(Photo by Nick Wass/Invision for BFI-Good News Source One America/AP Images)
The Trump administration is unlawfully withholding communications between State Department officials and John Solomon—a Fox News commentator whose columns in The Hill fueled a false Ukrainian corruption narrative involving the Biden family that is a key element of the ongoing impeachment inquiry. Solomon appears to have collaborated with President Trump’s allies, including his personal attorney Rudolph Giuliani, to plant false stories accusing the Biden family and others, including the former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, of corrupt acts. Solomon’s “reporting” was then amplified by Fox News Channel, and the President himself, and was the pretext for Trump’s request that the Ukrainian government announce an investigation into the family of one of his political rivals. Impeachment witnesses have since called Solomon’s claims a “false narrative” made to “advance the interests of the President,” or “if not entirely made up in full cloth, it was primarily non-truths…”
Pushing a misinformation campaign on the American public could violate anti-propaganda laws. Among many grave concerns is the possibility that administration officials spread covert propaganda through Solomon, in violation of laws banning the use of government resources for such purposes. Our FOIA records request seeks records of communications, including communications exchanged over encrypted messaging apps, between Solomon and State Department officials including, among others:
- Secretary of State Mike Pompeo
- William “Bill” Taylor, U.S. chargé d’affaires in Ukraine
- Kurt Volker, former special U.S. envoy to Ukraine
- George Sondland, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union
The State Department failed to comply with its statutory obligation to release the requested records, so we filed suit. Democracy Forward is also investigating further efforts by the Trump administration to coordinate with Fox News and similar media outlets in ways that may violate anti-propaganda laws.