President Donald Trump’s former top Russia adviser is warning that President Vladimir Putin has America “exactly where he wants us.”
“Putin, sadly, has got all of our political class, every single one of us, including the media, exactly where he wants us. He’s got us feeling vulnerable…on edge, and he’s got us questioning the legitimacy of our own systems,” Fiona Hill told CBS’ Lesley Stahl in an interview set to air on “60 Minutes” Sunday.
The interview marks the former top White House official’s first since testifying in the impeachment inquiry into Trump. During congressional hearings in the inquiry, Hill warned that the Republican defense of the President – by peddling Ukraine conspiracy theories – was in danger of extending Russia’s meddling in the 2016 US presidential election.
Hill, who left the Trump administration last summer, has studied Russia for decades and is a critical biographer of Putin, authoring or co-authoring a number of books on Russia, including two editions of a book titled “Mr. Putin: Operative in the Kremlin.
In the interview, Hill said Russia understands how to exploit American divisions.
“The Russians didn’t invent partisan divides. The Russians haven’t invented racism in the United States,” Hill said. “But the Russians understand a lot of those divisions, and they understand how to exploit them.”
Russian interference in the last presidential election – which the US intelligence community believes was aimed at boosting Trump’s candidacy and hurting his opponent, Hillary Clinton – led to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation. Part of the election interference included a Russian government-linked troll operation that sought to help Trump’s candidacy and undercut that of Clinton in part by posting messages in support of Sanders.
Concerns over the Kremlin’s role in US politics have continued.
The US intelligence community has assessed that Russia is interfering in the 2020 election and has separately assessed that Russia views Trump as a leader they can work with. In February, Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders also said his campaign was briefed about Russian efforts to help his operation. It was unclear how Russia was attempting to help the Vermont senator.
CNN’s Kevin Bohn, Stephen Collinson, Paul LeBlanc, Manu Raju and Alex Rogers and contributed to this report.