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Who is John Solomon? Here’s what we know about the journalist whose stories shaped the Ukraine saga

A tweet from President Donald Trump is displayed as former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch testifies before the House Intelligence Committee in Washington on Nov. 15, 2019. (AP/Harnik) A tweet from President Donald Trump is displayed as former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch testifies before the House Intelligence Committee in Washington on Nov. 15, 2019. (AP/Harnik)

A tweet from President Donald Trump is displayed as former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch testifies before the House Intelligence Committee in Washington on Nov. 15, 2019. (AP/Harnik)

Bill McCarthy
By Bill McCarthy November 19, 2019

Top diplomats have repeatedly linked President Donald Trump’s posture toward Ukraine to John Solomon, the journalist whose reports gave false credence to a number of Ukraine-related conspiracies that have found a receptive audience in Trump and some of his closest allies. 

Solomon, 52, had been working until recently as an opinion writer at The Hill and is now a Fox News contributor. His columns were cited three times in the whistleblower complaint that helped spur House Democrats to open their impeachment investigation into Trump.

They’ve remained a focal point as the House investigates whether the Trump administration withheld military aid to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to publicly commit to an investigation of former Vice President Joe Biden and the 2016 election.

On Nov. 19, House Intelligence Committee ranking member Devin Nunes, R-Calif., opened the second week of public impeachment hearings by citing Solomon’s scoops and findings as fact. 

"Solomon’s reporting on Burisma, Hunter Biden and Ukraine election meddling has become inconvenient for the Democratic narrative," Nunes said in his statement, which came just one day after The Hill announced it would be reviewing, annotating and correcting Solomon’s columns.

So, who is John Solomon? The veteran Washington, D.C., reporter has become a regular on Fox News and a go-to source of information for Trump. A series of springtime articles he published about Ukraine helped kickstart the events at the heart of the impeachment inquiry. 

His columns alleged corruption by Biden and a former ambassador and accused Democrats of working with Ukraine to hurt Trump’s chances in 2016. They gained traction as Trump, his allies and various Fox News hosts talked about them on TV and social media.

Solomon did not respond to requests for comment sent to his Facebook page and personal lawyer. Fox News also did not respond to requests for comment.

Who is John Solomon?

Journalist John Solomon is interviewed at the Conservative Political Action Conference on March 14, 2013, in Oxon Hill, Maryland. (AP/Wass)

Solomon worked for years at the Associated Press and briefly at the Washington Post before moving to the Washington Times, where he was editor in chief. He later spent time at Circa and the Center for Public Integrity before joining The Hill in 2017.

Solomon won an award in 2002 for a series on what law enforcement knew ahead of the Sept. 11 attacks. But media critics also questioned his early work, saying he had a "history of bending the truth to his storyline" and "massaging facts to conjure phantom scandals."

Solomon’s commentary for The Hill has generated the most buzz. In 2017, he played a major role in pushing the inaccurate Uranium One conspiracy, alleging that Hillary Clinton sold a share of America’s uranium to Russia in exchange for a massive donation to the Clinton Foundation. 

RELATED FACT-CHECK: Exaggerated post connects Clintons, Russia, uranium deal

In 2018, The Hill began labeling Solomon’s articles as opinion. Then, in March and April 2019, Solomon published a series of columns alleging conspiracies involving Democrats and Ukraine. 

One of his key sources, apparently, was former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal lawyer. 

According to the New York Times, Giuliani, whose activities were central to the administration’s efforts to get an investigation launched into Trump’s political rivals, gave Solomon a cache of information on Biden, his son Hunter and special counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe.

"I really turned my stuff over to John Solomon," Giuliani told the New York Times.

When Fiona Hill, Trump’s former top Russia expert, was asked during private testimony how she first learned about Giuliani’s "interest" in Ukraine, she mentioned Solomon, whose columns outlined the same conspiracies that Giuliani was actively pushing on Twitter and TV

Senior State Department official George Kent later testified that what he had described as the "campaign of slander" against former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch began with one of Solomon’s articles and ended with Yovanovitch’s removal.

And Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, director for European Affairs at the National Security Council, said he became concerned about Giuliani and the narratives he was pushing in part because of Solomon’s columns. State Department official Catherine Croft said the same.

Solomon’s methods have been further scrutinized since the impeachment inquiry began. In March, he shared an advance copy of a column with Giuliani’s associates, including recently indicted Ukrainian businessman Lev Parnas, who has reportedly helped connect him to sources.

Solomon left The Hill in September for undisclosed reasons, and Fox News soon hired him. He has stood by his work as "completely accurate and transparent," even as one impeachment witness after another has questioned his findings.

Solomon’s allegations on Yovanovitch, Biden

Solomon’s opinion articles on Ukraine have advanced a number of unsupported allegations about Yovanovitch, the Bidens and supposed Ukrainian meddling in the 2016 election. 

He has had an assist from Fox News host Sean Hannity, Giuliani and Trump, who tweeted about Solomon’s work four times and recently suggested he should win a Pulitzer Prize. 

Solomon has appeared on Hannity’s primetime TV show at least 55 times since March 20, according to our search via Nexis. He has been mentioned many more times, as well.

On March 20, Solomon went on Hannity’s show to promote a column he had published that day based on an interview he conducted with Yuriy Lutsenko, then the top prosecutor in Ukraine. 

The column quoted Lutsenko falsely claiming that Yovanovitch gave him a list of people he should not prosecute, a charge the State Department denied and Lutsenko has since retracted. The column also claimed Yovanovitch had privately bad-mouthed Trump, citing a letter from former Rep. Pete Sessions, a Texas Republican, to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Yovanovitch denied both allegations during her testimony. 

But the allegations had already left their mark, having been promoted on Hannity and other Fox News programs, circulated within right-wing media and tweeted out by Trump and his oldest son, Donald Trump Jr. Yovanovitch was abruptly recalled from her post in May.

Other impeachment witnesses have criticized Solomon’s writing on Yovanovitch. Kent testified that Solomon’s article "was, if not entirely made up in full cloth, it was primarily non-truths and non-sequiturs." He later said he had "every reason to believe it was not true."

Vindman said all the "key elements were false," noting that Solomon’s columns "smelled really rotten" before joking, "His grammar might have been right."

Similar objections have been raised in testimony about two articles Solomon published about Biden in April, which were also referenced in the whistleblower’s complaint.

Solomon’s April columns asserted that then-Vice President Biden forced Ukraine to fire former prosecutor general Viktor Shokin in order to stop an investigation into Burisma Holdings, a gas company for which Hunter Biden served on the board. Solomon wrote that Biden withheld aid dollars from Ukraine as leverage to get Shokin removed.

There’s no evidence of wrongdoing by either Biden, as we’ve noted before. It’s not clear that the long-dormant investigation into Burisma had been reopened, as Solomon claimed, and Western leaders and institutions were united in wanting Shokin removed.

RELATED FACT-CHECK: Donald Trump ad misleads about Joe Biden, Ukraine and the prosecutor

In his closed-door deposition, Kurt Volker, the former U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, said he believed Lutsenko — a key but questionable source in many of Solomon’s columns — was "making things up." He said Biden "was representing U.S. policy at the time."

"The allegations themselves, including those against Ambassador Yovanovitch, did not appear to me to be credible at all," Volker said during public testimony Nov. 19. "I’ve known Vice President Biden for a long time. Those accusations were not credible."

Solomon’s columns also alleged misconduct in Ukraine by Democratic donor George Soros and claimed, without much evidence, that Democrats coordinated with Ukrainian officials to interfere in the 2016 election by sharing dirt on Trump and reviving a 2014 investigation into former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort, who had ties to the country’s old, pro-Russia regime.

These claims are unproven, and the U.S. intelligence community has concluded that it was Russia — not Ukraine — that interfered in the 2016 election, with the intent of helping Trump.

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Our Sources

C-Span, "Impeachment Hearing with Amb. Kurt Volker and National Security Aide Tim Morrison," Nov. 19, 2019

C-Span, "Impeachment Hearing with Lt. Col. Vindman and Vice President Pence Aide," Nov. 19, 2019

C-Span, "Impeachment Hearing with Former Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch," Nov. 15, 2019

C-Span, "Impeachment Hearing with William Taylor and George Kent," Nov. 13, 2019

House Intelligence Committee, Transcript of deposition of Catherine Croft, Oct. 30, 2019

House Intelligence Committee, Transcript of deposition of Alexander Vindman, Oct. 29, 2019

House Intelligence Committee, Transcript of deposition of George Kent, Oct. 15, 2019

House Intelligence Committee, Transcript of deposition of Fiona Hill, Oct. 14, 2019

House Intelligence Committee, Transcript of deposition of Marie Yovanovitch, Oct. 11, 2019

House Intelligence Committee, Transcript of deposition of Kurt Volker, Oct. 3, 2019

Oliver Darcy on Twitter, Nov. 18, 2019

The Washington Post, "John Solomon leaves behind lasting damage at the Hill," Nov. 15, 2019

The New York Times, "The Man Trump Trusts for News on Ukraine," Nov. 12, 2019

Media Matters for America, "Impeachment witnesses trash John Solomon's "reporting" in The Hill," Nov. 11, 2019

ProPublica, "How a Veteran Reporter Worked with Giuliani’s Associates to Launch the Ukraine Conspiracy," Oct. 25, 2019

The New York Times, "Giuliani Is Said to Be Under Investigation for Ukraine Work," Oct. 23, 2019

Media Matters for America, "How conservative writer John Solomon served as the conduit for Rudy Giuliani's Ukraine conspiracy theories," Oct. 17, 2019

Factbase Videos on YouTube, "Speech: Donald Trump Holds a Political Rally in Lake Charles, Louisiana," October 10, 2019

HuffPost, "A Lot Of Trump’s Ukraine Conspiracy Theories Come From One Right-Wing Columnist," Oct. 11, 2019

The Washington Examiner, "John Solomon to join Fox News as contributor," Oct. 5, 2019

The New Yorker, "The Invention of the Conspiracy Theory on Biden and Ukraine," Oct. 4, 2019

NBC News, "Giuliani says State Dept vowed to investigate after he gave Ukraine docs to Pompeo," Oct. 3, 2019

The Daily Beast, "Biden Dirt File Has Private Email Between John Solomon and Rudy Allies," Oct. 3, 2019

Rudy Giuliani on Twitter, Oct. 3, 2019

The Daily Beast, "Leaked Memo: Colleagues Unload on John Solomon, the Journo Who Kicked Off Trump’s Ukraine Conspiracy," Sept. 28, 2019

John Solomon on Twitter, Sept. 26, 2019

The Hill, "Solomon: These once-secret memos cast doubt on Joe Biden's Ukraine story," Sept. 26, 2019

The Hill, "Let's get real: Democrats were first to enlist Ukraine in US elections," Sept. 23, 2019

The Hill, "George Soros's secret 2016 access to State exposes 'big money' hypocrisy of Democrats," Aug. 7, 2019

The Hill, "How the Obama White House engaged Ukraine to give Russia collusion narrative an early boost," April 25, 2019

The Hill, "Ukrainian to US prosecutors: Why don't you want our evidence on Democrats?" April 7, 2019

The Hill, "Joe Biden's 2020 Ukrainian nightmare: A closed probe is revived," April 1, 2019

The Daily Wire, "Calls Grow To Remove Obama’s U.S. Ambassador To Ukraine," March 24, 2019

Donald Trump Jr. on Twitter, March 24, 2019

Ryan Saavedra on Twitter, March 23, 2019

Fox News, "Hannity," March 20, 2019

Donald J. Trump on Twitter, March 20, 2019

The Hill, "Top Ukrainian justice official says US ambassador gave him a do not prosecute list," March 20, 2019

The Hill, "As Russia collusion fades, Ukrainian plot to help Clinton emerges," March 20, 2019

Columbia Journalism Review, "Something Fishy?" August 2012

Columbia Journalism Review, "John Solomon Gives Us Less Than Meets the Eye — Again," Feb. 27, 2007

Email interview with Laura Keiter, communications director at Media Matters for America, Nov. 15, 2019

PolitiFact, "Who is Marie Yovanovitch, the former ambassador to Ukraine removed by Trump?" Nov. 14, 2019

PolitiFact, "No proof Biden or Kerry channeled U.S. aid for Ukraine to Burisma," Nov. 11, 2019

PolitiFact, "Donald Trump ad misleads about Joe Biden, Ukraine and the prosecutor," Oct. 11, 2019

PolitiFact, "Fact-checking Charlie Kirk’s misleading tweet about Democrats, Ukraine," Oct. 3, 2019

PolitiFact, "Read the declassified whistleblower complaint on Ukraine, Biden and Trump," Sept. 26, 2019

PolitiFact, "Donald Trump’s boasts about former Ukrainian prosecutor’s fairness ring false," Sept. 26, 2019

PolitiFact, "Fact-checking Joe Biden, Hunter Biden, and Ukraine," May 7, 2019

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Who is John Solomon? Here’s what we know about the journalist whose stories shaped the Ukraine saga