President Donald Trump is expected to tap Fiona Hill, a former intelligence officer and a critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, as his White House senior director for Russia and Europe.
The decision, first reported by Foreign Policy, comes as the Trump administration is struggling to tamp down new suspicions over connections between the president's' associates and Russian interests.
Hill, a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, was an intelligence officer from 2006 to 2009 with the National Intelligence Council, serving under both Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.
She has argued in favor of keeping sanctions in place on Russia in response to Moscow's aggression in Crimea and Ukraine and wrote about Russian President Vladimir Putin's desire for a "weakened U.S. presidency" in analyzing the Russian autocrat's interest in meddling in the American election –- an analysis Trump has resisted despite consensus from the U.S. intelligence community.
Vladimir Putin throughout the years
Vladimir Putin throughout the years
P362575 05: A class photo with Vladimir Putin, (fourth row, second from left) dated 1966 in St. Petersburg, Russia. (Photo by Laski Diffusion)
368975 01: (AMERICAS ONLY) FILE PHOTO: Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, poses for a photograph in this file photo with his parents Maria and Vladimir Putin in1985 just before his departure to Germany. Putin was sworn in as Russia''s second democratically elected president May 7, 2000, pledging to restore Russia as a great power. (Photo by Laski Diffusion/Newsmakers)
ITAR-TASS: LENINGRAD, USSR. Vladimir Putin seen with his wife Lyudmila and daughter Maria. File photo from family archive was taken in spring 1985. (Photo ITAR-TASS) (Photo by TASS via Getty Images)
St, petersburg mayor anatoly sobchak and austrian chancellor's wife christine vranitzky during a ceremony to name 'austria square' in downtown st, petersburg, austria has pledged to restore the square, future president of russia, vladimir putin, looks on, far left, september 1992. (Photo by: Sovfoto/UIG via Getty Images)
President George Bush meets with President Vladimir Putin at the Catherine Palace in St. Petersburg. Bush was meeting with Putin to thank him for signing the UN resolution demanding disarmament of Iraq. (Photo by ?? Brooks Kraft/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
KRASNODAR, RUSSIA: Russian acting President Vladimir Putin (L) talks to a boy (R) during his visit to the Children's regional clinic hospital in Krasnodar 11 February 2000. Putin arrived in Krasnodar for a two-day visit to take a part in the All Russia Conference on emergency measures to stabilise and develop the Russian agro-industrial complex. (ELECTRONIC IMAGE) (Photo credit should read SERGEI CHIRIKOV/AFP/Getty Images)
Uzbek president islam karimov helping rf president vladimir putin put on a traditional robe, uzbekistan, december 1999. (Photo by: Sovfoto/UIG via Getty Images)
President George W. Bush and First Lady Laura greet President Vladimir Putin and his wife Lyudmila outside of the Catherine Palace in St. Petersburg. Bush was meeting with Putin to thank him for signing the UN resolution demanding disarmament of Iraq. (Photo by ?? Brooks Kraft/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)
MADRID, SPAIN - JANUARY4: Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and Spanish Prime Minister Jose Maria Aznar (L) pose with their wives Ludmila Putin (2nd L) and Ana Botella before their lunch at Moncloa Palace June 14. Putin said he had no reason to believe the arrest of media magnate Vladimir Gusinsky was politically motivated but vowed to examine the case, which has stirred stormy protest in Moscow. (Photo credit should read SERGEI KARPUKHIN/AFP/Getty Images)
(GERMANY OUT) Vladimir Putin - Politician, Mayor St. Petersburg, Russia - signs an agreement about the marketing of inventions. Second Mayor and Senator of Economics of Hamburg Hans-Juergen Krupp (right) (Photo by Ambor/ullstein bild via Getty Images)
Moscow, russia, outgoing russian president boris yeltsin (r) shaking hands with russian prime minister and acting president vladimir putin (l) as he leaves moscow's kremlin, the seat of russian power,1999. (Photo by: Sovfoto/UIG via Getty Images)
Russian prime minister vladimir putin seen casting his vote during the elections to the state duma, at the polling station #2026 in moscow's kosygina street,moscow, russia, december 19, 1999. (Photo by: Sovfoto/UIG via Getty Images)
N362234 01: (FILE PHOTO) Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin visits Uzbekistan President Islam Karimov on August 16, 1999. President Boris Yeltsin announced on national television Friday, Dec. 31, 1999 that he had resigned and presidential elections will be held within 90 days to replace him. Yeltsin said he was stepping down immediately because he wanted Putin to succeed him. Putin, the country's most popular politician, immediately took control of the government and will serve as acting president until the elections. (photo by Laski Diffusion/Liaison Agency)
SEVEROMORSK, RUSSIA - APRIL 7: Russian President-elect Vladimir Putin watches the tactical exercises of Russia's Northern Fleet in the Barentsevo Sea, 06 April 2000. Vladimir Putin spent the night underwater in a nuclear submarine near the Arctic Circle. (Photo credit should read AFP/AFP/Getty Images)
Discover More Like This
BACK TO SLIDE
A White House official told Foreign Policy that Hill was offered the job – the one of the most important positions within government shaping the U.S. relationship with Russia – by Keith Kellogg, chief of staff to the National Security Council, when the NSC was still led by Michael Flynn. Flynn resigned last month following revelations he mischaracterized conversations he had with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak that took place before Trump took office
Flynn's contacts with Kislyak fueled an already simmering controversy over ties between members of Trump's inner circle and people close to Putin, sustained throughout much of the presidential campaign by Trump's expressions of warmth toward the Russian president.
Revelations this week that Attorney General Jeff Sessions had met with Kislyak last summer and fall during the campaign when he was a senator and surrogate for the Trump campaign served to further fuel bipartisan calls for an independent investigation into the extent of the campaign's connection to Russia.
Sessions announced Thursday he would recuse himself from any investigations into any alleged ties between the presidential campaign and Russia, but did little to quiet Democrats' calls for Sessions to resign his post.
Nonetheless, Hill's hire is likely to ease the concerns of even those who have been critical of Trump's embrace of Putin.
"Great hire," Michael McFaul, U.S. ambassador to Russia under Obama, told Bloomberg. "Fiona is both a first-class scholar and an experienced former government official."