Witnesses Confirm Reports by Journalist Frequently Cited in Impeachment Probe

November 20, 2019 Updated: November 22, 2019

In his opening statement at the Nov. 19 impeachment hearing, House Intelligence Committee ranking member Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) recommended that the American public read an article by investigative reporter John Solomon titled “Debunking Some of the Ukraine Scandal Myths About Biden and Election Interference.”

The recommendation by Nunes is the latest mention of Solomon during the impeachment hearings. Solomon’s name or work has been cited in all but two of the 10 impeachment deposition transcripts released to date.

Solomon’s reporting is inseparable from the impeachment proceedings because President Donald Trump’s requests to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky during a July 25 phone call can all be traced back to articles that Solomon wrote for The Hill, an online newspaper. In several columns over the course of two years, Solomon exposed an appearance of a conflict of interest on the part of former Vice President Joe Biden, detailed actions taken by Ukrainian officials to interfere in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, and chronicled a tense relationship between the U.S. Embassy in Kiev and Ukraine’s prosecutors due to pressure from American officials to back off from prosecuting select individuals and groups.

Once the impeachment inquiry catapulted Solomon’s work to the national spotlight, Democrats and their media allies sought to discredit the reports, referring to them as debunked conspiracy theories. While House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) has referred to Ukraine’s interference in the 2016 U.S. election as a “discredited conspiracy theory,” witnesses in the impeachment inquiry have so far told a different story.

In sworn testimony, several current and former officials have validated and further confirmed Solomon’s reporting, a turn of events the reporter referred to as “an impeachment surprise.”

Journalist John Solomon speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington in March 2014. (Courtesy Gage Skidmore)

The July 25 call between Trump and Zelensky is at the core of the impeachment inquiry. The Democrats allege that Trump sought to boost his 2020 reelection campaign by asking Zelensky to “look into” Biden and his son Hunter Biden. According to the official call transcript (pdf), Trump also asked the Ukrainian leader to “find out” more about a server tied to CrowdStrike, the cybersecurity firm that examined the alleged hacking of the Democratic National Committee in 2016 by Russian operatives. Zelensky, in the meantime, asked Trump for more information to assist with an investigation into Marie Yovanovitch, who was the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine until shortly after Zelensky’s election victory.

All three requests relate at least in part to Solomon’s reporting, placing him in the midst of the political firestorm surrounding the impeachment inquiry. In what appears to be a veiled attempt to paint Solomon into a partisan corner, The New York Times, among other media, has focused on his work as a “Fox News personality,” while dismissing his decades-long career with The Associated Press, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, and The Hill.

In an email to The Epoch Times, Solomon said the sources who originally came forward to him about Ukraine included Democrats, Justice Department officials, and State Department officials, none tied to the Trump administration or Rudy Giuliani. The sources alleged “there was unusual interference by U.S. embassy Kiev in a handful of law enforcement cases,” Solomon said.

“This interference allegedly had created a dysfunctional relationship between our embassy and Ukraine prosecutors. Months of reporting and document gathering confirmed the stories I eventually wrote,” he added.

In one of the first articles, Solomon reported that Yovanovitch gave Ukrainian Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko a do-not-prosecute list in 2016; Solomon quotes Yovanovitch as denying Lutsenko’s claim. While there was some confusion about whether a physical list exists, Lutsenko confirmed to The New York Times that Yovanovitch “had in fact asked him not to target certain politicians and activists,” the newspaper reported.

In her testimony on Oct. 11, Yovanovitch denied that she provided any list to Lutsenko and argued that she was pushing Ukrainian prosecutors to apply the law consistently, instead of selectively prosecuting political opponents.

In testimony as part of the impeachment inquiry on Oct. 15, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent told lawmakers that the U.S. Embassy pushed back against the prosecution of four of the people on Lutsenko’s list, directly confirming Solomon’s report.

Kent acknowledged signing a letter in April 2016, in which he called an investigation into Ukraine’s Anti-Corruption Action Center (AntAC) “misplaced.” AntAC is partly funded by George Soros, a billionaire who has contributed millions of dollars to left-wing causes, and the U.S. State Department.

Kent also confirmed that U.S. authorities pushed back against the prosecutions against Vitali Shabunin, a journalist who helped found AntAC, Sergey Leschenko, a member of the Ukrainian parliament who helped release the so-called “black ledger” of damaging information on then-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and Artem Sytnyk, who also played a role in the release of the “black ledger.”

“We warned both Lutsenko and others that efforts to destroy NABU as an organization, including opening up investigations of Sytnyk, threatened to unravel a key component of our anti-corruption cooperation,” Kent said on Oct. 15.

In addition to backing up Solomon’s reporting about the do-not-prosecute list, Kent confirmed the reporter’s columns that shed light on the appearance of a conflict of interest created by Joe Biden when he, as vice president, forced the ouster of the top Ukrainian prosecutor at the time. The prosecutor was investigating Burisma, the company that paid Hunter Biden to sit on its board of directors.

Kent told lawmakers that he became aware of Hunter Biden’s involvement with Burisma in early 2015 and relayed his concerns to the office of the vice president. Biden’s office told Kent that the vice president had no “bandwidth” to deal with the issue, as his other son, Beau, was struggling with cancer at the time. Neither Joe nor Hunter Biden took any steps to alleviate the perception of a conflict of interest.

But Kent went further and revealed that a prior investigation into Burisma was allegedly shut down after an official at Ukraine Prosecutor General’s office accepted a $7 million bribe in May 2014. Hunter Biden joined Burisma the month before, in April 2014, weeks after prosecutors in the United Kingdom seized $23 million belonging to the owner of Burisma, Mykola Zlochevsky.

While the timing may be mere coincidence, it appears similarly problematic to the sequence of events in February 2016, when Joe Biden forced the firing of Ukrainian Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin by threatening to withhold $1 billion in U.S. loan guarantees. Earlier that month, Shokin’s office seized Zlochevsky’s assets.

Later in February, before the Ukrainian parliament voted to approve Shokin’s forced resignation, a U.S. representative reached out to the State Department in Washington and leveraged Hunter Biden’s name alongside a request to snuff out the allegations against Burisma.

Like Kent, a number of witnesses told the impeachment inquiry that Biden’s involvement in Shokin’s firing created at least the appearance of a conflict of interest.

Schiff and Nunes
Democratic Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Adam Schiff (L) and Ranking Member Devin Nunes (R) during an impeachment inquiry hearing on Capitol Hill on Nov. 19, 2019. (Shawn Thew/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

Nunes noted during the Nov. 19 impeachment hearing that a Democratic member of the House Intelligence Committee had threatened to no longer talk to The Hill because the outlet published Solomon’s articles. While the outlet had earlier announced that it would be reviewing Solomon’s work, it’s unclear if the Democrat’s request prompted the audit. Solomon announced in September he was leaving The Hill to start his own media firm.

“I don’t know what prompted The Hill to review my work. But I encouraged them to do that more than a month ago, because I have nothing to hide and all my facts and evidence backing up every claim are linked in the columns. I have a high degree of confidence every fact is accurate. And every news article and column I wrote for The Hill went through the normal editing and rigorous review process,” Solomon said.

Solomon’s reporting on Ukraine’s interference in the 2016 presidential election is the subject of the most pointed attacks. Notably, Politico had reported some of the same concerns before Solomon did in an investigative feature. Multiple witnesses acknowledged being aware of the instances of alleged interference cited by Solomon and Politico, including the release of the “black ledger” that appears to have forced Manafort to step down from Trump’s campaign.

Solomon has been reporting on the impeachment inquiry as it unfolds, even as his work has arguably figured in events that triggered the inquiry.

“I simply try to stay focused on the facts, giving the American public information to make up their own minds,” Solomon said.

Follow Ivan on Twitter: @ivanpentchoukov
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