Right-wing columnist John Solomon has been one of the premier players in spreading the fake narratives about Ukraine, working in concert with President Donald Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani to smear Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter. And in the wake of his widely debunked coverage for The Hill, Solomon recently announced the launch of his own new website.
For his debut podcast, Solomon sought to address a lot of pesky rumors about his associations with Lev Parnas, the Giuliani associate who is now under indictment for alleged campaign finance violations (and who, in recent media interviews, has deeply incriminated the Trump administration). But in the course of Solomon’s explanation, he also gave away a much bigger game: the crooked activities of his own attorneys Joe diGenova and Victoria Toensing in using their law practice to launder the smear operation. (The lawyers themselves have maintained an on-and-off media presence in the political disinformation campaign.)
Solomon actually set out to dispel the idea that, via a common connection with Parnas, “I must have engaged in a conspiracy with the president’s legal team, to publish these stories, or to smear the U.S. ambassador … in Ukraine, or to create a political firestorm that’s now at the heart of this impeachment inquiry.” He went on to claim that he had been working on stories about Ukraine and the Bidens in early 2018, before he was ever involved with Giuliani or Parnas, and that he has notes and documentary evidence to prove it.
But then he went on to explain exactly how he had met Parnas:
So it is clear that Solomon’s legal advisers diGenova and Toensing were active participants in crafting the story itself, by connecting him to a source in the greater Giuliani publicity machine.
As such, the pair would get to use attorney-client privilege to prevent scrutiny of the scheme. Indeed, their connection to Solomon was not publicly disclosed until this past October — which also raised questions at the time, according to law professor Ryan Goodman, about whether they were “trying to use a lawyer-client relationship to hide communications involving illicit activities.”
Just this past Monday, diGenova told a talk radio host that he and Toensing also worked with Parnas in the course of representing Ukrainian oligarch Dmitry Firtash — himself a key figure in Giuliani’s publicity operation and who is facing a corruption prosecution in the United States: “Mr. Parnas served as an interpreter and a translator for us and a person with knowledge of Ukrainian politics, which we put to good use in our representation of our client. Other than that, there's not much I can say about it since I have something called the attorney-client privilege, which includes confidential communications, documents, and persons.” (For his part, Parnas has started talking about his work with diGenova and Toensing — and his feelings of betrayal that neither they nor Giuliani had come to his defense: “I felt like my family had left me.” Their law firm has declined to comment further, citing attorney-client privilege.)
It is worth asking how many other sources diGenova and Toensing might have lined up for Solomon. In April 2019, Solomon published a piece in The Hill claiming that the Obama administration began pressuring the Ukrainian government to work with them to help build the Russia collusion narrative in January 2016. This was based on an interview with Andrii Telizhenko, who was a low-level staff member at the Ukrainian Embassy in Washington, D.C., back in 2016. Telizhenko is also tied to Toensing, who later connected him with Giuliani in May 2019.
In addition, Parnas’ handwritten notes released by the House Intelligence Committee included a message: “Victoria/Joe retained. 100,000 - month with [unintelligible] & begin media campaign.” Another page had a column labeled “Joe/Victoria” with the following bullet points: “Firtash toxic,” “get deal done 1-3 months,” and “cut deal or get dismissed.” (The Washington Post suggested that was a reference to Firtash’s desire to either “make a deal with the federal government or get his charges dismissed.”)
And in turn, a Solomon story from July 2019 targeting the Mueller investigation appears to rely heavily on Toensing and diGenova whom he merely identified in the piece as “the American lawyers for Ukrainian oligarch Dmitry Firtash.” Another Solomon story from September 2019 reported on “once-secret” documents that “cast doubt on Joe Biden’s Ukraine story.” This story relied on an affidavit from former Ukrainian Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin — a central figure in the smears against Biden. And the affidavit itself said it was given “at the request of lawyers acting for Dmitry Firtash ... for use in legal proceedings in Austria.”
Other Parnas documents show an even more blatant Solomon sending an email to Parnas, diGenova, and Toensing to ask all of them for “DOS [Department of State] help on Hunter Biden contacts.”
The connection between Solomon’s reporting and the diGenova/Toensing pair was also apparent in the Uranium One narrative, in which Solomon cited an anonymous source for the anti-Clinton conspiracy theory who turned out to be lobbyist William Douglas Campbell, another one of Toensing clients.
DiGenova might claim attorney-client privilege to say that he can’t talk about his work with Parnas. But Solomon, as a client in the relationship, can just volunteer this information for the whole public to see — though perhaps his attorneys should have advised him to not do that.