No, Fox News — impeachment witness didn't hold secret talks with Dem staffer

Marie Yovanovitch didn’t commit perjury — and she actually followed the rules, too

Fox News launched a new accusation against one of the key witnesses in the impeachment inquiry, alleging in an online piece that former U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch had “communicated via her personal email account” with a House Democratic staffer on a “quite delicate” issue. And even worse, other right-wing voices are now saying she committed perjury about the matter.

But this story is not what it seems. Instead, it’s yet another right-wing media red herring to distract from the impeachment inquiry, and which also falls apart upon even the closest inspection of its claims.

It starts with a Democratic staffer, whom Fox News identifies as Laura Carey with the House Foreign Affairs Committee, asking Yovanovitch in an email to meet up “to discuss some Ukraine-related oversight questions we are exploring.” The staffer said she would “appreciate the chance to ground-truth a few pieces of information with you, some of which are quite delicate/time-sensitive and, thus, we want to make sure we get them right."

Tucker Carlson ran a report on this story Thursday night, saying Yovanovitch had, in fact, responded to the email, and claiming that she said she hadn’t in her testimony:

Video file

Citation From the November 7, 2019, edition of Fox News' Tucker Carlson Tonight

TUCKER CARLSON (HOST): Yovanovitch claimed that she never personally responded to it, never responded to the Democratic staffer. In fact, it turns out that she did respond. In fact, she said she, quote, “look forward to chatting with you,” to that staffer, and as Congressman [Lee] Zeldin pointed out, the ambassador's original answer, which was dishonest, was given under oath.

So maybe she’ll get hauled into court like Roger Stone, and threatened with life in prison. Ha! Just kidding.

Zeldin himself has even shared a video of this report, retweeting a link from The Daily Wire’s Ryan Saavedra, who repeated Carlson’s suggestion that Yovanovitch had committed perjury.

Zeldin also told Fox News, per the network’s report: “I specifically asked her whether the Democratic staffer was responded to by Yovanovitch or the State Department. It is greatly concerning that Ambassador Yovanovitch didn't answer my question as honestly as she should have, especially while under oath.”

But the story quickly crumbles. Even Fox’s own report included part of the testimony explaining that the Democratic staffer was the one who started the communication by sending a message to Yovanovitch’s personal email. Furthermore, Yovanovitch never told the committee that she hadn’t responded at all to the staffer, but instead said she had pursued official channels.

As Yovanovitch told the committee, and which was also reproduced in the Fox online piece: “So, she emailed me. I alerted the State Department and, you know, asked them to handle the correspondence. And, she emailed me again and said, you know, 'Who should I be in touch with?'”

Fox’s report even reprinted Yovanovitch’s full email in response to the staffer — part of which Carlson excluded — containing what else she said after the initial pleasantries above: “Thanks for reaching out -- and congratulations on your new job. I would love to reconnect and look forward to chatting with you. I have let EUR [Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs] know that you are interested in talking and they will be in touch with you shortly.” (Emphasis added.)

The relevant exchange is found in pages 213 to 216 of Yovanovitch’s deposition, when Zeldin asked: “And what did you do after you received the email?”

“I alerted the State Department,” Yovanovitch responded, “because I'm still an employee and so matters are generally handled through the State Department.”

“Was that person responded to by you or someone else?”

“I believe, yes, by [redacted] in the Legislative Affairs office,” Yovanovitch answered.

Zeldin then asked if she had received any subsequent request, to which Yovanovitch said there had been a second email from this staffer. “I didn't respond to that email, because I had already transferred everything to the State Department and I figured they would be in touch, and they were.”

At worst, Yovanovitch clumsily neglected to mention in laying out the events that when she referred the matter to the official channels, she had also sent this person a brief email telling them that the request had been so referred. But even then, she specifically said that she did not respond to the staffer’s second email, showing just how thoroughly she was following proper procedures.

Nevertheless, Carlson’s accusation has been dutifully picked up by outlets and right-wing figures including RedState, The Daily Wire, Townhall, The Daily Caller, Fox Business host Lou Dobbs, and talk radio host and NBC News contributor Hugh Hewitt.