Fiona Hill, a Russia expert on the National Security Council, refused to take the bait when the House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry on Thursday tried to link President Trump’s actions in Ukraine to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Daniel S. Goldman, the House Democrats’ chief counsel at the impeachment hearing, prodded her about Mr. Putin when asking about Mr. Trump’s focus on a theory that Ukraine had the Democratic National Committee missing computer server.
Mr. Goldman asked if Mr. Trump was “adopting Vladimir Putin’s view over his own senior advisers and intelligence officials?”
Ms. Hill balked.
“I think we have to be careful about the way that we phrase that. This is a view that President Putin and the Russian security services and many actors in Russia have promoted,” she said. “But I think that this view has also got some traction, perhaps in parallel and separately here in the united states, and those two things over time have started to fuse together.”
Ms. Hill also said she did not believe the theory about the server ending up in Ukraine.
The missing DNC server was hacked by Russia during the 2016 presidential campaigns. An American cybersecurity company called CrowdStrike examined the server to probe the hack but it disappeared before it could be handed over to the FBI.
Mr. Trump subscribes to an unsubstantiated theory that the server ended up in Ukraine.
The investigation into the missing server is one of the probes that Mr. Trump wanted Ukraine to undertake, requests that set off the impeachment inquiry.
The impeachment inquiry stems from a July 25 phone call in which Mr. Trump pressed Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky for a “favor” in investigating Mr. Biden and other corruption allegations. A whistleblower, who is believed to be a CIA official assigned to the White House, accused the president of abusing his power for personal gain on the call, including withholding U.S. military aid from Ukraine to force the investigation.
A rough transcript of the call did not show a quid pro quo with the investigation request, but Democrats argue the threat was understood and part of an ongoing pressure campaign of “shadow” foreign policy conducted by Mr. Trump’s private lawyer Rudolph W. Giuliani.
The testimony provided so far, which has been gleaned from leaked copies of prepared opening remarks and accounts by congressional staff in the room, has largely centered on people’s opinions about what the president was doing when pressing for an investigation.
Mr. Trump wanted an investigation into allegations of corruption involving Mr. Biden and his son Hunter, who got a high-paying job on the board of Burisma Holdings, a Ukrainian natural gas company, while his father was the point man for Obama White House policy in the country, which is notorious for corruption, especially in the energy industry.
The elder Mr. Biden recently boasted of getting Ukraine’s chief prosecutor fired in spring 2016 by threatening to block a $1 billion U.S. loan guarantee. The prosecutor was widely viewed as not doing enough to combat corruption. But the prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, also was looking into corruption allegations against Burisma and the Ukraine oligarch running the company.