In the Times piece, Hill offers more thoughts on that basic assessment, describing how “He would constantly tell world leaders that he deserved a redo of his first two years,” because, “He’d say that his first two years had been taken away from him because of the ‘Russia hoax.’ And he’d say that he wanted more than two terms.”
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When interviewer Robert Draper suggests Trump was joking, Hill responded, “Except that he clearly meant it.”
Hill also heard David Cornstein, Trump’s ambassador to Hungary and a longtime friend, say similar things about Trump’s ambitions. “Ambassador Cornstein openly talked about the fact that Trump wanted the same arrangement as Viktor Orban”—the prime minister of Hungary, one of the autocratic leaders Trump so admires—Hill told Draper, “where he could push the margins and stay in power without any checks and balances.”
But it was the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol that fully clarified for Hill who Trump is and what his ambitions are. “I saw the thread,” she told Draper. “The thread connecting the Zelensky phone call to Jan. 6. And I remembered how, in 2020, Putin had changed Russia’s Constitution to allow him to stay in power longer. This was Trump pulling a Putin.”
Yeah. And U.S. institutions and democracy were strong enough to withstand it once, but we can’t afford a second attempt. Especially since, as Hill also told Draper, “Putin has been there for 22 years. He’s the same guy, with the same people around him. And he’s watching everything”—everything that happens through U.S. elections and changing administrations.
As Hill warned during her impeachment testimony, “President Putin and the Russian security services operate like a super PAC. They deploy millions of dollars to weaponize our own political opposition research and false narratives. When we are consumed by partisan rancor, we cannot combat these external forces as they seek to divide us against each other, degrade our institutions, and destroy the faith of the American people in our democracy.” Donald Trump is at this point Putin’s eager ally in doing that.
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