Fiona Hill said this week that her only agenda was to serve as a fact witness for the House Intelligence Committee. But as the hearings fade into history, Hill’s legacy will be that of a woman who called out a dais full of powerful men for spouting fiction and suggested they ought to pay more attention when a woman shows anger, instead of brushing it off as an emotional reaction.
Hill, the former senior director for Russia and Europe at the National Security Council, became an Internet sensation this week because we so rarely see women of her intellectual caliber elevated into these sorts of roles and then thrust into the national spotlight.
She was bulletproof from the moment she decried “the fictional narrative” that Ukraine meddled in the 2016 US election and showed her authority in a way that was somehow steely and disarming at the same time.
At one point, Hill gingerly observed a truth familiar to all women: men pay less attention to us when we get angry. Even in 2019, we are still living in a society where anger in women is quickly relegated to the category of emotion, hysteria or hormones.
Hill’s observation came as she was detailing how she’d gotten irritated and angry that US Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland was diverting the administration’s energy from national security foreign policy to a “domestic political errand,” which led her to presciently tell him “this is all going to blow up.”
Describing their final meeting, Sondland had told lawmakers Hill was “pretty upset about her role in the administration, about her superiors, about the President.”
“She was sort of shaking,” Sondland said. “She was pretty mad.”
Lawmakers pressed Hill to explain Thursday why she was “upset.” She acknowledged that she had a “bit of a blow up with Ambassador Sondland” and several “testy encounters with him” because he hadn’t kept her in the loop about the meetings he was having.
“One of those was in June 18 when I actually said to him, ‘Who put you in charge of Ukraine?’ And you know, I’ll admit, I was a bit rude – and that’s when he told me – ‘The President,’ which shut me up,” Hill recalled.
“This other meeting … I was actually, to be honest, angry with him,” Hill said. “I hate to say it, but often when women show anger, it’s not fully appreciated. It’s often, you know, pushed onto emotional issues perhaps, or deflected onto other people. And what I was angry about was that he wasn’t coordinating with us.”
In response to that anger, she recalled, Sondland said: “But I’m briefing the President. I’m briefing chief of staff (Mick) Mulvaney. I’m briefing Secretary (of State Mike) Pompeo. And I’ve talked to Ambassador (John) Bolton – who else do I have to deal with?”
In hindsight, Hill said she realized through Sondland’s deposition that he was right not to coordinate with her “because we weren’t doing the same thing that he was doing.”
In other words, his business was a “domestic political errand,” hers was a national security matter.
But in the end, they became inextricably linked, and Hill’s anger was an early warning sign that Ukraine policy had gone off the rails.
If more of her colleagues had paid attention to why she was actually angry, the history of the Trump administration might have looked very different.