How John Solomon Undermined Journalism

With the release of the report from the House Intelligence Committee on their impeachment hearings, Trump’s enablers are outraged that Representative Adam Schiff got access to the phone records of key players in Giuliani’s extortion scheme. According to Byron York, of particular concern is the fact that those records include telephone calls by John Solomon.

Finally, the publication of John Solomon’s records raised still other issues, this time about freedom of the press. In the excitement over the Democratic report, there was little or no discussion about the problems that might arise from the House Intelligence Committee publishing a journalist’s phone records. But in the past, at least when President Trump was not involved, similar issues have been a concern of press advocates…

Searching media coverage Tuesday and Wednesday, there was little or no discussion on whether Schiff’s disclosure touched on Solomon’s First Amendment rights. Solomon is the target of much criticism in mainstream reporting, but he is a journalist who should enjoy the same protections as others in his profession.

York isn’t the only one complaining. The guy who smeared a U.S. ambassador with a mountain of lies in order to get her fired actually had the nerve to talk about a lack of decency.

The problem with claiming that someone like Solomon deserves the protections of the first amendment is that he wasn’t acting as a journalist. While he calls himself an “investigative journalist,” he’s not simply a conservative reporter as some would suggest. He’s been a political operative for years now.

I first noticed stories by Solomon when I began tracking down the origin of the smears about the Clinton Foundation. He wrote volumes spreading those lies. As it turns out, one of his sources was Victoria Toensing, a pattern that has persisted to the current impeachment hearings about Ukraine. At the time, Toensing was representing an undercover FBI informant who claimed he could blow the whistle on Clinton corruption.

What we eventually learned is that the Justice Department determined that they had “serious credibility concerns” with Toensing’s client and that there were inconsistencies between his testimony and the documents they had obtained as part of their investigation.

You might, however, notice a pattern here when I point out that, while Solomon was collaborating with Toensing, the same lies about the informant were being repeated by Trump on Twitter and by Representative Devin Nunes on Fox News. The cast of characters looks very familiar, doesn’t it?

Solomon went on to write about the Trump-Russia investigation. He specifically focused in on the Steele dossier and often quoted anonymous sources that sounded an awful lot like members of the House Intelligence Committee.

Since March, Solomon has been writing articles related to Giuliani’s Ukrainian racket – including smears against Ambassador Marie Yavanovitch, claims that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 election, and attacks on the Bidens. He admitted that Lev Parnas is the one who connected him to the source of much of his material—former Ukrainian prosecutor Yuri Lutsenko.

Documents shared with congress by the State Department inspector general give us an inside look at how these kinds of stories were coordinated.

Included in the roughly 50-page packet was an email from Solomon to Toensing, diGenova, and Parnas previewing an article he’d written that was not yet published…

After that email became public, Solomon claimed he was simply fact-checking the piece before it was published. But Toensing, diGenova, and Parnas are not mentioned in the article, raising the possibility that the trio, who had been working to find evidence of wrongdoing by the Bidens in Ukraine, had been working directly with Solomon on the story.

In other words, Solomon was running the article by his handlers to get their input and/or approval prior to publication.

Just as we saw with the efforts to smear the Clinton Foundation, the team of Toensing and diGenova would sign on as lawyers to represent people who had dirt on Trump’s opponents to sell, usually in exchange for favorable treatment by Trump’s Justice Department. Parnas or Toensing connected those people with Solomon, who wrote the stories that were spread by Devin Nunes, Donald Trump, and a whole host of right wing news outlets. In the midst of all of that, Solomon was also a client of Toensing and diGenova.

It is in that sense that I would challenge Solomon’s claims to be a journalist. Just like Giuliani, Toensing, diGenova, Parnas, and Nunes, he was working as a political operative on Trump’s behalf. Beyond the fact that he spread lies that benefited the most corrupt individual to ever serve as a U.S. president, he contributed to the undermining of journalism, which is equally disturbing. Any time a political operative disguises themselves as a journalist, it infects the entire culture with suspicions about who we can trust.

Support the Washington Monthly and get a FREE subscription

Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.