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Fiona Hill aims her opening statement right at the square head of Devin Nunes

 
Attorney Scott Pilutik wrestles with the news of the day, from a lawyerly perspective…

Fiona Hill’s opening statement is aimed straight at Devin Nunes’ square head.

Based on questions and statements I have heard, some of you on this committee appear to believe that Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country — and that perhaps, somehow, for some reason, Ukraine did. This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves.

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The unfortunate truth is that Russia was the foreign power that systematically attacked our democratic institutions in 2016. This is the public conclusion of our intelligence agencies, confirmed in bipartisan Congressional reports. It is beyond dispute, even if some of the underlying details must remain classified.

David Holmes is first, and he’s taking it to Giuliani in defense of Ambassador Yovanovitch. Today will be a refreshing change from Sondland, inasmuch as Holmes and Hill are professionals — they take notes, remember conversations, and don’t smugly mug for the camera.

Recall yesterday Sondland was asked to respond to some of Holmes’ closed-door testimony and wound up basically shrugging, conceding that he had no reason to disagree with Holmes’ recollection but that he didn’t recall. Contrast that with Holmes’ military-precision memory.

Fiona Hill’s high and proper British accent will serve her well here when she’s eloquently taking a shovel to Devin Nunes. Opens with her family background.

Hill, responding to Schiff invitation to expand on Russian interference, says that the Russian goal was to delegitimize our political process; makes point that I’ve not heard. That even if Clinton was elected there’d be evidence to cherry pick that would serve to delegitimize her.

Nunes’ questions should be extra batshit with Hill, because she’s easily his most eloquent debunker to date.

Goldman asks Hill about Crowdstrike. She’s unequivocal that it’s part of a baseless conspiracy theory. Agrees that Trump disregarded experts’ opinion and with with Giuliani.

Holmes asked why Putin promotes a view of Ukranian election interference; self-interest advanced in multiple ways.

Hill careful not to directly comment on reasons why Trump and Putin’s views had evidently fused together on this issue.

Hill mentions the “shameful way” Yovanovitch was smeared.

Hill dumps on Giuliani now, responding to Bolton’s hand grenade remark. That he advanced ideas that would one day “come back to haunt us,” and not coincidentally “that’s where we are today.”

Hill now covering the disconnect between takes on the Ukraine meeting; Sondland’s take where everything is fine, and others’ takes where Sondland said something that caused Bolton to end the meeting. Hill’s memory is fantastic, discusses Bolton stiffening up and looking at the clock upon Sondland’s mention of Burisma investigation, then ending the meeting.

Then Bolton held her back and told her to go see Eisenberg, NSC lawyer.

Sondland, yesterday, didn’t realize this because of course he wouldn’t have; it was all due to the land mine he’d stepped on.

She’s not the only one who has testified as to Bolton’s doings, and not all of it is flattering. I think he’s selfishly looking at his long term political aspirations; regardless of how much Trump is secretly despised by old-school conservatives, voluntarily cooperating with a Democrat-majority impeachment committee is dangerous to that end.

Just a word about the elephants hiding from the room. Sondland yesterday testified that everyone knew, which group includes Trump’s closest aides who are refusing to testify. Schiff and Pelosi clearly want to wrap this up quickly, reportedly “before Christmas.” So there’s a tension between political expediency and thoroughness.
Similarly there’s a potential tension between obstruction articles and going to court to resolve the constitutional issues re subpoenas. Schiff withdrew from the Kupperman suit, or at least attempted to (it’s not yet clear what the judge will hold everyone to), so a good argument from the Republican side re obstruction articles, is that they’re premature. Schiff may have to go to court and resolve the subpoena issue if he wants to include obstruction articles.

Nunes and Hill now. Nunes reading off names. Nellie Ohr. Bruce Ohr. Christopher Steele. Ding! She’s met him. Nunes doesn’t dig though, hands off to Castor.

Nunes not bothering to interrogate Hill about the Steele dossier is kind of remarkable since he’s been obsessed about every aspect of it for a few years now. Here he had someone who saw it prior to it being published and he just drops it? Cowardly.

On the other hand, asking Hill any questions you don’t already know the answers to can be a disaster. She’s a spectacular witness, not only for her quickness and thoroughness but she’s staring straight through her interrogators.

Castor and Hill both figuratively rolling their eyes at Sondland. Recall that Hill said about Sondland in the closed door hearings, that he was “basically driving along with no guardrails and no GPS on an unfamiliar territory,” in calling him a counterintelligence risk.

Not sure where Castor is going with any of these questions so far. Nunes isn’t either, and takes over.

Devin Nunes going conspiracy theory with Holmes. Asks about the black ledger. Holmes sees black ledger as credible. Nunes’ says Mueller didn’t. Mueller had concerns about authentication, I believe, but didn’t find it not credible. In fact, it was used in his criminal trials.

Back to Castor and Hill shoring up dates and schedules. I’m not clear what he’s trying to establish.

Fiona Hill discussing oil and gas issues between Ukraine and Russia just wrote itself onto Rachel Maddow’s show tonight.

Nunes with Holmes on Burisma’s. Nunes has no real questions for either witness, just reading “facts” into the record (which are all the definition of hearsay, fwiw — secondhand statements offered for the truth of their content).

Nunes asks if Hill did any briefings on Ukraine’s involvement in the 2016 US elections when she says no his eyes bug out as if to say, ‘can you believe this?’

Hill now talking about the meetings she had with Sondland and why she was angry with him.

This segment is key. And devastating.

Now Nunes steps in to do damage control, characterizing Trump’s interests in sending Giuliani. She’s patiently staring into his dank soul while he gibbers away.

Hill: Sondland was involved in a “domestic political errand” while we were involved in “national security, foreign policy.”

This segment is everything because she’s describing perfectly the “two tracks.” And she’s doing it on cross.

Pretty sure she’s the smartest person in that room.

Meanwhile, David Holmes is the most Jude-Law person in that room.

Schiff cautioning witnesses nodding along to “facts” Nunes feeds them, which I just mentioned above; Nunes is plugging in his own hearsay, which were non-sequiturs as they relate to these witnesses.

Hill’s describing the photo taken outside that meeting that Bolton with Ukraine stopped. That photo has been offered as proof that the meeting was all peaches and cream.

Oh look, someone who knew that Burisma was code for Bidens, and was bright enough to not even have to google it like Tim Morrison.

Punchy Jordan going at Holmes now, asking why Taylor didn’t bring it up. Holmes nodding politely while Jordan rants.

“May I answer that question?”
“Yeah, I’ll get to that…”

Holmes: [offers detailed plausible explanation]
Jordan: [ANGER]

Jordan is implying that Holmes concocted this; he’s impugning his integrity.

If I were the Dems I’d cede my time to Nunes to ask Hill more questions.

This segment is also worth sticking a pin in, because she’s blowing up the Ukraine “election interference,” which basically amounted to an op-ed.

Ratcliffe is trying to rattle Holmes by asking about the irrelevant parts of the call.

Holmes already testified to this stuff, and Ratcliffe is trying to pin him down to a second by second timeline, basically.

Wenstrup not really questioning Hill so much as voicing the bad presumptions. Hill wants to respond. She praises his general point about nonpartisan service.

The difference between the professionals and Sondland couldn’t be more stark.

Stewart (R-Utah) speechifying, quite dishonestly. Calls out Senate to call witnesses that Schiff has denied, namely Whistleblower and (I’ll guess) Hunter Biden.

Castro asking questions that the witnesses won’t know anything about, in all likelihood, but is well worth injecting into the narrative because Rick Perry’s approach to Zelensky was per se corrupt.

I love that she’s going after Infowars, Stone, and the antisemitic George Soros conspiracy theories.

And then she endorsed Krishnamoorthi’s ally-oop about Firtash. Great stuff.

Nunes is basically conducting an impeachment inquiry from a parallel universe.

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