“I was concerned that she might run into problems that others might not run into, and I thought that her judgment of Putin might not sit well with the president,” he said, adding: “My recommendation to her was to stay away. But she believed very strongly in the opportunity to serve.”
She got off to an uncertain start; Mr. Trump once mistook her for a low-level member of support staff. And if there was any doubt that the president had little interest in national security protocol and would rely on no one but himself, it was erased when he took notes away from his interpreter during a private meeting with Mr. Putin in Hamburg, Germany, in 2017.
Then came the disastrous Helsinki, Finland, summit in 2018, where Mr. Trump accepted the Russian president’s denial that his country had interfered in the 2016 race. In a stunning break with protocol, he also told Mr. Putin that he might let Russia interrogate a former American ambassador, Michael A. McFaul, a staunch critic of Russia’s record on human rights.
Mr. McFaul visited her at the White House to complain.
“I thought they were going to clean it up when they got back to Washington, and they didn’t,” Mr. McFaul said. “They just doubled down.”
Some colleagues of Ms. Hill’s wondered why she did not quit then. Others, like Angela Stent, a Russia expert at Georgetown University and mentor to Ms. Hill, said she contemplated leaving at times, but stayed because she wanted “to minimize the damage of some things that were happening with Russia.”
When she left the White House in July, it was as planned; she wanted to spend more time with her husband and 12-year-old daughter and her mother, who is ill. If she had been frustrated there, Mr. Wright said, she kept it to herself.
“This exit was not what she had planned,” Mr. Wright said. “I don’t think she was thinking, ‘I’m going to go out in a blaze of glory, take a moral stand and testify.’ That was definitely not her intention. She just wanted to her job with no fuss or drama.”