David Hale, the secretary of state for political affairs, said in his closed-door impeachment testimony that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Fox News host Sean Hannity last spring to ask about the smear campaign launched against former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, according to a transcript made public Monday night.
Discussing efforts by Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani and pro-Trump media to cement Yovanovitch's reputation ahead of her ouster as ambassador, Hale noted that Pompeo spoke to Giuliani twice in late March regarding the allegations.
At the time, conservative columnist John Solomon had reported that former Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko said Yovanovitch had given him a "do not prosecute list." (Lutsenko would later back that claim.)
Hale, the third-ranking official in the State Department, then testified he was aware that Hannity was pushing this particular narrative on his Fox News primetime program, and that Pompeo contacted the conservative star.
"It did come up at some point with the secretary," Hale said. "I understood that he did call Sean Hannity."
Asked what he understood Pompeo said to Hannity, Hale claimed that if there are any allegations, "I need to see what the evidence is."
Hale further stated that no one within the State Department thought the allegations that were being spread about Yovanovitch had any credibility or validity. At the same time, he acknowledged that despite the belief there was no basis behind the smears, the word got back to Yovanovitch there would be no statement of support for her.
Hale's testimony tracks with that of both Yovanovitch and senior State Department official George Kent, who both said it was their understanding that Pompeo or someone from State called the Fox host to see "what's going on" with coverage of the allegations.
Hannity, meanwhile, has repeatedly denied that Pompeo contacted him at the time, calling the testimony "fake news" and insisting that he barely covered Yovanovitch during the spring, claiming that he did not "know anything about this woman." threatened to file a lawsuit if officials did not "stop spreading bogus rumors and smears about" him.
Shortly after Hale's testimony was dropped on Monday night, Hannity reiterated his denials that Pompeo or anyone from State called him, exclaiming that "we barely mentioned this woman."
"I never got a call from Secretary Pompeo," Hannity fumed. "Why would they lie about this ?!"
"You are being smeared," Fox News legal analyst and frequent Hannity guest Gregg Jarrett responded, going on to add, "Donald Trump has been smeared for the better part of three years."