By the fourth marathon day of impeachment testimony, just about everyone involved looked exhausted. But then something happened. The Trump impeachment got its own movie star in the form of Russia expert and former National Security Council member Fiona Hill.
As soon as she began reading her statement, tired eyes were wide open again. She was a commanding presence, serious, steely and steadfast as she read in her northern British accent. The daughter of a coal miner and a nurse, Dr. Hill mentioned the social mobility that American life had granted her. But she didn’t appear before Congress today to talk about social mobility.
In the highest-stake case, she was the best possible witness, and beneath her steely surface one could see a patriot who was desperate to save Americans from themselves. Hill’s testimony felt different than that of the other fact witnesses. She was brave, but also deliciously brash in a way that women must be if they are to survive Trumpism. She was unapologetic in a way that is somewhat unusual but should be more usual for women. She said a number of things about women in the world that should not be lost in the larger flow of testimony, where she asked the members of Congress to not do what they of course ultimately spent much of the hearings doing: repeating Russian propaganda.
“These fictions are harmful even if they are deployed for purely domestic political purposes,” she said. “President Putin and the Russian security services operate like a Super PAC. They deploy millions of dollars to weaponize our own political opposition research and false narratives. When we are consumed by partisan rancor, we cannot combat these external forces as they seek to divide us against each another, degrade our institutions, and destroy the faith of the American people in our democracy.”
Then, of course, Devin Nunes started spouting weaponized political opposition research and false narratives, his speech littered with words like “Crowdstrike” and “DNC server.”
That conspiracy stopped-clock stuff didn’t stop Hill from delivering testimony that was exceedingly clear and concise. Ambassador Gordon Sondland “wasn't coordinating with us because we weren't doing the same thing that he was doing,” she said. “He was being involved in a domestic political errand, and we were being involved in national security foreign policy.”
She also squarely indicted the president of the United States, telling the committee that Sondland told her, “But I’m briefing the president. I’m briefing Chief of Staff Mulvaney. I’m briefing Secretary Pompeo. And I’ve talked to Ambassador Bolton. Who else do I have to deal with?”
He had to deal with this woman who testified that “I hate to say it, but often when women show anger it's not fully appreciated. It's often pushed off onto emotional issues, perhaps, or deflected on other people.”
At another point she noted of Marie Yovanovitch, the ambassador Trump pushed out so Sondland and the amigos could pursue their shadow diplomacy of withholding military aid until Ukraine announced it was investigating Trump’s political rival here, “frankly she was an easy target because she is a woman.”
She shot back at one Republican Congressman: “Can I actually say something?”
Asked if she remained determined despite this harassment campaign, Hill said that “I am, and I think that all of my colleagues are as well, because as you said, we cannot let this stand.”
We should all long to be more like Fiona Hill and less like Ivanka Trump. We should raise our daughters to be principled fact warriors and beautiful blank canvasses. Perhaps we should have expected no less from the little girl who once had her pigtail lit on fire at school and extinguished it with her bare hands and then went on to finish the test.