One of the ways Republicans and allies of President Donald Trump sought to undermine the Nov. 15 public testimony of former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, in the impeachment inquiry was to claim she gave "dishonest" testimony under oath in the past.
Fox News host Tucker Carlson carried the torch on his Nov. 7 show, when he highlighted portions of testimony Yovanovitch gave to Congress behind closed doors.
Carlson told his viewers that Yovanovitch was recalled from her post "following allegations of serious partisanship and political bias."
He said that a Democratic congressional staffer reached out to Yovanovitch before the whistleblower complaint became public on Sept. 26. Yovanovitch, Carlson then said, wasn't truthful in her Oct. 11 closed-door testimony about the handling of that email. Carlson said his show had obtained the email from the staffer to Yovanovitch.
"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, ‘look forward to chatting with you’ to that staffer," Carlson said. "And as Congressman (Lee) Zeldin pointed out, the ambassador’s original answer, which was dishonest, was given under oath."
The scope of this fact-check is to assess Carlson’s key claim: That Yovanovitch gave dishonest testimony under oath. And more specifically, that Yovanovitch claimed that she never responded to an email from the staffer in question when, in fact, she had.
The transcript, in this case, disproves Carlson’s point.
Here are the facts.
Yovanovitch testified as part of a closed-door hearing Oct. 11 that she received an August email from a Foreign Affairs Committee staffer. The email was sent to Yovanovitch’s personal email, she said.
Rep. Lee Zeldin, R-N.Y., pressed Yovanovitch about the details of the staffer’s email, including whether Yovanovitch knew the person who emailed her and how she handled that communication.
Yovanovitch said her understanding of the email was that the Foreign Affairs Committee wanted her to talk about the circumstances of her May removal as ambassador to Ukraine. Yovanovitch said she knew the staffer because the staffer previously worked at the State Department.
Zeldin asked Yovanovitch if the staffer was trying to get Yovanovitch to come in and testify. But Yovanovitch answered that the communication "just didn't get that far" because Yovanovitch "transferred that information" to the State Department.
Asked specifically if the staffer was "responded to by you or someone else," Yovanovitch said she believed someone in the legislative affairs office had done so. (The identity of that person is redacted).
Critically, Yovanovitch never said she didn’t respond, as Carlson claimed.
Yovanovitch went on to talk about a second email from the staffer. The staffer said, "oh, okay, you know, who should I be talking to?"
Yovanovitch, according to the transcript, said she didn’t reply to that email.
For full context, what follows below is the relevant exchange between Zeldin and Yovanovitch, based on the transcript released by the House committees involved in the impeachment inquiry.
Zeldin: "Did you know this person?"
Zeldin: "And how did -- where did you know that person from?"
Yovanovitch: "She had previously worked at the State Department."
Zeldin: "And how do you know that person at the State Department?"
Yovanovitch: "Because she worked at the State Department."
Zeldin: "Where did you work together at the State Department?"
Yovanovitch: "Well, I’m not exactly sure. I think she worked in DRL and in the office that handles human rights, and it must have been either in connection with my Ukraine work or previous work in the European Bureau. I don't recall exactly when we met."
Zeldin: "And when was -- how often do you communicate with this person?"
Yovanovitch: "That was the only time."
Zeldin: "When was the last time you had communicated with that person?"
Yovanovitch: "Well, I should actually clarify. 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?"
Zeldin: "To try to get you to come in and testify to the House Foreign Affairs Committee?"
Yovanovitch: "It wasn't clear to me whether it was going to be – whether this was a discussion with her, whether this was a discussion with other staffers, whether it was a deposition. I mean, it just didn't get that far, because I transferred that information to the State Department lawyers well, H, actually." (The transcript doesn’t make clear who is "H.")
Zeldin: "And what specifically was she asking you to speak about?"
Yovanovitch: "I think -- I think it was the circumstances of my departure, or maybe she just kept it more general and said to catch up, but I understood it as that."
Zeldin: "Do you know if she had reached out to other people about that?"
Yovanovitch: "I don't know."
Zeldin: "And you -- one more time. And what did you do after you received the email?"
Yovanovitch: "I alerted the State Department, because I'm still an employee and so matters are generally handled through the State Department."
Zeldin: "Was that person responded to by you or someone else?"
Yovanovitch: "I believe, yes, by (redacted) in the Legislative Affairs office."
Zeldin: "Did you receive any subsequent requests to testify to the House Foreign Affairs Committee or to come in to speak to someone at the House Foreign Affairs Committee following that initial email? Was there any follow-up?"
Yovanovitch: "Well, as I said, there was the second email where she said, oh, okay, you know, who should I be talking to? 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."
Carlson said Yovanovitch claimed under oath that she never personally responded to an email from a Democratic staffer. But "in fact, it turns out that she did respond."
Yovanovitch, based on the transcript that Carlson and others have access to, made no such claim. Yovanovitch never said she didn’t respond to the staffer. Yovanovitch did say she did not respond to a second email. But she alluded to replying to an initial email.
We rate Carlson’s claim False.