Articles by John Solomon in the Hill earlier this year accelerated a “smear campaign” against Marie Yovanovitch, then the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, in furtherance of a rogue foreign policy spearheaded by Rudolph W. Giuliani on behalf of President Trump, according to the Trump-Ukraine Impeachment Inquiry Report released Tuesday by the House Intelligence Committee. “The smear campaign entered a more public phase in the United States in late March 2019 with the publication of a series of opinion pieces in The Hill,” notes the report, which synthesizes hearings and documentary evidence relating to the president’s efforts to secure an investigation by Ukraine into former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

According to the report, Giuliani was busy about a year ago meeting with Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman — two Florida-based associates of Giuliani now under indictment on campaign finance charges — as well as with Viktor Shokin and Yuriy Lutsenko, who served consecutively as Ukraine’s prosecutor general. Part of the discussions included hurling dirt at Yovanovitch, a career diplomat who had served with distinction under presidents on both sides of the U.S. political divide.

“In late 2018, Ukrainian officials informed Ambassador Yovanovitch about Mr. Giuliani’s and Mr. Lutsenko’s plans to target her. They told her that Mr. Lutsenko ‘was in communication with Mayor Giuliani’ and that ‘they were going to, you know, do things, including to me,’ " reads the report.

The whisper campaign morphed into something much greater via Solomon’s work as an “opinion contributor” at the Hill. As the report notes, the Hill published a story on March 20 stemming from a Solomon interview with Lutsenko. “Top Ukrainian justice official says US ambassador gave him a do not prosecute list,” reads the headline. As the New York Times reported last month, Lutsenko attributed the “list” allegation to a bad translation and acknowledged that no such thing existed. He did say that Yovanovitch “had in fact asked him not to target certain politicians and activists who worked with the embassy on its anti-corruption efforts,” according to the Times report.

More from the report: “Mr. Solomon’s work also included false allegations that Ambassador Yovanovitch had ‘made disparaging statements about President Trump.’ Ambassador Yovanovitch called this allegation ‘fictitious’ and the State Department issued a statement describing the allegations as a ‘fabrication.’ ”

The report expands upon public testimony before the House Intelligence committee in November, not to mention previous depositions behind closed doors. Witness after witness attested to the impact of Solomon’s reporting, how it shook the political ground in Ukraine and how weak it was on a factual level. George Kent, a top State Department official, said during his deposition, “It was, if not entirely made up in full cloth, it was primarily non-truths and non-sequiturs.”

The Intelligence Committee’s report fills in some details about Solomon’s interactions with the protagonists in the effort to harm Yovanovitch’s reputation. Over the two days preceding the airing of the March 20 interview concerning the alleged do-not-prosecute list, Solomon spoke with Parnas “at least six times,” according to the impeachment investigation. An April 7 Solomon piece carried allegations that the U.S. Embassy in Ukraine stood in the way of issuing visas for Ukrainians who wanted to deliver evidence of wrongdoing by Democrats to the United States. Giuliani later went on Fox News to talk about the alleged fishiness coming from Ukraine.

In the days following that piece, Solomon was busy, according to the report:

Over the course of the four days following the April 7 article, phone records show contacts between Mr. Giuliani, Mr. Parnas, Representative Devin Nunes, and Mr. Solomon. Specifically, Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Parnas were in contact with one another, as well as with Mr. Solomon. Phone records also show contacts on April 10 between Mr. Giuliani and Rep. Nunes, consisting of three short calls in rapid succession, followed by a text message, and ending with a nearly three minute call. Later that same day, Mr. Parnas and Mr. Solomon had a four minute, 39 second call.

Here we must stipulate that it’s the job of journalists to bang the phones. On some stories, that means chatting with unsavory characters who may or may not end up in federal indictments. So we won’t ding Solomon for using his phone.

In response to an inquiry from the Erik Wemple Blog, Solomon sent an email statement decrying as “outrageous and false” the idea that he engaged in a smear campaign. More:

I wrote a single column in spring 2019 that touched on Ambassador Yovanovitch and more broadly on the US embassy in Kyiv and its difficult relationship with Ukrainian prosecutors. That column accurately reported:
1.) That in 2018 a GOP House committee chairman sent an official letter to the State Department recommending Yovanovitch be recalled. I posted a copy of the document and State confirmed it received the letter.
2.) That the US embassy had funded a civil society group known as the AntiCorruption Action Centre along with George Soros' foundation and others and later sent a letter in April 2016 pressing Ukraine prosecutors not to investigate the group. I posted that letter. And George Kent recently testified he signed and sent the letter.
3.) That US and Ukraine officials were engaged in a dispute over certain prosecutions on Ukraine soil involving anti-corruption activists. Prosecutor General Lutsenko claimed on the record the ambassador gave him a list of citizens not to prosecute during a 2016 meeting. The State Department claimed that did not happen, calling it a fabrication. Both sides were quoted, including State officials who acknowledged they occasionally applied pressure on Ukrainian prosecutors not to pursue certain cases against Ukraine citizens deemed friendly to the US. George Kent recently confirmed several specific instances where such pressure was applied involving probes of people like [Vitalii] Shabunin, [Artem] Sytnyk, [Serhiy] Leschenko and [the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine].
I took extensive time to get State’s side of the story and present it along with Ukraine’s stated concerns. That’s hardly a smear. It’s good journalism.

Bolding was added to highlight an important distinction: There was never any real “story” here. There was only an effort by Giuliani to scare up a bogus line of attack against Democrats in preparation for the 2020 presidential election. The record demonstrates that Solomon’s work advanced that campaign, his rebuttals notwithstanding. Phone records cited in the report align with a report from ProPublica finding that:

Parnas worked closely with Solomon to facilitate his reporting, including helping with translation and interviews. Solomon also shared files he obtained related to the Biden allegations with Parnas, according to a person familiar with the exchange. And the two men shared yet another only recently revealed connection: Solomon’s personal lawyers connected the journalist to Parnas and later hired the Florida businessman as a translator in their representation of a Ukrainian oligarch.

In comments to CNN, Solomon said, “Parnas was very helpful to me in getting Ukraine officials on the record. I only gradually realized Lev was working for other people, including Rudy Giuliani.” Parnas is also under indictment for lying and falsifying records — not the best credentials for a key source.

Reacting to the criticism aired during the impeachment hearings, Solomon told Fox News that he stands behind his facts. “I’m probably being punished a lot because the president’s mentioned me, he likes my reporting,” Solomon said. “But I don’t report because it makes the president happy. I report because the truth needs to get out there.”

Solomon’s former bosses seem less sure about that. In tweets on Tuesday, Bob Cusack, the Hill’s editor in chief, referenced a previously announced effort to scrub Solomon’s archives:

That all sounds noble and proud, but reality intrudes on the spin: Solomon had a well-documented history of flimsy and slanted stories, to the point that his colleagues at the Hill complained about his stuff. The Hill’s response? It forced him to file his pieces as an “opinion contributor,” an affront to bona fide opinion contributors around the world.

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