," she told congressional investigators.

The transcript of her deposition was released alongside the transcript of testimony from Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, the top Ukraine expert on the National Security Council. It's the latest in a series of witness transcripts House Democrats have made public as the impeachment inquiry into Trump enters a new phase.

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Transcripts of testimony from other key figures released this week have largely established a narrative that suggests Trump directed officials to tie nearly $400 million in military and security aid to Ukraine to demands that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy announce probes that could benefit Trump.

Text messages obtained as part of the impeachment inquiry into Trump showed Sondland, Giuliani and former U.S. envoy for Ukraine Kurt Volker working to facilitate Trump's goal of getting Zelenskiy to commit to investigate the president's political opponents including former Vice President Joe Biden — and making a White House visit for Zelenskiy contingent on such a commitment. Official notes from Trump's July call with Zelenskiy released by the White House showed Trump asking the Ukrainians to work directly with Giuliani, and NBC News has reported that Sondland was also in direct contact with Trump about Ukraine.

The White House sought to limit how much Hill could say, according to letters between the White House and her attorney obtained by NBC News last month. The White House did not tell her not to testify, but said she was responsible for guarding against unauthorized disclosures and outlined areas where her testimony might run up against executive privilege, like direct communications with the president or meetings with other heads of state.

Hill's lawyers argued that executive privilege did not apply, in part because some of the information has already come into the public sphere and thus was no longer confidential. They also argued that executive privilege disappears when there's reason to believe there was government misconduct.

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