WASHINGTON (CN) — Capping off a whirlwind week of public testimony in the House's impeachment inquiry, the Intelligence Committee heard Thursday from former top National Security Council expert Fiona Hill and career diplomat David Holmes. Here are the top takeaways from their testimony so far:
Hill delivers stern warning about Russia
Instead of delivering a lengthy opening statement restating her prior testimony, Hill used her time speaking to the committee to deliver a warning that Russia's attempts to meddle in U.S. politics are ongoing and had crept into the inquiry itself.
Hill chastised Republicans for seemingly casting doubt on the U.S. intelligence community's unanimous assessment that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election, a doubt Hill said came through in questions they had asked at previous hearings.
Republicans have throughout the public hearings referenced a discredited conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 presidential election, suggesting such meddling would justify Trump's insistence on investigations by Ukraine. Trump mentioned the theory over the phone to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on July 25, in the call that triggered the impeachment inquiry.
But Hill said the idea flows from a "fictional narrative" pushed by Russia itself and urged Republicans not to take the bait.
"In the course of this investigation, I would ask that you please not promote politically driven falsehoods that so clearly advance Russian interests," Hill testified.
Hill also warned that the United States is running out of time to counter Russia’s attempts at interfering in the upcoming 2020 election.
At the hearing, Devin Nunes, the top Republican on the committee, worked to undercut Hill's expected testimony by introducing into the record a report on Russian interference published by House Republicans in March 2018. The report acknowledges that Russians interfered in the 2016 election, but downplays the intelligence community's finding that the Kremlin preferred for Trump to win.
Hill said the Russian interference in the election was aimed at putting whoever won the election, including Hillary Clinton, "under a cloud" and cautioned lawmakers against giving Russia "more fodder" it could use to interfere in the 2020 election.
"They wanted to make sure that whoever they had bet on, or whoever they tried to tip the scales would also experience some discomfort, that they were beholden to them in some way, that they would create just the kind of chaos that we have seen in our politics," Hill said.
Lifting the hold on U.S. aid was not the end
Holmes is best known in the impeachment inquiry for overhearing U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland speak to President Trump on the phone about the investigations that the White House sought into the energy company Burisma and the 2016 presidential election.