Zeldin: Yovanovitch “did not accurately answer” under oath about contact with House Dem staffers

This might complicate House Democrats’ plans next week to use Marie Yovanovitch as a kickoff witness for public impeachment hearings. During her closed-door testimony, the former ambassador to Ukraine told Rep. Lee Zeldin that she had not responded to e-mail interrogatories from a Democratic staffer regarding the issues at hand in the inquiry. However, an e-mail exchange acquired by Fox News and Tucker Carlson shows that Yovanovitch did in fact respond directly to the e-mail, expressing hope to meet soon:

Laura Carey had specifically reached out to Yovanovitch — on the latter’s personal e-mail account rather than State Department official e-mail, which violates protocol. Yovanovitch testified that she forwarded it to State for instructions, and explicitly stated that she hadn’t responded to Carey’s follow-up e-mail. However, the exchange looks different than Yovanovitch described in direct questioning from Zeldin:

On Aug. 14, Carey reached out to Yovanovitch with pleasantries about the last time the two had “crossed paths” — “when I was detailed to” the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — before noting that Carey had resigned from the State Department to join the House Foreign Affairs Committee staff performing oversight work.

“I’m writing to see if you would have time to meet up for a chat — in particular, I’m hoping to discuss some Ukraine-related oversight questions we are exploring,” Carey then wrote to Yovanovitch. “I’d 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.”

Carey continued: “Could you let me know if you have any time this week or next to connect? Happy to come to a place of your choosing, or if easier, to speak by phone at either of the numbers below. I’m also around this weekend if meeting up over coffee works.”

On Aug. 15, Yovanovitch responded: “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.”

On Aug. 19, Carey wrote, “Great — thanks for the response and I look forward to hearing from them. As mentioned, it would be ideal to connect this week… assuming this week is doable for you schedule-wise?”

Note that Carey’s e-mail to which Yovanovitch was responding was not merely pleasantries between acquaintances. Carey specifically wanted to interview Yovanovitch about “some Ukraine-related oversight questions we are exploring.” That request should have gone through the State Department executive branch first. Yovanovitch’s response was substantive to that request, noting that she was looping in her State bureau to make those arrangements.

As the screen grabs that Zeldin supplies in his tweet make clear, Yovanovitch never disclosed that exchange in her testimony. In fact, despite Zeldin’s directly on-point question, Yovanovitch appears to have dissembled and avoided mentioning her response with Carey — which raises the question of why.

Does this make a case for perjury? That’s doubtful, especially since Yovanovitch still has time to update her deposition before her upcoming public testimony. This is, however, directly on point for the GOP’s pushback against the impeachment inquiry. This makes it look as though Yovanovitch knew she had something to hide, and the use of her personal e-mail account by Carey makes it look like Democrats knew they had something to hide about the whistleblower and their initial work on this issue, too. It looks as though Democrats tried to work around normal protocols and processes to cook something up here, and Republicans might have just caught them in one of those machinations — and an attempt to cover it up.

At least, that’s the narrative House Republicans will advance, and not without some reason to do so. When Yovanovitch testifies in public, she’d better expect House Republicans on the panel to delve very deeply into this exchange.