Fiona Hill says Russia’s hackers ‘already declared war’ on the US and want to prove they’re a ‘major cyber force’

fiona hill
Fiona Hill.

  • Fiona Hill told FT that Russia “declared war quite a long time ago in the information sphere.”
  • Hill’s comments came ahead of Biden’s highly anticipated summit with Putin in Geneva.
  • After recent hacks and cyberattacks linked to Russia, cybersecurity is poised to be a major topic.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The US should expect Russia to ramp up its cyberstrikes as the Kremlin seeks to sow chaos and undermine democracy via coordinated disinformation campaigns, Fiona Hill said in comments to the Financial Times ahead of President Joe Biden’s highly anticipated summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Geneva on Wednesday.

Hill, the top Russia expert in the White House under President Donald Trump from 2017 to 2019, told FT, “The Russians have effectively already declared war quite a long time ago in the information sphere.”

“They’ve been trying to prove that they are a major cyber force – they want to create a wartime scenario so then they can sit down and agree some kind of truce with us,” Hill said.

Hill said Russia was ruthless in its pursuit of intelligence and indifferent to any damage inflicted in the process.

“The Russians take great pride in their novel ways of getting at you … in many respects it’s a continuation of the Cold War,” Hill said. “They don’t really care about the harm they could cause.”

The US has accused Russia of interfering in recent elections, including via the use of “troll farms” like the Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency. The Internet Research Agency in 2016 “used social media to wage an information warfare campaign designed to spread disinformation and societal division in the United States,” a report by the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence said.

“Masquerading as Americans, these operatives used targeted advertisements, intentionally falsified news articles, self-generated content, and social media platform tools to interact with and attempt to deceive tens of millions of social media users in the United States,” the report added.

The US in 2018 indicted 13 people associated with the Internet Research Agency, alleging they violated “US criminal laws in order to interfere with US elections and political processes.”

The US intelligence community concluded Putin directed organizations to interfere in US elections (in both 2016 and 2020) to boost Donald Trump’s chances of winning, though the Kremlin has rejected these allegations.

Beyond election interference, the US also accused Russia of involvement in last year’s massive SolarWinds hack. The Biden administration in April imposed sanctions on over 30 Russian entities over the SolarWinds hack and the Kremlin’s interference in US elections.

The State Department in March also expressed concern that Russia was been behind online disinformation directed at undermining confidence in COVID-19 vaccines in the US.

Meanwhile, there’s also growing alarm in the US over ransomware gangs operating out of Russia with impunity. The FBI attributed two recent cyberattacks – one that shut down a major US oil pipeline and another that disrupted production for the largest meat supplier – to Russia-linked ransomware gangs.

Biden is poised to address all these concerns over Russia’s cyberactivities in his upcoming meeting with Putin, which comes as US-Russia relations are at a historic low. Experts have said Biden is likely to emerge from the summit empty-handed.

“Analysts are struggling to understand what concrete outcomes President Biden will achieve in return for giving Vladimir Putin such an important international spotlight in return for Russia’s increased malign behavior,” Heather Conley, a former senior official for European issues in the State Department under President George W. Bush, told Insider last week.

“If there aren’t clear deliverables (and both sides have been downplaying outcomes), I think criticism will grow that this high-level meeting ultimately benefited the Kremlin,” Conley added.

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Fiona Hill said she considered ‘faking’ a medical emergency ‘with a loud blood curdling scream’ to disrupt Trump’s disastrous Helsinki summit with Putin

Fiona Hill, former senior director for Europe and Russia on the National Security Council, departs after testifying at a House Intelligence Committee hearing as part of the impeachment inquiry into U.S. President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., November 21, 2019. REUTERS/Loren Elliott
Fiona Hill, former senior director for Europe and Russia on the National Security Council, departs after testifying at a House Intelligence Committee hearing as part of the impeachment inquiry into U.S. President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., November 21, 2019. REUTERS/Loren Elliott

  • Fiona Hill said she considered faking a medical emergency to disrupt the Trump-Putin Helsinki summit.
  • “My initial thought was just ‘How can I end this?'” Hill told the BBC.
  • Trump appeared to side with Putin over the US intelligence community during the summit.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

Fiona Hill told BBC News that she considered “faking” a medical emergency to derail then-President Donald Trump’s infamous July 2018 Helsinki meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin. 

During a press conference at the summit, Trump appeared to side with Putin over the US intelligence community on the subject of Russian election interference. 

Recounting the moment in comments to the BBC for a new TV series on Trump’s chaotic approach to global affairs, Hill said, “My initial thought was just ‘How can I end this?’ I literally did have in my mind the idea of faking some kind of medical emergency and throwing myself backwards with a loud blood-curdling scream into the media.”

Trump faced widespread, bipartisan criticism in Washington over his comments in Helsinki, which he later attempted to walk back.

trump putin handshake
US President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hands at a joint press conference in Helsinki, Finland, on July 16, 2018.

Hill, who served as Trump’s top Russia advisor after serving in different national security roles under Presidents Bush and Obama, became a central figure in Trump’s first impeachment over his dealings with Ukraine. She offered bombshell testimony that offered a damning portrait of Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky into launching investigations into then-presidential candidate Joe Biden and a debunked conspiracy theory that Ukraine, not Russia, interfered in the 2016 election. 

More recently, Hill has also been critical of Trump’s provocation of a violent insurrection at the US Capitol on January 6, which led to his second impeachment. 

In a Politico op-ed, Hill said the Capitol attack amounted to an attempted “self-coup” from Trump. 

“I’ve been studying authoritarian regimes for three decades, and I know the signs of a coup when I see them,” Hill wrote. “The storming of the Capitol building on January 6 was the culmination of a series of actions and events taken or instigated by Trump so he could retain the presidency that together amount to an attempt at a self-coup. This was not a one-off or brief episode.”

Trump’s impeachment trial over the Capitol attack began on Tuesday and is ongoing.

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A former White House national security official, and key impeachment witness said Trump attempted a ‘self-coup’ in Capitol siege

Fiona Hill, former senior director for Europe and Russia on the National Security Council, departs after testifying at a House Intelligence Committee hearing as part of the impeachment inquiry into U.S. President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., November 21, 2019. REUTERS/Loren Elliott
Fiona Hill, former senior director for Europe and Russia on the National Security Council, departs after testifying at a House Intelligence Committee hearing as part of the impeachment inquiry into U.S. President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., November 21, 2019. REUTERS/Loren Elliott

  • Fiona Hill, a former White House national security official, said President Donald Trump had attempted a “self-coup” by inciting his supporter base to storm the Capitol on January 6.
  • In an op-ed published Monday by Politico, Hill detailed why she considered the January 6 incident as a “coup,” though there are some who disagree with her.
  • “Trump disguised what he was doing by operating in plain sight, talking openly about his intent,” Hill wrote. “He normalized his actions so people would accept them. I’ve been studying authoritarian regimes for three decades, and I know the signs of a coup when I see them.”
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

A former White House national security official said President Donald Trump attempted a “self-coup” by inciting his supporters to storm the Capitol building.

Fiona Hill, who served under the Bush, Obama, and Trump administrations and was a key witness in Trump’s impeachment, wrote an op-ed Monday detailing what she believed was the president’s role in the insurrection attempt on January 6.

“Since last Wednesday, people have been arguing what to call what happened at the US Capitol – was it a riot? An uprising? An insurrection?” Hill wrote in the op-ed published by Politico. “I’ve been public in calling it a coup, but others disagree.”

She laid out points as to why she considered the events that transpired at the Capitol a coup, saying that the unprecedented storming of the Capitol was the “culmination of a series of actions and events taken or instigated by Trump so he could retain the presidency that together amount to an attempt at a self-coup.”

“Trump disguised what he was doing by operating in plain sight, talking openly about his intent,” Hill wrote. “He normalized his actions so people would accept them.”

“I’ve been studying authoritarian regimes for three decades, and I know the signs of a coup when I see them.”

Read more: Trump was deliberately ‘trying to stage a coup,’ a former White House national-security official says

In the op-ed, Hill outlined what she called a “standard coup ‘checklist'” that analysts use to assess whether certain incidents can be considered a coup, which includes the military, communications, the judiciary, government institutions, and the legislature.

“The truth is that for the past four years, Trump has been stress testing the US democratic system to see if anyone will rein him in,” the former national security official wrote. “Consider how many times he stated that he ‘deserved’ two or even three terms in office because he was treated ‘unfairly’ or ‘cheated’ out of the first two years of his presidency by the ‘Russia hoax,’ the Mueller investigation and last year’s impeachment trial.”

“Throughout 2020, when his poll ratings faltered, the president laid the groundwork for what would become the Big Lie that he won the election,” she added.

Read moreWe analyzed 23 memos from CEOs responding to the US Capitol riot. The most effective messages get personal.

She went on to ask congressional Republicans who supported Trump’s challenges to the election results to “take personal responsibility for their actions in support of Trump’s coup attempt” in order to “restore democratic norms and make sure this does not happen again.”

“They must tell the truth to their constituents about the election and what the president tried to do in January 2021,” Hill said. “They owe it to the people they represent as well as the country they serve.”

Read the full story at Politico »

Expanded Coverage Module: capitol-siege-module

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