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'Beyond anything Nixon did': Impeachment hearing told of Trump's 'political errand' in Ukraine

Testimony yesterday reinforced that Trump used foreign policy for political aims.

trump-impeachment Fiona Hill and David Holmes (right) gave evidence yesterday. Source: Manuel Balce Ceneta/PA Images

A FORMER NATIONAL security official has told the impeachment inquiry that a US ambassador carried out a controversial “domestic political errand” for President Donald Trump on Ukraine.

Fiona Hill told House of Representatives investigators she came to realise ambassador Gordon Sondland was not simply operating outside official diplomatic channels, as she and others suspected, but carrying out instructions from Trump.

She said: “He was being involved in a domestic political errand, and we were being involved in national security foreign policy and those two things had just diverged.”

Hill’s comment followed a blistering back-and-forth during questioning from Republicans at the House hearing.

Democrats, meanwhile, criticised Republicans heavily at the hearing with the Democratic chairman of the committee Adam Schiff comparing Trump’s behaviour to former president Richard Nixon.

upi-20191121 Adam Schiff Source: Kevin Dietsch UPI/PA Images

“What we’ve seen here is far more serious than a third-rate burglary of the Democratic headquarters,” said Schiff, referring to the infamous 1972 Watergate break-in that Nixon ordered, eventually leading to his resignation.

What we’re talking about here is the withholding of recognition in that White House meeting (and) the withholding of military aid to an ally at war. This is beyond anything Nixon did.

‘Clearly pushing the idea’

Evidence from Hill and David Holmes, a state department adviser in Kiev, reinforced that Trump used foreign policy for political aims.

Democrats allege Trump was relying on the discredited idea that Ukraine rather than Russia interfered in the 2016 US election as he sought investigations in return for US military aid and a White House visit the new Ukrainian president wanted.

Hill and Holmes both told House investigators it was abundantly clear Mr Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani was pursuing political investigations of Democrats and political rival Joe Biden in Ukraine.

Hill said: “He was clearly pushing forward issues and ideas that would, you know, probably come back to haunt us and in fact, I think that’s where we are today.”

And Hill stood up for Lieutenant Colonel Alexander Vindman, the army officer who gave evidence earlier and whom Trump’s allies tried to discredit. He remains on the White House National Security Council.

At one point, Republicans interjected, trying to cut off Hill. The Republican members of Congress had been trying to highlight her differences with Sondland, the ambassador to the European Union who delivered damaging evidence on Wednesday about what he said was Trump’s “quid pro quo” pursuit of the political investigations.

“You may not like the witness’s answer, but we will hear it,” Schiff said.

The Republican congressmen eventually wound down their questions but continued with mini-speeches decrying the impeachment effort. Democrats, in turn, criticised Trump’s actions.

Hill, a former aide to then-national security adviser John Bolton, sternly warned Republican congressmen to stop pushing a “fictional” narrative that Ukraine, rather than Russia, interfered in US elections.

Trump has told others giving evidence in the inquiry that Ukraine tried to “take me down” in the 2016 election. Republicans launched their questioning reviving those theories.

Hill said: “I refuse to be part of an effort to legitimise an alternative narrative that the Ukrainian government is a US adversary, and that Ukraine – not Russia – attacked us in 2016.”

Her evidence also raised fresh questions whether Bolton, who has yet to defy White House orders for officials not to give evidence, would appear in the inquiry. In what was seen as a nudge to her former boss, Hill said those with information have a “moral obligation to provide it”.

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