Impeachment witness transcripts released Friday revealed that right-wing journalist John Solomon’s outsized role in jumpstarting Trumpworld’s Ukraine narrative was based on lies and false information.
Solomon, who until recently was a columnist and executive vice president at The Hill, has found himself entangled in the impeachment inquiry as his Ukraine-related articles and frequent appearances on pro-Trump Fox News host Sean Hannity’s show helped fuel the president’s desire to have Ukraine investigate former Vice President Joe Biden and the unfounded 2016 DNC server conspiracy.
Throughout his testimony, released Friday, the National Security Council’s top Ukraine expert, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman—who listened in on the infamous July 25 call between Trump and Ukraine’s president—noted that Solomon’s March interview with former Ukraine Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko was a major influence on Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and the president, especially when it came to the removal of former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch last spring.
Lutsenko alleged in the interview that Ukrainian officials helped Hillary Clinton in 2016 by leaking damaging information about former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort and that Yovanovitch gave him a “do-not-prosecute” list and cooperated with Clinton to undermine Trump. Lutsenko eventually retracted the claim against Yovanovitch.
During an exchange with pro-Trump Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY), Vindman said that Solomon’s article was a “false narrative” and that he based that assertion on “authoritative sources.” When asked to elaborate, the NSC official said he talked to “interagency colleagues from State and the Intelligence Community,” adding they found the claims against Yovanovitch to be “preposterous.”
When pressed by Zeldin on whether his sources found some or all of the parts of Solomon’s report to be false, Vindman replied, “I think all the key elements are false.”
“Just so I understand what you mean when you say key elements,” the congressman asked. “Are you referring to everything John Solomon stated or just some of it?”
“All the elements that I just laid out for you,” Vindman said. “The criticisms of corruption were false.”
“Were there more items in there, frankly, congressman? I don’t recall,” he continued. “I haven’t looked at the article in quite some time, but you know, his grammar might have been right.”
Top U.S. diplomat George Kent made similar charges in his testimony that was released on Thursday, saying that Solomon's report was “if not entirely made up of full cloth, it was primarily non-truths and non-sequiturs.”
Meanwhile, in her testimony released Friday, former National Security Council official Fiona Hill pointed out that the first time she was made aware of Giuliani’s involvement in Ukraine was via Solomon’s articles and Giuliani’s Fox News appearances early this year.
She also went on to claim that it was her understanding that Yovanovitch’s removal was “set in motion” by Giuliani “in conjunction with people who were writing articles” and Giuliani’s constant appearances on TV, adding that she was also aware after Yovanovitch had been removed that Trump had retweeted some of Solomon’s Ukraine articles.
Solomon owes his role in fueling the chain of events that has led to the ongoing scandal—and the very likely impeachment of Trump later this year—to the fact that various individuals in the upper echelons of Trumpworld were eager to devour and weaponize his columns in their messaging wars on the Democrats and the Bidens.
The president’s personal attorney, in particular, prolifically and aggressively promoted Solomon’s work on Ukraine and the Bidens—even if that work hadn’t actually been published yet.
One Saturday night in early April, The Daily Beast received a long message, unprompted and unsolicited, from Giuliani that read, “Edited draft of column that goes live at 7a tomorrow.” The rest of the missive appeared to contain the entirety of a column, and included near the top several apparent headline suggestions such as, “Ukrainian to U.S. prosecutors: Why don’t you want our evidence on Democrats?” and “Ukrainians build a case against Democrats, but does anyone in U.S. care?”
The text also read: “By John Solomon.”
It was unclear why or how Trump’s personal lawyer was getting apparently full previews of upcoming Solomon stories before they published online or elsewhere. Giuliani claimed that Solomon hadn’t provided him with this one, and that he had gotten it from someone else, though he did not say who.