A lawyer for Colonel Vindman, the National Security Council’s Ukraine expert, sent a warning letter to Fox News on Wednesday seeking a retraction or correction of an October segment hosted by one of the network’s biggest personalities, Laura Ingraham, which baselessly suggested that the colonel, a decorated Iraq war veteran, might be guilty of espionage.
The letter sent by David Pressman, a partner at Boies Schiller Flexner, the law firm run by David Boies, also highlighted inflammatory statements made on the network by others, including President Trump’s son Donald Trump Jr., who has repeatedly attacked Colonel Vindman, and Tucker Carlson, another prominent Fox host.
“LTC Vindman and his family have been forced to examine options, including potentially moving onto a military base, in order to ensure their physical security in the face of threats rooted in the falsehood that Fox News originated,” Mr. Pressman wrote in the letter.
Mr. Pressman’s letter mainly focused on an Oct. 28 segment of “The Ingraham Angle,” a show hosted by Ms. Ingraham, featuring an exchange between her and John Yoo, who was a top lawyer in the George W. Bush administration.
During their exchange, Ms. Ingraham said, “Here we have a U.S. national security official who is advising Ukraine, while working inside the White House, apparently against the president’s interest, and usually, they spoke in English. Isn’t that kind of an interesting angle on this story?”
“I found that astounding,” Mr. Yoo replied. “Some people might call that espionage.”
Espionage is a felony punishable by death, Mr. Pressman wrote, adding that before the Fox segment, Colonel Vindman “had never in his decorated 20-year career of service to his country been accused of having dual loyalties or committing espionage.”
Colonel Vindman was not trying to silence the news media, Mr. Pressman wrote. “He wants, as any responsible news organization would want, to see the truth published,” he said. “And Fox News is in a unique position to correct its falsehoods with truth.”
The segment “sparked a torrent of republications and copycat false charges,” he added.
A statement released Wednesday by Fox said that “as a guest on Fox News, John Yoo was responsible for his own sentiments, and he has subsequently done interviews to clarify what he meant.”
In an opinion article in USA Today, under the headline, “No, I didn’t call Alexander Vindman a spy,” Mr. Yoo wrote that he was accusing Ukraine of conducting an espionage operation.
“Despite what might appear on twitter, I didn’t say that Lt. Col. was a spy or that he had committed espionage,” he wrote in an email. “I had no reason to question that he was doing his duty as an officer. But I think the Ukrainians are engaged in espionage against us.”
Mr. Pressman, in his letter, wrote that “Mr. Yoo’s argument that he did not intend to accuse LTC of Vindman of ‘espionage’ — that he was accusing the nation of Ukraine instead — is as legally irrelevant as it is factually incredible.”
Much of the right-wing criticism of Colonel Vindman accuses him of being partisan, despite his long career of nonpartisan military service, or that he has divided loyalties, since he immigrated from Ukraine when he was 3.
The president himself has suggested that the colonel is a “Never Trumper,” without evidence. And critics like Ms. Ingraham have seized on the fact that he had high-level contacts with Ukrainian officials and provided guidance to them on American policy, even though a key part of his job at the National Security Council is to interact with the Ukrainian government and communicate security policy.
The letter also said that Mr. Trump had “built on and amplified Fox News’ falsehoods” in his Twitter posts, and cited a segment in which Donald Trump Jr., referred to the colonel as “a leftist,” though a Fox News host interjected to say “we don’t know if he’s a leftist.”
In testimony on Tuesday before the House Intelligence Committee, Colonel Vindman said that he twice reported his concerns about the Trump administration’s dealings with Ukraine to N.S.C. officials. At the hearing, Republicans ominously highlighted an episode where the Ukrainians sounded out the colonel about becoming the country’s defense minister, an offer the colonel said he rejected immediately and reported to his supervisors.
In the aftermath of his appearance, attacks against Colonel Vindman escalated, including from Donald Trump Jr., who called the colonel “a low level partisan bureaucrat and nothing more.”
Mr. Carlson and Ms. Ingraham seized on Ukraine’s job offer, with Mr. Carlson saying on-air, according to the letter, “Now we learn that the Ukrainian government repeatedly asked Vindman to take formal control of the entire Ukrainian military, which, for the record, is a very strange thing to ask of an active duty American military officer.”
Mr. Pressman lamented such insinuations about his client’s loyalty.
“Not once in his twenty-year career has LTC Vindman sought out the public eye,” he wrote. “LTC Vindman came into the public not because of his actions, but despite them.”