”Before one of the US’s top Russia experts gave evidence in Donald Trump’s (first) impeachment hearing, her legal counsel’s colleagues prepped her not just on what she should say, but on how she should look. How to minimise the distractions of her outfit; how to style her hair; how to keep from shivering in the cold congressional room.
This is how Fiona Hill begins her new book, There’s Nothing Here for You: Finding Opportunity in the 21st Century. Hill had worked as senior director for European and Russian affairs on Trump’s National Security Council. Her testimony at the impeachment hearing made damning headlines: she spoke about the extent to which Trump tried to use American foreign policy for domestic political ends in Ukraine.
Hill is the daughter of a coal miner-turned-hospital porter and a nurse in north-east England. She made her way to the University of St Andrews, then Harvard, and then the White House, authoring numerous books on Russia along the way. Her latest is about her national security experience and Trump, but it’s also about the different kinds of inequality that shape our lives and societies. It’s about the odds that she beat – and Trump used – to get to the White House.
I told Hill that I was surprised – pleasantly so – to see a high-profile woman drawing attention to the pressures of being a woman in the working world. How, I asked, did she decide to start her book with that?
“I’m a woman in all of this,” she told me. Her book, and indeed her story, is not only about Russian politics. It is also about facing the threat of sexual harassment, the gender pay gap and the ways women learn to dress to be taken seriously at work. Trump “never listened to me because I’m a woman”, she said. The former president mistook her for a secretary, and some of her colleagues called her the “Russia bitch”.