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Transcript: Fiona Hill on "Face the Nation," October 10, 2021

Fiona Hill says January 6 was a "dress rehearsal"
Fiona Hill says January 6 was a "dress rehear... 07:09

The following is a transcript of an interview with Former National Security Council Senior Director for European and Russian Affairs, Fiona Hill, that aired Sunday, October 10, 2021, on "Face the Nation."


MARGARET BRENNAN: We want to bring in another former Trump White House adviser, Fiona Hill. She was a Senior Director at the National Security Council and a key witness in President Trump's first impeachment trial in 2019. Her new book is called There's Nothing for You Here: Finding Opportunity in the 21st Century. Good morning to you.

FIONA HILL: Morning, MARGARET. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: So that title comes from something that your father, a coal miner in the north of England, told you when you were coming of age. And I wonder what you would say looking at this country to some coming of age right now, is there anything for them here?

HILL: Well, I think it's the question that everyone's asking themselves, right? I mean, this could be taken as even a political observation. A lot of people are feeling somewhat alienated from the politics, as we've been hearing through the segments. But there's also in so many parts of the United States, a lot of questions that people are having about their education and their educational future, particularly with COVID and all of the economic problems that we're seeing everything you've been covering in all of the segments. People wondering how they're going to get a job. Are they going to be able to make a better life- a life for themselves than their parents hard, which is always the expectation in America. I mean, I think that's the whole premise that the country's been based on is the idea that your children, your grandchildren, will live better than you. And I think that that's the big issue we're grappling with right now is whether that's still possible.

MARGARET BRENNAN: One of the things that I think is interesting is that you were an intelligence analyst, so you can apply that eye, that critical eye to this country, just like you would a foreign country. So, when you apply it to the United States right now, you use terms like "the politics of cultural despair," "fertile ground for populist politics." How dangerous is this moment?

HILL: I think this dangerous- the moment is incredibly dangerous. I mean, we are in a dangerous moment. People are talking about a prospective constitutional crisis, we're already in it. I mean, I was listening very attentively to what Chris Krebs was saying, somebody who I worked with extremely closely. And when Chris had to basically call out domestic threats to the election, during the 2020 presidential election, it should have been obvious to everyone. He was the Department of Homeland Security. His whole job was to push back against external threats, not against domestic actors who were trying to undermine the integrity of the election or to cast doubt on it. When he had to speak out in public in the way that he did, it should have been an alarm bell to anyone watching.

MARGARET BRENNAN: And- and you had the national security as well. When you look at the politics of the moment, that you describe is dangerous, do you see a difference between populism on the right and populism on the left? You see them as equally potentially threatening?

HILL: Unfortunately, I'm seeing the populism on the right is the most threatening at the moment. The populism on the left contributes to the overall atmosphere of polarization, but very sadly, it's on the right that we're seeing the main threats. Its actors on the right, not just in Congress and in the Senate, you know, places where you'd actually expect people to be upholding their oath of office to the Constitution and to the people. But it's actors on that right who are also basically calling for violence against fellow Americans and at all times are talking down the integrity of the election system. And of course, we've just had the rally that President Trump conducted in Iowa, clearly prepping for his return to the presidency- a presidency says that he's never left because he's saying that the election was stolen away from him. In the poll of the rally, about 85% of his speech at the rally was all about the stealing of the election. I mean, basically perpetrating a lie.

MARGARET BRENNAN: Well, and that's exactly why I've been asking that is the groundwork being laid question, because certainly that seemed to be the message here. You know, in the book Peril, Robert Costa and Bob Woodward wrote, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley, at the end of it, is quoted as comparing the Jan. 6 siege of the Capitol to The Great Dress Rehearsal. You're a Russia analyst, you know immediately what that phrase is, which is what Lenin called an uprising that preceded the revolution. I read that and I said, "Dear God." 

HILL: Yeah. 

MARGARET BRENNAN: I mean, he, the general, is saying that this is a precursor potentially to further violence? Is this overstating things in a historical sense?

HILL: He's not overstating it at all, because I mean, we all saw in real time what happened on Jan. 6 at the Capitol building, and Gen. Milley was absolutely right. Any student of history, but any observer of even American politics over the last decade- I mean, when have we seen something like this before? We haven't. Not in our lifetimes. We've seen episodes, you know, particularly during the civil rights movement and of course, during Vietnam, where there were protests. But storming the Capitol building of the United States? I mean, this is exactly the thing that you think of in historical revolutions. Storming the Bastille during the French Revolution, storming the Winter Palace during the Russian Revolution that General Milley was alluding to. And as he was saying, we've seen many historical episodes where there is violence, people discount it. They think that this is just a passing occurrence. Vice President Pence has been downplaying it, even though he would have been targeted. He was targeted. They wanted to lynch him. And then people sweeping this away, saying nothing happened here. And the next time around, you get the real thing where people actually do seize those major buildings. And I said that also in the book that this was, in effect, a dress rehearsal for something that could be happening near term in 2022. 2024. We've got election cycles here that will heighten the tensions. And once people start talking about violence, once the threshold is crossed, we're in a danger zone.

MARGARET BRENNAN: But there are so many people who will look at the investigation Chairman Schiff is working on and say that's just politics, that's just political messaging. They'll look at the violence- I've heard people tell me this on Capitol Hill and just say, that's a riot. A few crazy people. Not the precursor or a- a dry run of a coup, as the general put it, in the terms of that you are right now. I mean, how do you respond to people saying you're overreacting essentially?

HILL: Well, people are saying that because they don't have any personal experience of these kinds of events. But I can certainly tell you as an immigrant, as somebody who came to the United States in 1989 against the backdrop of the crumbling of the Berlin Wall and the backdrop of the end of the Cold War, I also know immigrants like myself who came from war zones, who came from places like the former Yugoslavia or places like Sri Lanka, which is being pulled apart by civil war and conflict. Afghanistan, Syria, you know, you name it. All of the people that I know who are immigrants are looking around and saying, can't people see this? We've come from war torn societies. All of the hallmarks are here. So perhaps, you know, Americans should talk to some of their neighbors who've come from somewhere else and who came to the United States to flee just this kind of occurrence and have them tell them what their personal experience was.

MARGARET BRENNAN: All right. Fiona Hill, thank you for your analysis. We'll be back. 

HILL: Thank you, MARGARET.

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