A coal miner’s daughter from County Durham has lit up the impeachment inquiry into Donald Trump as her accent and straight-talking was celebrated on social media.
British-born Fiona Hill, a distinguished Russia analyst, was the former top National Security Council official for Europe and Russia under Trump until July.
On Thursday, she gave a testimony to the House Intelligence Committee in the US Congress, and expressed concerns about the what she witnessed inside Trump’s White House as the the inquiry examines whether the US president withheld military aid from Ukraine in order to pressure the country into investigating a political rival.
As millions of Americans tuned in, Hill’s name was the number one trending topic on Twitter in the US, with many beguiled by her knowledge and skill, shooting down of conspiracy theories and her northern English brogue.
David Axelrod, a former senior adviser to Barack Obama, said Hill “is operating on a different level” to those questioning her, and was just one of many to heap praise on her.
I spent much of my career in politics. I’ve never seen anyone like Fiona Hill.— Nicolle Wallace (@NicolleDWallace) November 21, 2019
I hereby move to put Fiona Hill in charge of everything. She's our 007 & PhD British accent Princess Leia. pic.twitter.com/LhTlaQeaJY— Dara Grumdahl (@DearDara) November 21, 2019
Somehow Fiona Hill just made Congressman Turner look like a clown with only her eyebrows.— Tim Miller (@Timodc) November 21, 2019
‘I am an American by choice’
In her opening statement, Hill told the inquiry about her background, saying she is an “American by choice”, having become a citizen in 2002.
The 54-year-old, who was born in Bishop Auckland, said: “This country has offered for me opportunities I never would have had in England. I grew up poor, with a very distinctive working-class accent.
“In England in the 1980s and 1990s, this would have impeded my professional advancement. This background has never set me back in America.”
She said it had been her father’s dream to move to the US, saying he “loved … its culture, its history and its role as a beacon of hope in the world”.
Oh shit. Fiona Hill has an British accent. Republicans are done.— Sarah Cooper (@sarahcpr) November 21, 2019
Her father died in 2012, she said, while her mother still lives in Bishop Auckland.
The Harvard graduate spent time in the Soviet Union during the 1980s and has served presidents George W Bush, Barack Obama and Trump.
During her testimony, Hill also confirmed a story about a boy setting her pigtails on fire while she was taking a test in school at the age of 11.
Not to be deterred from the task at hand, Hill put the flames out with her hands and got on with the test. However, she said the incident had “unfortunate consequences”.
“My mother gave me a bowl haircut,” Hill said. “So for the school photograph later in that week, I look like Richard III.”
‘A fictional narrative’
During one of her most striking testimonies, Hill warned committee members against spreading what she called false conspiracy theories that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election.
“Some of you on this committee appear to believe Russia and its security services did not conduct a campaign against our country — and that perhaps, somehow, for some reason, Ukraine did,” Hill said.
Some Republican members of the Democratic-led committee have advanced the discredited theory, which has been embraced by Trump and his political allies.
“This is a fictional narrative that has been perpetrated and propagated by the Russian security services themselves,” said Hill.
“In the course of this investigation, I would ask that you please not promote politically driven falsehoods that so clearly advance Russian interests,” she said.
The notion that Ukraine and not Russia interfered in 2016 was one of two issues that the US president urged Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate in a July 25 phone call that is at the heart of the impeachment effort.
Russia attacked our 2016 elections and now they're pushing a fictional Ukraine narrative.— Grant Stern (@grantstern) November 21, 2019
"These fictions are harmful, even if they're deployed for PURELY domestic political purposes."
Fiona Hill is courageously speaking truth to power.#FionaHillAndDavidHolmesArePatriots pic.twitter.com/Y2xjVKaQNr
‘A domestic political errand’
Hill’s testimony also vividly outlined the diverging objectives of Trump’s official staff and a parallel effort led by his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani.
She described her alarm with the work of Gordon Sondland, the US ambassador to the European Union, who was central in trying to get Ukraine to announce political investigations the president wanted.
Sondland acknowledged his role in those efforts on Wednesday, laying out the contours of a “quid pro quo” with Ukraine and said “everyone was in the loop”.
This answer is awesome. Fiona Hill is awesome. https://t.co/uCkR2P1bnC— George Conway (@gtconway3d) November 21, 2019
But Hill insisted that she was never on the same page with Sondland.
“He was being involved in a domestic political errand. And we were being involved in national security policy,” she said.
She said in retrospect, she thinks she may have been a bit rude to Sondland because she can see now that he was trying to carry out something that the president had instructed him to do.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.