Days before the shocking events of January 6, the Pentagon chief expressed concerns about potential violence at the Capitol and offered to deploy the National Guard, says investigative journalist John Solomon.
“The fundamental question is not: did someone see this coming? Because the NYPD, FBI, Pentagon, Capitol Police all believe they saw something bad coming. I think the fundamental question was: why weren’t the resources deployed? And who made that decision?” Solomon says.
In this episode, we sit down with John Solomon, founder of Just the News, to discuss investigations into the January 6 attack on the Capitol as well as soon-to-be-released declassified documents from the Crossfire Hurricane investigation.
“Right now, my sources are telling me to prepare for a handful, a small number of indictments sometime in the next three months or so,” Solomon says.
What will happen with U.S. Attorney John Durham’s investigation under the incoming Biden administration?
This is American Thought Leaders, and I’m Jan Jekielek.
Jan Jekielek: John Solomon, great to have you back on American Thought Leaders.
John Solomon: It’s good to be with you, Jan.
Mr. Jekielek: So John, I’m looking at this beautiful backdrop that you have behind you. The situation in D.C. right now, after these attacks on the Capitol on January 6, it’s quite a different scene [based on what we’re told by] the reporters that we have on the ground over there, what they’re actually showing us. Today, this is Monday; we’re going to air this episode on Tuesday. What are things looking like over there?
Mr. Solomon: When you think about it, there are 28,000 troops across the capital city—National Guardsmen and National Guardswomen here. That’s five to seven times what is left in Iraq and in Afghanistan in the U.S. troops. We have one of the largest deployments of U.S. troops in American history to an American city. The city is on lockdown. They’re in the neighborhood where my office is, which is just a couple of blocks from the White House.
Every corner is guarded by a combination of police and guardsmen. The guardsmen are all carrying their automatic weapons, but it does not look [like] they have ammunition when you look at them. They look like they have empty cartridges below.
But the show of force is impressive. It’s designed to ward off, with shock and awe, anyone who might dare come to this city in the next few days and try to cause trouble. I think that people are still on nerves. There was a little fire near the Capitol this morning that caused an evacuation; it was actually in a homeless encampment.
I think nerves are on fray. When I talked to the security apparatus of the city, I just talked to the chief of staff to the Pentagon just a few minutes ago, there is a high degree of confidence that we are in as good a security posture as we could ever be if anyone were to try something, and I think that alone is enough to ward off any serious violence on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday of this week.
But it’s a remarkable display in the Capitol. I can’t remember a time in my 30 years in town where troops are in the Capitol except maybe for a ceremony, but they’re there in full display, in full gear, and prepared to assist the Capitol Police in any security measure. So it’s a remarkable time, what I won’t soon forget, but I think the city is fairly secure and ready for any challenges that may come its way in the next three or four days.
Mr. Jekielek: John, there’s a lot of information flying around, and it’s unclear what’s accurate, what’s not accurate. There’s some information around there being some sort of insider threat inside the actual military. Is there any truth to this from what you’re aware of?
Mr. Solomon: Did some reporting on that. So there is a natural vetting process, not based on any specific intelligence, but just a concern that since there were some ex-military and current military members that were believed to be at the Capitol during the January 6 riots.
Today, they would go through anyone that’s in uniform here at the Capitol or in the city just to make sure that they don’t have any social media background or other ties that might be tied to the extremists that the FBI hears are trying to attack the city. I’m told this is routine. It’s not based on any actionable intelligence that a member of the National Guard is somehow planning to be an insider threat. I think it’s just an abundance of caution.
This is something the military has done very well over many years in Afghanistan where the insider threat in the Afghan army has been serious. That’s just a natural vetting process but it’s not driven by a specific belief that there’s any one guardsman or group of guardsmen here in town that are planning to participate in the violence. It’s more done out of an abundance of caution.
Mr. Jekielek: Are there any indications of anyone actually been taken off duty for something related to this vetting process?
Mr. Solomon: As of midday on Monday, which is the last time I had a chance to talk to folks—no. No one had been removed, there’d been no insider connections established to anyone, and the National Guard is operating just in a normal capacity. They’re trying to keep the city safe, but no removals, no arrests, no indications at this moment that any of the National Guardsmen are planning to be an insider on some elaborate attack on the capital city.
Mr. Jekielek: John, there’s obviously a big investigation underway into some of the people that facilitated the attack on the Capitol and so forth that were in there. Where are we at with that right now from what you know?
Mr. Solomon: There are really multiple investigations ongoing, perhaps the most important to date will be the one that Congress itself conducts. They named General [Russel] Honoré, a very well respected army general, someone who, after the Katrina disaster and the hurricanes in the early 2000s, got the city right-sided quickly. It’s somebody who actually has Republican credentials. He was believed to have an interest in running for Senate in Louisiana a few years ago.
So he has appeal on both sides of the aisle, somebody who’s very well respected, and I think a lot of people are looking to him to give the first concrete answers of who knew what, when, what happened, why was the National Guard turned down in advance of January 6, what did the sergeant at arms know, what did the Capitol Police know, what did Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell know. They’re obviously multiple failures of communication, multiple failures of planning.
One of the things that I heard today from Kash Patel, Pentagon chief of staff, is that there is a concern that some of the best intelligence about prior warnings, prior concern, that there was a planned attack on the Capitol, didn’t get, in their most complete form, to the people who could most benefit from that. That would be the Capitol police chief, the speaker of the House, and the Senate majority leader.
So General Honoré is going to lead the Congressional Review of this. There is talk of creating a blue-ribbon panel much like we had after 9/11. That’s still in a very amorphous state, not certain that will happen. Separately, the Metropolitan Police Department is conducting their own investigation of what happened. Both are learning from the security perspective, how all the law enforcement agencies in this town can do it better next time, and also help the FBI identify and bring to justice every single perpetrator that entered that Capitol illegally.
Mr. Jekielek: You mentioned this blue-ribbon commission à la 9/11. There has been rhetoric that I’ve heard by pundits comparing this to 9/11 except perhaps that the threat is inside our gates, inside America, all this sort of thing. What do you make of this?
Mr. Solomon: The toll from 9/11 was more than 3000 people [who] died in a single day. I think there’s a difference in the scope of loss of human life, of damage. We had two giant towers and half of the Pentagon blown up that day. In the Capitol [on January 6], we had a lot ransacked and vandalized. It’s hard to compare one attack to the other.
Certainly, in terms of loss of life and destruction, 9/11 was far more devastating. But the idea that one of the most important icons of democracy, the House of the people, was so easily violated has a lot of parallels. We wanted to know: How could it be that the Pentagon and the Twin Towers can be taken down by a bunch of guys in an airplane? I think people want to know: How did this happen?
So I think the fervor to prevent a further attack like this is as similar as 9/11. I think the shock that we feel more vulnerable, seeing our Capitol attacked the way it was, and so easily so, shocked everyone no matter what side of the political aisle you’re on.
I think the idea that these people [are] Americans, not foreigners coming out of an American Airlines jet, but Americans attacking their own Capitol has brought a different dynamic than 9/11. It’s one thing to have foreign terrorists [who] want to attack us, it’s another thing when our own people are turning against our institutions, and I think there are many differences between the two days, but I do think the fervor and the shock are very similar in Washington.
I was here on 9/11. Actually, I had just crossed the Memorial Bridge when the plane hit the Pentagon. I actually saw the fireball in my rearview mirror, and I remember how shocked people were that day. This city is in a state of shock. It cannot believe that the Capitol was overrun so easily and by our own people, by the American people.
Mr. Jekielek: Is it reasonable to use the term “insurrection” in your mind?
Mr. Solomon: I try to stay away from the semantics game because “insurrection” in one person’s mind is a “revolution” in another person’s mind, or a “peaceful protest.” We had this same problem during the riots last summer. Some people would just call it “protest” while Molotov cocktails are being fired into police cars where officers were sitting and in grave danger. I think we can just use a consistent name: This was a riot. It was a riot last fall and last summer when people burned down our cities. It was a riot when people went into the Capitol.
In order for it to be an insurrection by the dictionary definition that we’re all used to, there had to be some effort that the intent and the purpose of this invasion of the Capitol was to overthrow the government, and I don’t see that being the case at this moment. It does appear that some people clearly were angry. They certainly wanted to make a statement.
There was some early suggesting that they were going to capture members of Congress. Then the U.S. attorney came out last Friday and said, “No, we don’t really have concrete evidence of that.”
I think before we determined it’s under insurrection, we need to understand the intention, the planning, and who all the perpetrators were. We’re far from knowing that. It may very well turn out to be one. But right now, I don’t think we have enough facts and evidence to determine the intent of whether the goal of the people storming the Capitol was to overthrow the government or take control of the Congress.
Mr. Jekielek: John, this is very interesting because while you’re saying that this requires a proper investigation and actually understanding what actually happened in detail in a measured way, things seem to be moving lightning quickly. There’s also some criticism of the quick movement, that basically, civil liberties will be on the chopping block, much as they were, frankly, after 9/11. I’ve heard people describe discussion of some kind of Internal Patriot Act-like type legislation. What are you making of this?
Mr. Solomon: I think as more facts come out, some of that talk may be tamped down a little bit. There are plenty of laws on the books now to deal with this scenario. In fact, the Patriot Act actually imagined a scenario where American residents, or citizens, or green cards could participate in a terror act or an act of violence as grave as this. The law enforcement has many of the tools that it already needs, and in fact, may have all the tools it needs.
I think the problem here was not knowing that something was going to happen. It was after the knowledge that something was going to happen, how we reacted, and I think a lot of the emotional response—which is understandable, we feel violated after this horrible incident—is going to give way to a little more rationalization, a little more factual basis.
One of the facts that I don’t still understand, one of the questions that I think is essential for the American people to understand, there was a conversation on January 4, it’s not in dispute, between the Pentagon chief and the Capitol police chief. In that conversation, the Pentagon expressed concerns that there might be violence and they made an offer, “If you ask us, we will give you the National Guard,” keeping in mind that under American law, the Pentagon can’t deploy soldiers onto American soil. Only a requesting authority, a governor, a mayor, Capitol Police, or the sergeant at arms can make a request. Until then, the Pentagon must stand by and not deploy its people. It’s illegal for us to deploy American troops against American people.
So we know from the police chief, the answer he got, he liked the idea. After the Pentagon had this conversation on January 4, he liked the idea of getting troops. He went to his bosses, the House and Senate sergeant at arms, and according to the Capitol police chief son, now the former chief, he said that he was told that the powers that be didn’t like the optics of having soldiers in the Capitol.
There were the tools to prevent this attack, there was knowledge that an attack might be possible. I think the real question is in the chain of command, who made the decision not to deploy the guard, not to take the extra resources, not to recognize that all this stuff that was going on in social media, talking about raiding the Capitol, even talk of killing police officers that FBI and NYPD police were aware of, why we didn’t prepare better?
I don’t think there are more laws that are going to need to be made. The laws that were in place flagged the concerns, the Pentagon made the offer. I think the biggest failure that we have to come to grips with was not taking the resources, not preparing appropriately.
From what I don’t know, we just don’t know what Nancy Pelosi and Mitch McConnell knew, and what they say. We know from the police chief, allegedly, what the people right below the Senate majority leader and the House speaker said. They said: bad optics. Optics should not be a matter when you’re worried about security. But we don’t know whether that optics was reserved, that was a decision made in isolation by the two sergeant at arms, or whether it went up a layer to the political leaders in Congress.
One of the things that’s striking is that Nancy Pelosi in her news conference on Friday last week didn’t take questions. We’re not able to ask her and to get an answer of “Were you consulted about the troops? Were you told about the threat on the Capitol? Who made the decision that optics was the reason not to accept the help?” I think those are more important questions than adding more laws and more things to the books.
It appears that the intelligence resources that we had already identified the threat, and there was even an offer made to solve the threat. I think the failure is not acting on that information appropriately. I have a funny feeling just based on my reporting that some of the ultimate blame, some of the ultimate concern, could fall on the leadership of Congress, something that they’ve escaped in the first week of this tragedy.
Mr. Jekielek: It’s fascinating because I think that’s one thing everyone agrees on, that there were too few people, basically, mining the security at the Capitol. This is one point that’s not a dispute. The reason why, however, is subject to much conjecture from what I’m seeing.
Mr. Solomon: I think you’re right. We just don’t know the facts here. We didn’t know a lot of the facts after 9/11. I did much of the big groundbreaking reporting in 9/11, won a bunch of awards for it. We started 9/11 with the belief that we were sucker punched. We had no idea this was coming. As Condi Rice said on the podium a day or two afterward, nobody envisioned terrorist flying a jetliner into a building.
It turns out, it had been threatened many times and that the U.S. government had long feared that scenario, that using jets as a missile could be used by terrorists. And then we found out that nearly all of the elements of the plot, the hijackers at the training school, Moussaoui in Minnesota, the FBI and CIA knew it all, and they just failed to connect the dots.
The way 9/11 evolved in terms of knowledge; the way we learned about Benghazi. We were first told Benghazi was a spontaneous riot instigated by anger over an anti-Muslim tape, and before it was done, we [found] out that we knew that an Al-Qaeda element in Libya was planning such attack for retribution against the United States, and that it was carried out after many days and weeks of planning.
The fog of war often makes the initial assessment of history unclear and over time, with patience and good investigation, we learn the story will evolve to the real truth. I think we’re on a path towards the truth but we’re probably days or weeks away from having a complete picture.
I think the fundamental question is not “Did someone see this coming,” because NYPD, FBI, Pentagon, Capitol Police, all believe they saw something bad coming. I think the fundamental question was, “Why weren’t the resources deployed?” and “Who made that decision?” and we don’t know that answer. We have the Capitol police chief pointing his finger up to the sergeant at arms, we don’t know what the sergeant at arms story is, and tragically or unfortunately, we don’t know what Mitch McConnell and Nancy Pelosi knew.
I think it’s incumbent on all of us as journalists to keep pressing for those answers, to try to find out what the sergeant at arms knew, and find out what Nancy Pelosi, Mitch McConnell, and the other leaders in Congress knew. I think that getting that answer will give us a lot more understanding of the playing field and the corrections we need to make going forward.
Mr. Jekielek: John, I want to touch on something you just mentioned in a moment. But before I go there, there’s one more question. There’s been a lot of varied information about this one specific arrest of someone who had 500 rounds of ammunition on them. Essentially, the first headline I saw, it looked like some sort of radical was trying to penetrate the perimeter, and turned out that wasn’t exactly the case, but I don’t think anyone’s clear on what exactly the case is. Can you update us on that?
Mr. Solomon: What we know right now is that the man who was arrested over this weekend at a checkpoint carrying a gun with apparently 509 rounds of ammunition, if I remember correctly, is that he was a private security guard that was coming here to provide security for somebody, forgot to declare the ammunition and gun at the checkpoint, and got arrested. So it’s a little bit different, at least right now.
But sometimes, there are cover stories. You got to roll through them and see. But right now, as of midday Monday, when I talked to law enforcement just a little bit ago, what I was hearing was, it’s a bad judgment by one person but it doesn’t look like he was some malcontent coming here to do harm.
But anytime you hear anyone walking around Washington, D.C. with 500 rounds of ammunition, it does make you a little nervous and I think we need to get to the bottom of that. But right now, that story has evolved from potential threat averted at a checkpoint to perhaps a private security person, here to provide security for someone coming to the inauguration, not acting in a very smart way and getting tripped up by very good security. Again, the good news for the American people was, this was detected very quickly, and I think that gives us some confidence that all that security out behind us at the Capitol and at the White House is working the way it intended to work.
Mr. Jekielek: John, there’s this investigation that’s going to happen, obviously a critical investigation for all sorts of reasons. So here’s the question: A lot of Americans are deeply suspicious of investigations being done by whatever agency at the moment. In fact, as we speak, what we know, these Crossfire Hurricane documents have been declassified and are in the process of being vetted and so forth for release. I know they were supposed to be out yesterday, that’s been delayed again.
A lot of people expected that U.S. Attorney Durham would deliver some kind of a report or some kind of reckoning about what happened with Crossfire Hurricane—that hasn’t happened. There’s this deep suspicion among all sorts of agencies and especially with the whole Russiagate-Crossfire Hurricane situation, it’s to some extent warranted. So how can people feel secure that we will know, or the American people will know, what actually happened?
Mr. Solomon: You asked a great question. I had Newt Gingrich on my podcast recently. He talked about one of the greatest concerns he has, is that Americans on both sides of the political aisle no longer trust the institutions that made this country great, and prosperous, and safe, and effective. I think that this past election, the Capitol episode, the terrible tragedy on January 6, going all the way back to the Russia collusion story, institutions that normally have been viewed as above politics have been dragged into politics.
In order for this investigation to succeed for both sides to agree on what the facts are and to find a critical resolution to it, there has to be an absence of politics—something we’ve not been very good at in this city, certainly since Donald Trump came along.
I just want to point out something: If you go back to 2018, there was an outstanding investigation done of the Russia collusion. It unraveled every aspect of what was wrong in the FBI, its conduct, what was wrong in the Justice Department, the CIA’s conduct. It was done by Congressman Devin Nunes, then the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, and the Democrats wouldn’t accept it.
And so it took us another two years to get to the point where now, generally, with the Inspector General, Devin Nunes, the declassified documents, the FOIAs that have come out, we now are in general agreement, even Democrats begrudgingly, that the FBI engaged in pretty significant misconduct.
Hopefully, it won’t take that many processes in order to get to the truth. I do say this: I’ve talked to a lot of Republicans in the last couple days, Nancy Pelosi’s decision to name General Honoré as a leader of the current investigation has brought a sense of bipartisanship.
Honoré is a guy above simple petty politics, [un]like the Adam Schiff versus Devin Nunes fights [which] clouded a lot of the Russia investigation early on, and Honoré’s got a big stature, a big reputation. He appeals to both parties, and if he can stay out of the political fray and just get us the facts, and if all members of Congress can say, no matter where the embarrassment is, if it’s Mitch McConnell, or Nancy Pelosi, or the police chief, or the Pentagon, or the Trump administration, let’s all agree that we’re not going to jump on each other until we get the facts, and we’ll agree what the facts are. Then we can make our own political assessments.
If General Honoré can achieve that, I think we can get back to the sort of things we did after 9/11. In 2005, we had a bipartisan commission that warned of election problems if we got to all-mail voting—that was done well. Unfortunately, by 2020, we forgot a lot about what we learned there.
But I think having the participants be above politics, not be petty, not trying to score points, not trying to remove a president or a speaker, but just say we’re going to get to the facts and let the politics play out after the facts, I think that can be the best thing that can happen here. Everyone I’ve talked to seems to have a high degree of confidence that General Honoré is the sort of man that could potentially carry that out and we won’t have the Adam Schiff finger pointing sort of stuff that we went through early on in the Russia collusion story.
Mr. Jekielek: Let’s talk about the declassification of Crossfire Hurricane. You and actually, Sara Carter were there reporting on this, right at the very beginning before we even stepped into it. As you said, there’s been very good reporting done on this. There’s a growing understanding that this whole Trump-Russia collusion idea was a falsehood, potentially political operation. I don’t know how definitively we can say that but there’s a lot of people agreeing that’s the case. Here’s my question: So what is the significance of this recent declassification? What can it offer?
Mr. Solomon: It’s a great question, Jan, and I think one of the most important things to think about, these are the documents, more than any others, that the FBI and the Justice Department did not want out, according to my sources, because of the potential institutional harm that the revelations could make.
So we know the general story. We know now that Christopher Steele’s dossier was paid for by Hillary Clinton. We know that it was infected with Russian disinformation that the vast majority of the allegations were never corroborated—in many cases debunked. We know that despite all of those problems, they never told the FBI and the Justice Department, never told the FISA Court, and therefore the FISA Court authorized the year of surveillance on people like Carter Page.
And at the end of the day, we know from the Mueller investigation that the core allegation that started the whole investigation, that Donald Trump was colluding with Vladimir Putin to hijack the election, has been dismissed, debunked, it’s not true. Mueller said, there were no Americans that knowingly and willfully engaged in the conspiracy to work with Russia to hijack the election.
So those things are not in doubt anymore and that’s a pretty significant shift. If you remember where we all were in March of 17 when we thought the Trump presidency was going to be ended prematurely by these allegations.
What we haven’t been able to determine is why the FBI took so many risks in not informing the court? Why Christopher Steele leaked his information? We know he leaked it at the end of the election, we didn’t know why. Who were some of the people that hooked Christopher Steele up to his sources? Who are some of the people that continue to allow the investigation to go forward, even though they knew, as Peter Strzok once said in his big text message, “No big there there.”
They knew there was no collusion, yet it went on, the investigation went on for two and a half years. The documents that President Trump has declassified, that should be made public by the middle of this week, I think will give us fundamental answers. Now, I’ve done a lot of reporting on what’s in these declassified documents. Here are the things I know we’re going to get from the documents.
First off, we’re going to learn that a year after Christopher Steele was fired for leaking— Now remember, he starts approaching the FBI in July, he gets engaged in September 2016, by November 1, he’s already fired. Nonetheless, his dossier continues to be used to justify the warrants and the public narrative for a year or two.
A year after he was fired, Christopher Steele came back to the FBI and he said to them, I leaked the information in September and October 2016 to create a narrative to the American public that Donald Trump was colluding for two reasons. One, I thought Donald Trump would be bad for my home country. Remember, Christopher Steele is not an American. He’s a British former-MI6 spy, an operative. So he said part of the reason was, he didn’t think Donald Trump would be good for his country. That was part of his motive.
The second and more prominent motive, he told the FBI, was that the email allegations against Hillary Clinton, her misuse of her personal server for classified email, had resurrected themselves at the end of the election—that was the James Comey reopening the email case that he had previously closed—and Christopher Steele wanted to end that conversation, distract, change the subject from that conversation, and that’s why he leaked.
That’s a big revelation. That answers a big question that we’ve all been sitting for two or three years, trying to surmise. Now, we have Christopher Steele’s own words saying, this is why I did it. That’s going to be very important.
The second big revelation, I think the second big headline, is that Christopher Steele reveals how he got to his famous subsource. If you remember, none of the information Christopher Steele gathered was his own. He was getting it predominantly from a network of which a singular subsource was the prominent source of information, and that included all the now disproven stuff about Donald Trump and Moscow, and the salacious allegations of sex, and Carter Page meeting with two Igors, Igor Sechin and Igor Divyekin, that we now know to be disproven.
All that came from a singular man. The FBI interviewed that subsource and he said, he made light of it, [he] didn’t intend that to be intelligence, some it was bar talk, some of it Christopher Steele got wrong, none of it was verified—that’s what the sub source said. We never figured out how did Christopher Steele get connected to that subsource.
In these documents, we are going to learn, I am certain of this, that Fiona Hill, the [U.S.] National Security Council Russia expert, a woman who became a significant impeachment witness against President Trump, Christopher Steele says, she introduced me, meaning Christopher Steele, to the subsource back in 2008/2009 when she worked at the Brookings Institute with that man and then that Russian subsource becomes Christopher Steele’s main guy for the dossier.
That’s a big revelation for two reasons. One, someone who is an antagonist during the impeachment proceedings had this earlier interaction with Christopher Steele that we didn’t know about. Secondly, she worked on the National Security Council and may have been compromised by this subsource. Why do I say that? The FBI has confirmed that in 2008, 2009, and 2010, they investigated the Russian subsource as a possible Russian asset and were about to do a FISA on him when he left the country hurriedly.
So the FBI has long distrusted this subsource and he was hanging around with one of the Russian experts on the National Security Council. She connects him to the man who brings us all these allegations of very twisted trail that we’re beginning to uncover, and I think you’re going to learn that in these documents when the president releases them in the next couple of days.
Mr. Jekielek: John, what do you think the holdup is with these declassified documents?
Mr. Solomon: These are some of the more sensitive documents from the investigation. The FBI has concerns about everything—from the protection of assets, and code names, and prior investigations that might be referenced in the Russia materials, to Privacy Act stuff. And obviously, there are individuals in America whose privacy is potentially impacted. And so I think there’s been a lot of back and forth.
My sources in the FBI said: Listen, we want to give the information, as much breadth as we can, and give it with the least amount of redactions, but we do have to comply with federal laws. And that has been dragging on for a very long time. But my sense is that we’re in the last hours of it. I think there’s general agreement about what’s going to be released. And I think it’s just a matter of when they can finish a couple of these last reviews.
It will certainly happen, according to my sources well before the President leaves office on Wednesday at noon, and I think it could come as early as midday Tuesday, we just have to wait and see [when] they get the final work done. It could come in a couple of drops. And maybe they do a little bit here, a little bit a few hours after that. But they’re in the final stages, and it’s going to be a large pile of documents.
My sources say it’s more than a foot tall in documents. And that’s a pretty big stack of documents when you’re talking about a foot tall. And we’re going to have a lot of reading. And you know, [what’s] important here is not just for the instant headlines—which we always want to get—but I think for history and posterity’s sake, we need to really dig in and absorb the information in these documents, do much like what was done after the JFK assassination or after 9/11, and take a bigger, broader look of where these fine institutions—the FBI, the Justice Department, the CIA—got off track.
How could someone like Christopher Steele, … someone who’s very respected in the Intelligence Committee … bring in something that was so wrong, and how there were so few alarm bells. What was really going on here was a political act, a political dirty trick, as many of my sources have been saying since 2017.
So you know, [with] the initial release, we’ll all get our first headlines. But I hope we spend some more time after the initial headlines absorbing this and all the other documents that have been released and come to some big picture things of how we’re going to avoid this happening in the future.
How do we hold to account those who perpetrated these problems? And what can we learn from it? Whether you’re a Democratic president, Republican president, a future party president, that you don’t enter what the 45th president of America, Donald Trump, endured, which was a very unfair, misguided, factually inaccurate investigation that had its roots in politics—by Christopher Steele’s own admission, by the money that was paid to him from Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic National Committee.
It’s no longer in doubt that the origins of the dossier, the origins of these allegations, originated with politics in mind, an election in mind. And those are the sort of things we want to make sure don’t repeat themselves in American history.
Mr. Jekielek: So John, what do you think is going to happen with the Durham investigation?
Mr. Solomon: I’m always loath to make predictions because I’ve almost never right. I think the more likely scenario is that they’re in the final stages of bringing a handful of indictments. That’s why he was upsized from a regular U.S. attorney to a special prosecutor. You wouldn’t do that unless you had a lot of evidence of criminality. … Particularly 18 months into the investigation, you wouldn’t do that. And I don’t think that the Biden presidency, and the new Biden team, has much interest in trying to stop it and to be accused of a cover-up and inherit all of this stuff that really is Hillary Clinton’s baggage from 2016.
I think the most likely scenario is John Durham will bring this to a logical conclusion. He’ll bring some charges if they are warranted. I think they’re focusing on a small handful of senior current and former FBI officials. And once we get that, who those are, and get those indictments decided upon one way or the other, there’ll be some form of a final report that tells us what John Durham knows.
A lot of the documents that we’re about to get from the president through this declassification are documents that Durham has had for a very long time. … Durham has been informed by these for months and perhaps more than a year. And while it will be new to us in the American public, it will not be new to him. It’ll probably help us understand why he’s been working for 18 months to bring the sort of finality to this case that we’re looking for.
But right now, my sources tell me to prepare for a handful, a small number of indictments sometime in the next three months or so. First quarter of 2021 is the timetable I’m now hearing. They thought they would achieve it before the summer and fall of 2020, but COVID and then some secret legal battles behind the scenes with grand jury, subpoenas, and other things have delayed John Durham from finishing his work.
But I don’t think it’ll carry far into the Biden presidency. Talking to some people on the Biden side of the aisle, I don’t think they have much interest in putting a stop to it and being accused of meddling with it. They don’t have much skin in the game. … This was a Hillary Clinton, James Comey, Andrew McCabe sort of thing. None of them are in his administration. And I think that the Biden administration will let it come to a natural conclusion.
Mr. Jekielek: I do want to talk about the incoming administration with you in just a moment. Before I head there, one thing that I know both you and I are a bit concerned about, but I wanted to get your take on, is the reaction of social media—let’s call it big tech—to this January 6 attack. It’s been extremely strong by most people’s estimation. It involved de-platforming the President of the United States. It involved removal of all sorts of accounts.
… I think it basically put into people’s minds: Wow, these companies are incredibly, incredibly powerful, and they’re exercising this power. And I think some people are thinking, well, if it can be used on the President of the United States, it can certainly be used on me. What are your thoughts?
Mr. Solomon: Well, many other people have been de-platformed the last few weeks. I’ve seen members of Congress be de-platformed, former members of Congress, some members of the pundit world have been de-platformed. So this is ongoing, and it’s gone way below the president. It started at the highest, most powerful man in the country, but it is trickling down.
Now, there are two things to keep in mind here. There’s no doubt that Facebook and Twitter are monopolistic. They’re so large. They’re so powerful. Some people say [they’re] oligarchies. They are so only because the American people use them. And if there is a large segment of America that does not or stops using them and finds alternatives, the consequences to them being monopolies will very clearly become apparent. They will lose value, they will lose customers, they will lose advertising.
And I think what we’ve all been focused on is the reaction to the Capitol riots and the de-platforming allegedly on the grounds that people were inciting violence. That will come down to an interesting legal question at some point. But this process has been ongoing for more than a couple of years. Facebook began to hire independent fact-checkers to make decisions about what was truthful or not on Facebook. This never happened in the early years of Facebook.
You take a look at Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg spent $350 to $400 million trying to influence the election by giving money to election judges and clerks and municipalities and election authorities across the country. These are all things that people have to absorb that this was a more ongoing process. It didn’t just suddenly happen on January 7, 2021.
And if you take the word of Jack Dorsey, in one of these recorded comments that James O’Keefe’s Veritas Project has made public, it appears that he’s not done. He wants to go down and down and down into the Twitterverse and find more people. There will be lawsuits that will challenge some of this. There’ll be some congressional action, I’m certain. There’s interest on both sides in breaking up Twitter and Facebook and making them smaller, less powerful.
But the greatest power still relies on the hands of the American people. Twitter and Facebook are only as powerful as their customer base and the money that’s paid to them. If large Americans say we don’t stand for this anymore: “I might hate Donald Trump, but I don’t think censorship is the right way to go.” There’s probably a lot of people in that category. If they start to peel off in the sort of numbers that have already begun peeling off, Twitter and Facebook will be responsible to their investors and there may be some self-correction even before the United States government or the courts get involved.
Meanwhile, there are all these new platforms coming up. We’ve got Parler, we’ve got Clouthub, we’ve got rumble, three very successful, early, nascent challenges. They’re certainly a 10th or 20th as large as Facebook and Twitter now, but they’re catching up quicker. And they’re going to have to figure out their own game. When do we intervene when there really is a threat of violence or a threat of criminality on our platform? Where’s our free speech line going to be versus where Twitter and Facebook set theirs. There’s going to be a period in America where we’re going to have to do some adjusting. The sliders are going to go up and down until we get it right. But the natural culture of America, the natural instinct of America is for free speech.
I think the most amazing moments I’ve seen in the last week is when Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, and now the Mexican president over the weekend, looking down at America saying that beacon of free speech: they got this wrong, this censorship is wrong. The Mexican president actually said this weekend, he’s going to bring a proposal, I think, to the next G7 or G20 meeting to try to create a global standard to prevent unnecessary political censorship. The fact that global allies, some that come from places where free speech wasn’t always endemic in their country, are speaking out against American free speech censorship tells us that we probably have this wrong right now. And it’s going to take some time.
But the great thing about the American experiment is the pendulum that the Founding Fathers created for us, if it gets too far to the right or to the left, the natural gravity of democracy, of our republic will pull it back towards the center. And I think that process has just begun: Parler, Clouthub, Rumble, forces in the market to correct it, Section 230, the courts, some interest in breaking up monopolies in the Democratic body of Congress. These things are going to take shape and probably pull the pendulum back in a good way for the American public.
But right now, it’s scary. And it’ll probably be uncertain for the immediate future, it could be two, three, four, five months before these things sort themselves out. But I’m pretty confident the courts and the free market economy will begin to create self-correction to censorship that most people I talked to feel has crossed the line.
Mr. Jekielek: I hope you’re right. I sincerely hope you’re right. At the same time, as far as I can tell, and I’ve looked, I’m only seeing Democratic lawmakers advocating for more censorship, not less, at least publicly [after January 6]. And Parler basically doesn’t exist right now. A whole platform was de-platformed right?
Mr. Solomon: Listen, one of the things that the conservative part of our country has to come to grips with is that they’ve been playing horseshoes, while the liberal activists, their opposition in the politics, has gotten closer to nuclear war. They’re just so much more skilled at taking control of [everything] whether it’s the election rolls, the free speech channels, the distribution channels.
But the conservatives have plenty of money. And a lot of the donor base that I’ve been talking to, in the last few weeks, realize that they’ve been underfunding or not had their eye on the ball, on things as important as we need a server farm that won’t silence conservative voices. We need an alternative to Twitter and Facebook. We loved it, but boy, we’re no longer served by it. There are news organizations that no longer represent the truth in our mind, meaning conservatives’ mind, this is the donors speaking. And we need to create new news outlets, things like Epoch Times, and Just the News that try to give the truth without a twist or a bent to it.
But I think there’s going to be a substantial investment in the conservative money donor base, long before they start picking their candidates for 2022 and 2024. There’s going to be an investment in money, in infrastructure, and in lawsuits and legal action, in legislators taking control of the rules, again, that got out of their purview in 2020. And I think Republicans can be their own best advocates and fix some of this themselves.
There’s always a natural moment of grievance and grieving after an election is lost like this one. Republicans were energized to get Trump another four years, keep the Senate, and they failed at it. And so the first reaction is grief and shock and dismay. But often that gives way very quickly to action.
And if you just take a look at 1992, Bill Clinton kicked George Bush out of office, and I think a lot of people were shocked that the 41st president, who popularly led the Gulf War could so soon be dispatched from office and dropped so quickly in popularity. But that gave rise to the Gingrich revolution. And by 1994, a mere two years after Bill Clinton claimed the Republicans’ clock, the Republicans had shockingly taken control of Congress.
I think that the conservative side of politics is deep into planning already and working in institution-fixing and lawsuit-plotting, and I suspect that they will be part of the natural correction of the pendulum that happens in American politics every two, four, six, eight years. I know a lot of people are dismayed. They feel like this is the end of it. I think it’s a reactionary, emotional moment in American political history. Bad things are happening. But I already see some of the counterbalance and the forces of countervailing politics taking shape.
And I suspect that over the next six, eight months, that will come into play. And we’ll feel a little better about the state of our country when those things are in play. Also, we’ll have to see how Joe Biden acts as president. That’s a very important thing. He’s been a mid-Atlantic moderate for most of his career. I’m not sure he’s a big fan of censorship. But we’ll see. And he can set a very big tone. And he can be a very important person in pulling the pendulum to the center, or he can be taken hostage by his left, and have to constantly defend himself from behind his own lines.
That story hasn’t been written. And that’s why we in journalism are going to watch it closely and try and inform the American public. But I don’t feel like America is at a tipping point yet. I do think there are some behaviors that make us feel like we’re there. But I think there are plenty of countervailing forces that can self-correct the situation before it gets out of hand.
Mr. Jekielek: John, with this incoming Biden administration, there’s talk of a flurry of executive orders from what we’re hearing. Can you just give me an overview of what we can expect in the first days?
Mr. Solomon: Absolutely. My good colleague, Joe Curl, did a nice list of the big things that they want to get done in the first 10 days: reversing a lot of the executive orders that the Trump administration put in on immigration, on pollution, and on environmental policies. Elections have consequences, and people are going to see the instant effect of this election when all those executive orders that were at the heart of the Trump economy, at the heart of the Trump policy base, at the heart of the Immigration and Border debate, they’re going to get reversed. There’s a checklist that Democrats and liberals have, and they’re going to get through a lot of them.
Some of the more—what people would call extreme, I don’t want to use that word myself, but—the idea of stacking the [Supreme] Court, of bringing in more states into the Union, I don’t think those are going to be readily on the new president’s mind when he gets into office. He’s going to try to get a COVID bill, an infrastructure bill through Congress with very tight margins, a 50/50 Senate split, where Kamala Harris is the only deciding vote for the Democrats. And the House, where fewer than a dozen seats separate Republican and Democratic control of the House. It’s going to take compromise something that this town hasn’t heard a lot of in the last few years—compromise, negotiation, conciliation—to get his big agenda items through: an infrastructure package, COVID relief.
And if he succeeds at that, it may lower the temperature for a while and make us all come to our senses a little bit, breathe a little bit and realize some of the ways we’ve acted the last six, eight months have probably not been in the best national interest. And hopefully, we’ll get back to a more normal politic in America. But that depends on Joe Biden being able to keep the far-left elements of his party—just like Republicans have to control the far- right of their party—from dominating the debate or standing in the way of the progress of the American people are demanding.
The American people want to get back to their jobs, their businesses, to life as normal, from this COVID pandemic. They want the economy to be fixed after this tragic pandemic we’ve had. They want better security in the capital. A new checklist that just came out, a new item on the checklist. They’re demanding action. If Joe Biden can’t deliver it, he and the Democrats are going to pay a tough price in 2022. If he delivers it, this country may calm down a little bit. And we may have a moment of pause in all of the grief and strife and anger and violence that has dominated our airwaves for the last six, ten months.
Mr. Jekielek: John, any final thoughts?
Mr. Solomon: As I look out, Republicans seem like they’re deep in grief and Democrats seem to be high on glee right now. I think both will level out. The job ahead is very difficult for both parties. We are a very divided country. We are a very anxious country. We’re a very economically-harmed country because of the China virus. And the idea that one extreme or the other extreme is going to dominate the next two years—the politics, the facts don’t match up with that right now. The map in Washington doesn’t match up that way.
… If anything good and positive is going to get done, it’s going to require something we haven’t been good at the last four to eight years. That’s compromise. I think if Mitch McConnell can develop a good relationship with Biden, if Speaker Pelosi, after the impeachment proceedings, can calm the left side of her party down and temper their expectations, there’s a real opportunity for optimism in America and an opportunity for progress.
There are millions of businesses and millions of Americans that have suffered such grievous loss in the last year. We had a great economy that was roaring, we can get that back and just kind of get a moment of normalcy in America, so that our enemies aren’t laughing at us, they’re back in awe of us.
But I actually think the dynamics are set up for less strife and more normalcy in 2021 if Joe Biden can navigate his party, and if the Republicans realize the opportunities in engagement are there for them. I’m not as [inaudible] as many of the people I hear on the television airwaves today. It might be good cable ratings, but I actually think America will be just fine.
It’s one of the great things about our politics, our institutions, is that when we hit a bad moment, we always seem to pull ourselves back up to a good place. And I think 2021 is that opportunity to do so. We’ll have to see if the leaders in our country are up to the task.
Mr. Jekielek: John Solomon, such a pleasure to have you on.
Mr. Solomon: Thank you very much, Jan. Have a good day.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.