Fiona Hill (presidential advisor)

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Fiona Hill
Chancellor of Durham University
Assumed office
29 June 2023
Preceded byThomas Allen
Senior Director for Europe and Russia of the National Security Council
In office
April 2017 – July 19, 2019
PresidentDonald Trump
Succeeded byTim Morrison
Personal details
BornOctober 1965 (age 58)
Bishop Auckland, England
  • United Kingdom
  • United States (since 2002)
Kenneth Keen
(m. 1995)

Fiona Hill CMG (born October 1965) is a British-American foreign affairs specialist and author. She is a former official at the U.S. National Security Council, specializing in Russian and European affairs. She was a witness in the November 2019 House hearings regarding the impeachment inquiry during the first impeachment of Donald Trump. She earned a Ph.D. in history from Harvard University in 1998. She currently serves as a Senior Fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington. She was installed as Chancellor of Durham University in June 2023.

Early life and education[edit]

Hill was born in Bishop Auckland, County Durham, in North East England, in 1965, the daughter of a coal miner, Alfred Hill, and a midwife, June Murray.[1][2] Her father died in 2012; her mother still lives in Bishop Auckland.[3] In the 1960s, as many of the local coal mines were closing, her father wanted to emigrate to find work in the mines of Pennsylvania or West Virginia, but his mother's poor health required him to stay in England.[4] He subsequently worked as a porter in a hospital.[2]

Her family struggled financially. June sewed clothes for her daughters and at the age of 13, Fiona began working at odd jobs, including washing cars and working as a waitress at a local hotel.[3] She and her sister attended Bishop Barrington School, a local comprehensive school. In 2017, she recalled applying for the University of Oxford: "I applied to Oxford in the '80s and was invited to an interview. It was like a scene from Billy Elliot: people were making fun of me for my accent and the way I was dressed. It was the most embarrassing, awful experience I had ever had in my life." She then read history and studied Russian at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.[3] She has revealed that the manager of the Royal and Ancient Golf Club threatened to blacklist her when she reported being sexually assaulted while waitressing during her student days in St Andrews.[5]

In 1987, she was an exchange student in the Soviet Union, where, while interning for NBC News, she witnessed the signing of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev.[3] An American professor encouraged Hill to apply for a graduate program in the United States.[4] She later wrote about the experience in The Siberian Curse: "I noticed that many aspects of British (and, by relation, American) culture were surprisingly, even unexpectedly similar, and that the Russians and the West had a good deal in common. Before long, other aspects of the Soviet and Russian [...] mentalities and cultures reared their heads, and these gaps seemed larger and more consuming than any novel or textbook could transmit". Continuing in another passage, she writes: "Whether or not these gaps can be effectively bridged or, at least, mitigated will remain the guiding question for this field of study for decades to come."[6]

At Harvard University, she earned a master's degree in Russian and modern history in 1991, and a Ph.D. in history in 1998 under Richard Pipes, Akira Iriye, and Roman Szporluk. While at Harvard, Hill was a Frank Knox Fellow. Her doctoral thesis was In search of great Russia: elites, ideas, power, the state, and the pre-revolutionary past in the new Russia, 1991–1996.[7]


Fiona Hill (center left) with John Bolton at a June 27, 2018 meeting with Vladimir Putin

Early career[edit]

From 1991 to 1999, Hill worked in the research department at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. In 1992, she served as coordinator for a Trilateral Study on Japanese-Russian-U.S. Relations" there and, from 1993 to 1994, she was director of the Ethnic Conflict Project.[8]

In 1999, Hill was associate director of Harvard University's Strengthening Democratic Institutions project.[9][10] She served as director of Strategic Planning for the Eurasia Foundation from 1999 to 2000.[8]

Government service[edit]

Hill was an intelligence analyst under Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama from 2006 to 2009. At the National Intelligence Council as a national intelligence analyst of Russia and Eurasia from 2006 to 2009.

Think tanks[edit]

Hill is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the board of trustees of the Eurasia Foundation.[11]

At the Brookings Institution, Hill worked closely with Igor Danchenko. In 2010, Danchenko, Hill and Erica Downs co-authored a paper called "One Step Forward, Two Steps Back? The Realities of a Rising China and Implications for Russia's Energy Ambitions".[12] Hill introduced Danchenko to Christopher Steele and to U.S.-based public-relations executive Charles Dolan Jr., who would later become one of Danchenko's sources for the Steele dossier.[13][14]

Trump administration (2017–2019)[edit]

In 2017, she took a leave of absence from the Brookings Institution, where she was director for the Center on the United States and Europe, while also on the National Security Council.

Hill was appointed, in the first quarter of 2017, by President Donald Trump as deputy assistant to the president and senior director for European and Russian affairs on his National Security Council staff.[15][11][16][17]

Hill had been due to leave the White House to return to Brookings in April 2019. She developed a close working relationship with National Security Advisor John Bolton, and at Bolton's request, Hill agreed to stay on until mid-July, after which Tim Morrison would replace her.[2] As planned, Hill left the White House on July 15, ten days before the Trump–Zelenskyy telephone call.

Subsequently, Hill has spoken of the difficulty of maintaining a consistent U.S.-Russia policy under President Trump,[18] a result of the clash of her "hawkish" view on Russia and Trump's intermittently warm and welcoming approach, and of the difficulty of ascertaining what Trump and Putin discussed in private meetings.[2][19]

Impeachment inquiry testimony[edit]

External videos
video icon Testimony to the House Intelligence Committee by Hill and David Holmes, November 21, 2019, C-SPAN

On October 14, 2019, responding to a subpoena, Hill testified in a closed-door deposition for ten hours before a committee of the United States Congress as part of the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump during his first impeachment.[20][21][22] Some Republicans questioned the credibility of her testimony, including Connie Mack IV, who described Hill as a "George Soros mole infiltrating the national-security apparatus".[2]

She testified in public before the same body on November 21, 2019.[23] While being questioned by Steve Castor, the counsel for the House Intelligence Committee's Republican minority, Hill commented on Gordon Sondland's involvement in the Ukraine matter: "It struck me when (Wednesday), when you put up on the screen Ambassador Sondland's emails, and who was on these emails, and he said these are the people who need to know, that he was absolutely right," she said. "Because he was being involved in a domestic political errand, and we were being involved in national security foreign policy. And those two things had just diverged."[24][25]

In response to a question from that committee's chairman, Rep. Adam Schiff, Hill stated: "The Russians' interests are frankly to delegitimize our entire presidency... The goal of the Russians [in 2016] was really to put whoever became the president — by trying to tip their hands on one side of the scale — under a cloud."[26]


In her post-White House career, Hill returned to academic work. With four other Russia experts, Jon Huntsman Jr. (former Republican governor and Trump's Ambassador to Russia), Robert Legvold (a retired professor in international relations), Rose Gottemoeller (professor and former Deputy Secretary-General of NATO), and Thomas R. Pickering (Career Ambassador and Clinton's Ambassador to Russia), she wrote an op-ed in Politico Magazine wherein they state that, although Russia is and will likely remain greatly disharmonious with Western Europe and North America, it is in the security interests of the United States to seek cooperation where possible.[27]

Her views on Russia could be characterized by increasing pessimism on cooperation with the United States, as she expresses fear that even Russia's foremost oppositional politician, Alexei Navalny, employs populism and has a history of engaging nationalism.[28] Hill believes that, in the context of Russia's resurgent international adventurism, Navalny's political potential does not augur well with the United States' national security interests.

Among many analysts sought for their assessment of the January 6, 2021 assault on the Capitol, Hill stated to The Daily Beast, "The president was trying to stage a coup. There was little chance of it happening, but there was enough chance that the former defense secretaries had to put out that letter,[29] which was the final nail through that effort. They prevented the military from being involved in any coup attempt. But instead, Trump tried to incite it himself, [t]his could have turned into a full-blown coup had he had any of those key institutions following him. Just because it failed or didn't succeed doesn't mean it wasn't real."[30] On January 11, 2021, an opinion authored by Hill explicated the basis for her assessment of the attempted coup that precipitated the second impeachment of Donald Trump.[31]

October 2021 saw the release of Hill's book There Is Nothing for You Here: Finding Opportunity in the 21st Century,[32] published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. NPR described the book as "part memoir, part history tome, and part policy prescription".[33]

In an October 2021 interview, while recounting her tenure at the White House, Hill drew several parallels between Trump and Putin, noting that both leaders had displayed a penchant for personal power, public performance, and used public nostalgia to gain support.[34] Trump for his part described her as "a deep state stiff with a nice accent".[35]

During an interview by The New York Times on April 11, 2022, Hill was asked about the motivation for the January 6 rally and provoking the assault on the Capitol. She responded that it was "Trump pulling a Putin" in that he was attempting to remain in office similarly to Putin's having extended his term, because of Trump's yearning "to stay in power like the strongmen he admired".[36][37]

It was announced in November 2022 that she had been appointed as the next Chancellor of Durham University, in succession to Sir Thomas Allen, and was subsequently installed in a ceremony in Durham Cathedral in June 2023.[38][39]

Hill was appointed Companion of the Order of St Michael and St George (CMG) in the 2024 New Year Honours for services to international relations.[40]

2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine[edit]

On February 28, 2022, during the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Hill was asked by Politico's senior editor Maura Reynolds if she thought Vladimir Putin would use Russia's nuclear weapons and responded by saying, "Putin is increasingly operating emotionally and likely to use all the weapons at his disposal, including nuclear ones." She stated, "Every time you think, 'No, [Putin] wouldn't, would he?' Well, yes, he would." Hill also stated that she believes that World War III is in progress and that the invasion of Ukraine exemplifies that.[41] In a later interview with Politico, Hill said the war is the third great power conflict in Europe in a little over a century, saying "it's the end of the existing world order. Our world is not going to be the same as it was before."[42]

Personal life[edit]

As a student at Harvard, Hill met her future husband, Kenneth Keen, at Cabot House.[43] They have a daughter.[44] Hill became a U.S. citizen in 2002.[45]

Selected works[edit]

Hill's books include:

  • Hill, Fiona; Gaddy, Clifford G. (2003). The Siberian Curse: How Communist Planners Left Russia Out in the Cold. Washington D.C.: Brookings Institution Press. ISBN 978-0815736455. LCCN 2003016801.
  • Hill, Fiona (September 2004). Energy Empire: Oil, Gas and Russia's Revival (PDF). London: Foreign Policy Centre. ISBN 978-1903558386. OCLC 68266192. Archived (PDF) from the original on November 19, 2019 – via Brookings Institution.
  • Hill, Fiona; Gaddy, Clifford G. (2013). Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin. Brookings Focus Books. Washington D.C.: Brookings Institution Press. ISBN 978-0-8157-2376-9. LCCN 2012041470.
  • Hill, Fiona (2021). There Is Nothing for You Here: Finding Opportunity in the Twenty-First Century. Boston, Massachusetts: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 978-0358574316.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Borger, Julian (November 21, 2019). "Fiona Hill rebukes conspiracy theory – and emerges as a heroine for our times". The Guardian. Retrieved October 6, 2021.
  2. ^ a b c d e Entous, David (June 22, 2020). "What Fiona Hill Learned in the White House". The New Yorker. Retrieved October 6, 2021.
  3. ^ a b c d Brown, David (March 4, 2017). "Miner's daughter tipped as Trump adviser on Russia". The Times. London. ISSN 0140-0460. Retrieved November 22, 2019.
  4. ^ a b "READ: Transcript Of Fiona Hill's Opening Statement". Boston: WGBH. November 21, 2019. Retrieved November 22, 2019.
  5. ^ McLaughlin, Martyn (October 24, 2019). "Former White House advisor reveals sexual assault during student days in Scotland". The Scotsman. Retrieved October 24, 2021.
  6. ^ Hill, Fiona; Gaddy, Clifford G. (November 4, 2003). The Siberian Curse: How Communist Planners Left Russia Out in the Cold. Brookings Institution Press. ISBN 978-0-8157-9618-3.
  7. ^ Hill, Fiona (1998). In search of great Russia: elites, ideas, power, the state, and the pre-revolutionary past in the new Russia, 1991–1996 (Ph.D.). Harvard University.
  8. ^ a b "Fiona Hill". Brookings. July 7, 2016. Retrieved October 22, 2022.
  9. ^ "Russia Warns Muslim States Off Dagestan". The Boston Sunday Globe. Massachusetts. August 15, 1999. p. 22.
  10. ^ "A Fireside Chat with Fiona Hill | School of Social Sciences | UCI Social Sciences". Retrieved October 22, 2022.
  11. ^ a b "Fiona Hill". Brookings Institution. July 7, 2016. Archived from the original on October 29, 2019. Retrieved July 3, 2017.
  12. ^ Danchenko, Igor; Downs, Erica S.; Hill, Fiona (August 31, 2010). "One Step Forward, Two Steps Back? The Realities of a Rising China and Implications for Russia's Energy Ambitions". Brookings Institution. Retrieved November 5, 2021.
  13. ^ Stanley-Becker, Isaac (November 6, 2021). "A spin doctor with ties to Russia allegedly fed the Steele dossier before fighting to discredit it". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved November 8, 2021.
  14. ^ Dunleavy, Jerry (November 5, 2021). "Dossier critic Fiona Hill introduced main source to Steele — and, Durham says, 'PR Exec-1'". Washington Examiner. Retrieved November 8, 2021.
  15. ^ Newby, Ann a (April 4, 2017). "Fiona Hill, Brookings scholar, to join National Security Council" (Press release). Brookings Institution. Archived from the original on October 22, 2019. Retrieved November 21, 2019.
  16. ^ Levy, Gabrielle (March 3, 2017). "Former Intelligence Analyst and Putin Critic Tapped for White House Role". U.S. News & World Report. Retrieved July 2, 2019.[dead link]
  17. ^ Mohdin, Aamna (November 21, 2019). "Fiona Hill: the Durham miner's daughter creating waves in DC". The Guardian. London: Gurdian Media Group. ISSN 1756-3224. Archived from the original on November 22, 2019. Retrieved November 21, 2019.
  18. ^ Berry, Lynn; Calvin Woodward (October 11, 2021). "Fiona Hill, a nobody to Trump and Putin, saw into them both". Associated Press.
  19. ^ Bertrand, Natasha (September 30, 2019). "The Russia Hawk in the White House". POLITICO Magazine. Retrieved June 25, 2020.
  20. ^ Lederman, Josh; Lee, Carol E.; Welker, Kristen (October 10, 2019). "Trump's former Russia aide set to give revealing testimony on Giuliani, Sondland". NBC News. Retrieved October 10, 2019.
  21. ^ Acosta, Jim; Borger, Gloria; Raju, Manu; Herb, Jeremy (October 15, 2019). "Trump's former top Russia adviser told Congress she saw 'wrongdoing' in US policy toward Ukraine, source says". CNN. Archived from the original on November 9, 2019. Retrieved October 22, 2019.
  22. ^ Baker, Peter; Fandos, Nicholas (October 14, 2019). "Bolton Objected to Ukraine Pressure Campaign, Calling Giuliani 'a Hand Grenade'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Archived from the original on October 16, 2019. Retrieved May 5, 2020.
  23. ^ Frazee, Gretchen (November 21, 2019). "Read Fiona Hill's full opening statement in Trump impeachment hearing". PBS. Retrieved November 21, 2019.
  24. ^ Raju, Manu; Herb, Jeremy (November 21, 2019). "Impeachment witness: Ambassador was running 'domestic, political errand'". CNN. Archived from the original on November 22, 2019. Retrieved November 21, 2019.
  25. ^ Lisa Mascaro; Mary Clare Jalonick; Eric Tucker (November 22, 2019). "Ex-official undercuts Trump defense". The Mercury News. San Jose: Bay Area News. Associated Press. p. A1.
  26. ^ "Fiona Hill: Russia's goal to 'delegitimize our entire presidency'". Fox News Video. November 21, 2019. Retrieved November 21, 2019. (Italicizing of the word "whoever" denotes Hill's own verbal emphasis.)
  27. ^ Gottemoeller, Rose (August 5, 2020). "Opinion | It's Time to Rethink Our Russia Policy". POLITICO. Archived from the original on August 15, 2020. Retrieved August 15, 2020.
  28. ^ "Dr. Fiona Hill on Russia's Role in the 2020 U.S. election | Transcript". UCLA Burkle Center for International Relations. Retrieved October 6, 2021.
  29. ^ In January 2021, all ten living former defense secretaries raised alarm in an open letter against a military coup to overturn the election results, warning officials who would participate and specifically naming Miller, that they would face grave consequences if they violated the constitution.Carter, Ashton (January 3, 2021). "All 10 living former defense secretaries: Involving the military in election disputes would cross into dangerous territory". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on January 6, 2021. Retrieved January 4, 2021.
  30. ^ Banco, Erin; Suebsaeng, Asawin (January 7, 2021). Trump Officials Rush to Keep Him From Sparking Another Conflict—at Home or Abroad. The Daily Beast. Retrieved August 19, 2021.
  31. ^ Hill, Fiona (January 11, 2021). Yes, It Was a Coup Attempt. Here's Why. Politico. Retrieved August 19, 2021.
  32. ^ Hill, Fiona (September 7, 2021). There Is Nothing For You Here: Finding Opportunity in the Twenty-First Century. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. ISBN 978-0358574316.
  33. ^ Kim, Caitlyn (October 4, 2021). "Fiona Hill explores why it's tough to get ahead in 'There Is Nothing For You Here'". NPR. Retrieved October 6, 2021.
  34. ^ Eckel, Mike (October 18, 2021). "Putin's Dominance Risks Destabilization: Fiona Hill's Insights On Russia, the U.S., And Their 'Unfortunate Parallels'". RadioFreeEurope/RadioLiberty. Retrieved October 19, 2021.
  35. ^ "Fiona Hill: People from the north still face discrimination". BBC News. October 20, 2021.
  36. ^ Papenfuss, Mary (April 12, 2022). "Fiona Hill: U.S. Capitol Riot Was Trump's Attempt At 'Pulling A Putin': He yearned to stay in power like the strongmen he admired, she said". HuffPost.
  37. ^ Draper, Robert (April 11, 2022). "'This Was Trump Pulling a Putin'". New York Times Magazine.
  38. ^ "Dr Fiona Hill appointed Durham University chancellor". BBC News. June 29, 2023.
  39. ^ Alexa Fox (November 28, 2022). "Fiona Hill is named new Chancellor of Durham University". The Northern Echo.
  40. ^ "No. 64269". The London Gazette (Supplement). December 30, 2023. p. N3.
  41. ^ Reynolds, Maura (February 28, 2022). "'Yes, He Would': Fiona Hill on Putin and Nukes". Politico. Retrieved March 2, 2022.
  42. ^ Reynolds, Maura (October 17, 2022). "Fiona Hill: 'Elon Musk is Transmitting a Message for Putin'". Politico. Retrieved March 8, 2023.
  43. ^ Clauss, Kyle Scott (March 2, 2017). "Fiona Hill, Trump's New Russia Expert, Went to Harvard". Boston. Metrocorp. ISSN 0006-7989. Archived from the original on September 30, 2019. Retrieved September 30, 2019.
  44. ^ Laviola, Erin (March 8, 2020). "Kenneth Keen, Fiona Hill's Husband: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know". Heavy. Retrieved November 21, 2020.
  45. ^ "Read: Fiona Hill's opening statement at today's impeachment hearings". Politico. Capitol News Company. November 21, 2019. Retrieved November 21, 2019.

External links[edit]

Academic offices
Preceded by Chancellor of Durham University
2023 – present