Fiona Hill, a nobody to Trump and Putin, saw into them both
WASHINGTON (AP) — Vladimir Putin paid scant attention to Fiona Hill, a preeminent U.S. expert on Russia, when she was seated next to him at dinners. Putin’s people put her there deliberately, choosing a “nondescript” woman, as she stated, to ensure that the Russian president had no competition for his attention.
Fluent in Russian, she listened carefully to the conversations of men and then wrote it down, she recalled during an Associated Press interview. “Hey, if you were a man, you wouldn’t be talking like that in front of me,” she recalled thinking. “But go ahead. I’m listening.”
Hill expected not to be similarly invisible when she later went to work for another world leader, Donald Trump, as his Russia adviser in the White House. She was able to see inside ‘Putin ‘s head. However, Trump didn’t want her counsel. He ignored her at every meeting. Once, he mistakenly thought her was a secretary and called her a “darlin ‘.”
The result is “There’s Nothing for you Here,” her book that was published last week. isn’t obsessive about the scandalous, unlike other tell-all authors in the Trump administration. Much like her measured but riveting testimony in Trump’s first impeachment, the book offers a more sober, and thus perhaps more alarming, portrait of the 45th president.
Even though Hill’s tone may be restrained, the message is still damning. It shows how a career dedicated to understanding and managing Russia’s threat turned into her revelation about the most serious threat to America from within.
In fly-on-the wall detail, she refers to a president who is obsessed with the opinions of others about him . This led to U.S. relations falling or rising depending on how flattering foreign leaders made their remarks.
” From his employees and all who came into his orbit of Trump, Trump demanded constant attention. She wrote. Particularly in international affairs, “The president’s vanity and fragile self-esteem were a point of acute vulnerability.”
Hill describes Putin manipulating Trump by offering or withholding compliments, a maneuver she said was more effective with this president than getting dirt and blackmailing him would have been. At their joint news conference in Finland, when Trump appeared to side with Putin over his own intelligence agencies on Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election, Hill almost lost it.
“I wanted it to end,” she writes. I thought about throwing a fit, faking seizures and hurling my self backwards into the row behind me of journalists. But it would only have added to the humiliating spectacle.”
But in Trump she saw an uncommon, but ultimately lost talent. He could speak the language of most people, didn’t need a filter, enjoyed the same foods, and laughed at the stale norms of the elite. Trump was pitching steel and coal jobs while Hillary Clinton was sipping champagne with donors. At least that was the impression.
But that skill was wasted in her point of view. It was not used to mobilize people for the good of the nation, but it was used in his service — “Me the People”, as the chapter title states.
Trump’s vanity also doomed his Helsinki meeting with Putin and any chances for a coveted arms control deal with Russia. Hill wrote that the questions raised at the news conference “got to the heart” of his insecurities. If Trump had agreed that Russia had interfered in the election on his behalf, in his mind he might as well have said, “I am illegitimate.”
It was obvious to Putin , that any backlash would weaken even the vague promises he had made. Hill wrote that his was on his way to the conference. he informed his secretary, within earshot our interpreter, the press conference was bull —-.’ “
Putin‘s ability to manipulate the Russian political system to potentially stay in power indefinitely also made an impression. “Trump sees it and says what’s not to love about that type of situation?” Hill stated to the AP.
Trump, a Republican, was impeached by the House in late 2019 for trying to use his leverage over Ukraine to undermine Joe Biden, his eventual Democratic rival, among the first of his efforts to stay in office by unconventional means, stretching to the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol by a mob he had told to ” fight like hell.”
Hill had served as the national intelligence officer for Russia from early 2006 until late 2009 and was highly respected in Washington circles, but it was only during the impeachment hearings that she was introduced to the nation. She was one of the most damaging witnesses against President . She testified that he had sent envoys into Ukraine for a “domestic errand”. This had nothing to do the national security policy.
She began her testimony by describing her improbable journey as the daughter of a coal miner from an impoverished town in northeast England to the White House. She explained her desire “to serve a country which has offered me opportunities that I would never have in England .”
Her personal journey is continued in this new book. It tells the story with self-deprecating humor, kindness and humility. Along the way, Hill the Brookings Institution scholar weaves in a study of the changing societies she witnessed over the decades as a child in Britain, a student and researcher in Russia and finally as a citizen of the United States.
The changes that have occurred in all three countries are strikingly the same, partly due to the loss of heavy industry. The result is what she refers to as a “crisis” and the rise populist leaders such as Putin , Trump or British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who are able tap into the grievances and fears of those feeling left behind.
She said she went into the White House worried about what Russia was doing and “came out, having realized fully watching all of this, that actually the problem was the United States … and the Russians were just exploiting everything.”
Originally from civil politics, President Joe Biden aims to unite the country and improve its international reputation. She said that although he is a “kind of man standing alone” .”
AP video journalist Nathan Ellgren contributed this report.
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