During her bombshell impeachment testimony before members of the House Intelligence Committee on Thursday morning, foreign affairs expert Fiona Hill not only made a strong case for President Donald Trump’s impeachment — she also gave Americans plenty of reason to be concerned about U.S. election security and the 2020 presidential election. Former Special Counsel Robert Mueller, during his public testimony earlier this year, made it abundantly clear that the Russian government under President Vladimir Putin interfered in the 2016 U.S. election and will no doubt interfere in the United States’ 2020 election if it can — and Hill, a former National Security Council (NSC) senior director specializing in Russian and European affairs, gave Americans plenty of reasons to be concerned about next year’s election.
Here are some reasons why Hill’s testimony should serve as a dire warning about Russia, Putin and the United States’ 2020 presidential race.
1. Hill testified that the Russian government set out to undermine ‘whoever became president’ in 2016
Critics of Trump have often noted that Trump was Putin’s choice in 2016 and that the Russian government is hoping he will serve a second term — which is true. But as Hill testified on Thursday morning, it isn’t because Putin and his allies love the Republican Party; it is because they want to see Americans at one another’s throats. In 2016, Hill testified, the Russian government set out to undermine “whoever became president,” whether it was Trump or Democrat Hillary Clinton, and make one side see the other side as totally illegitimate.
Hill testified that one of Putin’s aims is to “pit one side of our electorate against another, pit one party against another” — in other words, do everything to encourage Republicans and Democrats to hate one another as much as possible. That was a goal of Putin in 2016, Hill testified — and it is still his goal.
2. Hill stressed that Putin still has an anti-U.S. agenda
During her testimony on Thursday morning, Hill asserted that she was troubled to see that “some of you on this committee appear to believe” the debunked CrowdStrike conspiracy theory — which claims that it was the Ukrainian government, not the Russian government, that interfered in the 2016 election. Hill was obviously referring to Rep. Devin Nunes and other House Republicans who have promoted the CrowdStrike theory, which she denounced as a “fictional narrative being perpetrated by Russian security services.” Ukraine, Hill testified, had nothing to do with interference in the 2016 election, but Russia did — and Putin still has an anti-U.S. agenda.
3. Putin ‘aims to counter’ American goals and undermine U.S. influence in the world: Hill
Putin and others in the Russian government, Hill testified, believe the U.S. has too much influence in the world — and one of the ways to combat that influence is to try creating tension between the U.S. and its allies. One such ally is Ukraine, and Hill testified that it is in Putin’s interest for some Americans to buy into the debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine interfered in the United States’ 2016 election. According to Hill, “The Russians like to put the blame on U.S. allies…. This falls into a long pattern of deflection and Russians trying to put the blame on someone else.”
The lesson for Americans, going into 2020, is that if the Russian government tries to interfere in next year’s election, it will try to blame someone else.
4. Putin seeks to promote bitter political divisions in the U.S.
In 2016, Hill testified, it was evident that Putin “aims to counter” U.S. goals — and that means not only trying to create divisions between the U.S. and its allies around the world, but also, promoting bitter political divisions within the U.S. Those goals of the Russian government, Hill asserted, remain.
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Take heart, Democrats: 2020 is not 2016.
No, the polls aren't necessarily reliable on a national scale, and it's too early to predict what happens on Election Day with any accuracy. But they don't need to be unskewed. Donald Trump's campaign is clearly floundering in a way it never did through three separate campaign managers in 2016. His staff has remained relatively stable this go-round, with Brad Parscale still at the helm, remarkably enough, despite bigly flopping Trump's return to the campaign trail in Tulsa. It is Trump's bag of tricks that is clearly playing stale with key demographic groups in the swing states he needs to secure a second term.This article first appeared in Salon.