Third official testifies that Mike Pompeo called Fox News host Sean Hannity about Marie Yovanovitch

A Fox News analyst claims that Hannity is being "smeared," even though a State Dep't official confirmed the call

By Igor Derysh

Managing Editor

Published November 19, 2019 11:05AM (EST)

Sean Hannity (AP/Jeff Roberson)
Sean Hannity (AP/Jeff Roberson)

Fox News host Sean Hannity raved that he never spoke with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about ousted Ukrainian Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch after a third witness confirmed the alleged call to impeachment investigators.

David Hale, the undersecretary of State for political affairs, testified under oath that Yovanovitch was the victim of a baseless smear campaign led by Rudy Giuliani, the personal attorney of President Donald Trump, which led to her ouster. According to a transcript of the closed-door deposition released Monday, the smears originally stemmed from the conservative columnist John Solomon, who wrote in The Hill that former Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko had claimed that Yovanovitch gave him a “do not prosecute list.” Lutsenko later retracted that claim.

Hale, the third-ranking official at the department, claimed to impeachment investigators that Hannity had pushed the same narrative on Fox News and that Pompeo had reached out to Trump’s favorite host.

“It did come up at some point with the secretary,” Hale said. “I understood that he did call Sean Hannity.”

Hale testified that Pompeo told Hannity, “I need to see what the evidence is.”

The State official added that no one at the department believed the allegations against Yovanovitch, though officials did not act to prevent her ouster.

Hale’s testimony is backed up by both Yovanovitch and George Kent, another senior State Department official.

Yovanovitch testified at her closed-door deposition that she was told Pompeo “was going to place a call to Mr. Hannity on Fox News to say, you know, ‘What is going on? I mean, do you have proof of these kinds of allegations or not? And if you have proof, you know, tell me, and if not, stop.’”

"I understand that that call was made,” she added. “I don’t know whether it was the secretary of somebody else in his inner circle, and for a time, you know, things kind of simmered down.”

Kent testified under oath that Solomon’s report was “primarily non-truths and non-sequiturs.”

Kent testified that a top official at the State Department reached out to Hannity but said it may not have been Pompeo.

“I believe, to the best of my recollection, the counselor for the department, Ulrich Brechbuhl, reached out and suggested to Mr.Hannity that if there was no proof of the allegations, that he should stop covering them,” Kent said.

Hannity previously called Yovanovitch’s testimony “fake news” and claimed that he did not “know anything about this woman.”

The host went off on his Fox News show Monday after Hale’s testimony was released.

“So apparently David Hale’s testimony was released a short time ago, and he says in the transcript it was his understanding that Pompeo called me to ask you what evidence you had of allegations regarding Yovanovitch,” Hannity told guest Gregg Jarrett. “Gregg, how many times do I have to say it? We barely mentioned this woman! Four times in passing. No, I never got a call from Secretary of State Pompeo or anybody else. Why would they lie about this?”

“You are being smeared,” replied Jarrett, the network’s legal analyst. “Donald Trump has been smeared for three years.”

Even as he called Yovanovitch’s testimony “fake news” earlier this month, Hannity conceded that “her name came up a few times on the show” and that he “did ask one question about a news report if she was involved in something.”

“It was a question,” he said, “We do news here.” (While his show appears on Fox News, Hannity is a political commentator.)

Hannity referenced Solomon’s report, which has not been retracted despite his main source walking back his comments. Solomon was a frequent guest on Hannity’s show. The question Hannity mentioned was to attorney Joe diGenova, who Trump wanted to add to his legal team. DiGenova played his own role in Trump’s Ukraine saga and received an advance copy of Solomon’s reporting linking the State Department’s work in Ukraine to billionaire Democratic donor George Soros.

Shortly after Kent testified publicly, diGenova was back on Fox airwaves pushing the baseless Soros conspiracy theory.

“There's no doubt that George Soros controls a very large part of the career foreign service of the United States State Department,” he told Fox host Lou Dobbs. “He also controls the activities of FBI agents overseas who work for NGOs — work with NGOs. That was very evident in Ukraine, and Kent was part of that. He was a very big protector of Soros.”

Soros’ Open Society Foundations ripped the network for airing diGenova’s conspiracy theory in a letter to Fox News head Suzanne Scott.

“It is bad enough that Mr. Dobbs continues to repeat the widely discredited reporting of John Solomon . . . that has been debunked by the U.S. State Department and recanted by Mr. Solomon’s main source,” the letter said, adding that diGenova’s comment was “beyond rhetorical ugliness, beyond fiction, beyond ludicrous. It’s patently untrue; it’s not even possible. This is McCarthyite.”

By Igor Derysh

Igor Derysh is Salon's managing editor. His work has also appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Herald and Baltimore Sun.

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