President Trump to appoint Fiona Hill, former intelligence officer and Putin critic, to White House role


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.

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."

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