He never said it would be quick.
Nearly two months later, nothing from the Hill on Solomon. “The review is ongoing and is a high priority for The Hill,” wrote Lisa Dallos, a spokeswoman for the Hill, in an email to the Erik Wemple Blog.
We here at the Erik Wemple Blog have no reason to doubt the party line. According to sources at the Hill, the review is indeed ongoing, but the journalists involved also have important non-Solomon work to submit. There is a considerable amount of breaking news happening at the White House, in Congress and at federal agencies these days.
The Hill’s problem lies in the fact that Solomon began immersing himself in the topic of Ukraine while everyone else was covering other stuff. Last March, for instance, the Hill published a summary of Solomon’s interview with then-Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko, who had some things to say about Marie Yovanovitch, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine at the time. “Top Ukrainian justice official says US ambassador gave him a do not prosecute list,” reads the headline. Lutsenko later admitted that there was, in fact, no such list, though he claimed that Yovanovitch “asked him not to target certain politicians and activists who worked with the embassy on its anti-corruption efforts,” according to the New York Times. The Hill’s story also carried an allegation from former representative Pete Sessions (R-Tex.) that he “had proof the ambassador had spoken of her ‘disdain’ for the Trump administration.”
Solomon’s work helped stir whispers about Yovanovitch that led to her removal as ambassador. If his fixation on a Ukrainian prosecutor and an unsung ambassador appeared to come from nowhere, subsequent reporting revealed his tracks. ProPublica reported in October on Solomon’s ties with Rudolph W. Giuliani, Trump’s talkative personal lawyer, and with Giuliani associate Lev Parnas, who was indicted last year for allegedly providing illegal foreign campaign contributions. Among Giuliani’s portfolio was the promotion of the story that Ukraine colluded with Democrats in the 2016 presidential election. From ProPublica:
Interviews and company records obtained by ProPublica show 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.
Giuliani told the New York Times:
In an interview, Mr. Giuliani said he turned to Mr. Solomon earlier this year with a cache of information he believed contained damaging details about [former vice president Joe] Biden, his son, Hunter Biden, and the special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.“I really turned my stuff over to John Solomon,” Mr. Giuliani said. “I had no other choice,” he added, asserting that Obama-era officials still “infected” the Justice Department and wouldn’t have diligently investigated the information he had compiled.“So I said here’s the way to do it — I’m going to give it to the watchdogs of integrity, the fourth estate,” he said.
Criticism descended upon Solomon from witnesses in the House impeachment hearings of late last year. George Kent, the State Department’s top Ukraine hand, described Solomon’s reporting this way: “If not entirely made up in full cloth, it was primarily non-truths and non-sequiturs.”
For his part, Solomon has said that the impeachment hearings have vindicated his reporting:
I welcome The Hill’s review of my Ukraine columns and suggested it myself a month ago. I believe it won’t be hard for The Hill to review these since all my source documents and original interviews are transparently linked for all to see. And the three main points of my Ukraine columns are now validated by Adam Schiff’s impeachment witnesses.1. State officials did have a concern that the Hunter Biden/Burisma connection posed the appearance of a conflict for Joe Biden, as well as ongoing questions of corruption. Those concerns forced them to cancel a [USAID] project with Burisma.2. State Department officials exerted pressure on Ukraine prosecutors to drop certain cases against activists, including one group partly funded by George Soros.3. There were efforts around Ukraine in 2016 to influence the US election, that included a request from a DNC contractor for dirt on Manafort, an OpEd from Ukraine’s US ambassador slamming Trump and the release of law enforcement evidence by Ukrainian officials that a Ukraine court concluded was an improper interference in the US election.
Solomon, who parted ways with the Hill last fall, also told Fox News, "every fact in every one of the columns I wrote for the Hill was vetted by the Hill, by their lawyers. And to this day, every fact remains in public, confirmed.”
That defense hints at why the Hill’s review is such a rabbit hole. For instance: It may well be “confirmed” that Sessions sent a letter to the State Department regarding Yovanovitch. But where’s the proof for the contents of Sessions’s letter? Yovanovitch denied the claim in a House hearing. And consider that Sessions raked in contributions from Giuliani’s associates after sending his letter.
The intricacies make clear that the Hill’s review is far from a fact-check. It must be a full-on pat down that spots omissions, failure to provide context and so on. Its staffers need to perform this painstaking analysis for story after story — a piece on Joe Biden and the Ukrainian prosecutor whose sacking he demanded; a piece on the alleged Ukrainian “plot” to assist Hillary Clinton; a piece on alleged DNC-Ukraine meddling; a piece on alleged U.S. strong-arming of Ukraine’s justice system; and so on.
Take your time, the Hill. And while you’re at it, have a look at Solomon’s role in the so-called Uranium One “scandal." (Solomon did not respond to an inquiry.)
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