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The significance of former Russia adviser Fiona Hill’s congressional testimony

Three House committees questioned Fiona Hill, President Trump’s former top Russia adviser, on Monday as part of the impeachment inquiry. Hill, who worked in both the George W. Bush and Obama administrations, is considered very knowledgeable about Russia and skeptical of its president, Vladimir Putin. Yamiche Alcindor reports and joins Judy Woodruff to discuss what we know about Hill’s deposition.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Another marathon of private hearings on Capitol Hill today, as members of three committees in the House of Representatives question President Trump's former top Russia adviser Fiona Hill.

    It's part of the ongoing impeachment inquiry.

    Our Yamiche Alcindor has been reporting on Capitol Hill today. And she joins us now.

    So, Yamiche, remind us who Fiona Hill is. What is her background?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Fiona Hill was the first person who worked at the White House to come before Congress to testify as part of the Democrats' impeachment inquiry.

    She was President Trump's top Europe and Russia adviser. She worked with President Trump for about two years as part of the National Security Council staff. And she had a long career as a national intelligence officer before she came to work for President Trump.

    Now, she left the administration just a couple of days before that July 25 phone call between President Trump and the president of Ukraine. Before, she worked — came to work for President Trump, she worked for both George W. Bush's administration, as well as the administration of Barack Obama.

    And she's seen as someone who's very knowledgeable on the issue of Russia. She's also seen as someone who's very skeptical of Vladimir Putin. She's written several books about Russia. And one of them is seen as a critical biography of Vladimir Putin called "Mr. Putin."

    So she's someone who is very well-respected. And Democrats are eager to hear what she has to say.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Yamiche, we know that she was answering questions among a number of committees in the House of Representatives today, but behind closed doors.

    What do we know about what she's been saying?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, it's clear that Fiona Hill came here with an agenda.

    And that agenda is to, based on reports, talk about the fact that she was against the removal of the former Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, and she was also really concerned with the actions of Trump allies. She thinks that they were abusing power by having the former ambassador of Ukraine removed.

    She's, according to reports, wanted to come here, but she also was a complying with a subpoena, much like last week, when we saw the former ambassador of Ukraine say that she was legally required to be here. Her lawyer said she was served with a subpoena today and came here before Congress to offer information.

    So we're not exactly sure exactly what she said in the deposition, because it's continuing to go on, but the idea is that she's going to be giving critical information that's going to be part of this impeachment inquiry. And, basically, it's going to be saying that Rudy Giuliani and Gordon Sondland, the ambassador to Europe — to the European Union, as well as the president's personal attorney, were operating outside of the official channels that the State Department has to try to pressure Ukraine to investigate the president's political rivals.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    And, Yamiche, separate story, but we know that the White House is today dealing with the fallout from something that happened several days ago.

    This was at a conference of Trump supporters at which a video was shown that actually shows someone with the head of President Trump going into a church, a congregation, people filling a church, and shooting people, with the names of news organizations superimposed on their heads, among them, PBS, The New York Times and others.

    What is the White House saying about this?

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Well, Judy, this is really a disturbing video that depicts President Trump murdering journalists.

    And the White House press secretary, Stephanie Grisham, says that the president hasn't seen the video, but that, based on what's been described to her and to him, that he would condemn it.

    However, the president, who has been out tweeting about all sorts of other things, has not actually condemned this video.

    Now, the president of the White House Correspondents Association, he released a statement saying that this video is horrifying. And he called on both President Trump and people who went to that pro-Trump conference to denounce this video.

    I should also tell you, I have been talking to reporters personally all day about this video. And there are a lot of people who are shaken up. They see this as an escalation of the president's rhetoric against journalists.

    He's been calling reporters the enemy of the people. And now people are really afraid that people might actually be violent toward journalists. So people are really telling me that they're laying low and really trying to be vigilant about their surroundings.

    So this is really something we're going to have to keep our eye on, because it's really disturbing to a lot of reporters.

  • Judy Woodruff:

    Incredibly disturbing.

    Yamiche Alcindor today reporting from Capitol Hill, thanks, Yamiche.

  • Yamiche Alcindor:

    Thanks, Judy.

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