WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump's former Russia adviser, Fiona Hill, warned lawmakers in the House of Representatives impeachment inquiry on Thursday against promoting what she called a "fictional narrative here" that minimizes Russia's attempts to interfere in U.S. elections.
Hill is referring to theories advanced by Trump and his supporters that Ukraine improperly influenced the 2016 U.S. presidential election to hurt his candidacy and boost his Democratic rival, Hillary Clinton.
The conspiracy theories, which have been widely debunked by U.S. officials and others, are at odds with the conclusion by U.S. intelligence agencies here and Special Counsel Robert Mueller here that Russia engaged in a massive hacking and propaganda campaign here to boost Trump and hurt Clinton.
“The unfortunate truth is that Russia was the foreign power that systematically attacked our democratic institutions in 2016,” Hill told lawmakers on Thursday.
Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and other Trump allies assert that Ukrainian officials circulated false information among Democrats and U.S. media in 2016 to discredit Trump and his campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.
That information, they say, helped spark an FBI investigation of Trump’s campaign that dogged his presidency.
They allege that Ukrainians forged a record of millions of dollars in payments - known as the “black ledger” - to Manafort from the country’s Russia-friendly president then, Viktor Yanukovich.
Manafort resigned from Trump’s campaign soon after the payments were made public.
He also admitted to taking at least $11 million from Yanukovich's government last year when he pleaded guilty here to money laundering, illegal lobbying and other charges. He is currently serving a 7-1/2 year prison sentence.
David Holmes, a staffer at the U.S. embassy in Kiev, told the House Intelligence Committee he thought the payments listed in the “black ledger” were credible.
Multiple U.S. investigations have concluded that Russia's government was to blame for hacking here Democratic Party organizations and leaking stolen emails at politically opportune moments in 2016. Russia has denied involvement, although U.S. investigators named the Russian officers they said were sitting at the keyboard during the breaches.
Some right-wing websites have said that the cybersecurity firm CrowdStrike, which the Democratic National Committee hired to investigate the hack, falsely accused Russia, and spirited the hacked email servers to Ukraine as part of a cover-up.
Trump referenced that theory during a July 25 call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, mentioning CrowdStrike by name.
“It’s not only a conspiracy theory. It is completely debunked,” Trump’s former homeland security adviser, Tom Bossert, said on ABC in September.
Reporting by Andy Sullivan; Additional reporting by Brad Heath, Jonathan Landay, Mark Hosenball and David Morgan; Editing by Bernadette Baum and Howard Goller