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Trump's Agent John Solomon Is Lying About Mar-A-Lago Documents

John Solomon, former President Donald Trump’s official representative to the National Archives and Records Administration, released a letter that reveals in plain detail that Trump and his legal team did not cooperate with the National Archives, and that the August 8 Mar-a-Lago search occurred only after they repeatedly sought to delay the FBI’s involvement. Despite these facts, Solomon has made numerous appearances in the right-wing media, including on Fox News, to spread misinformation and spin about the letter.

Dated May 10, the letter from acting National Archivist Debra Wall to Trump lawyer Evan Corcoran details the back-and-forth between Trump’s lawyers and the National Archives in retrieving over 700 pages of classified material from Mar-a-Lago. It clearly lays out how Trump did not fully cooperate with the National Archives and the Department of Justice, outlining the five-month process to retrieve the documents.

Solomon’s website Just the News was the first to publish the damning document late on August 22. The next morning, he appeared on Steve Bannon’s War Room: Pandemic to put a confusing pro-Trump spin on the story.

In Solomon’s version, the FBI mysteriously heard that the National Archives retrieved documents from Mar-a-Lago and wanted to look through them. The bureau asked President Joe Biden, who told the DOJ and the FBI to go right ahead and look through the documents, completely ignoring that Trump maintains executive privilege over them.

This is completely false. Here’s a breakdown:

CLAIM: “The White House counsel's office authorized the National Archives to send information they had gotten in the boxes of Trump – voluntarily returned to the archives – and send it to the FBI. That launches a criminal investigation.”

REALITY: Solomon conveniently leaves out that the Presidential Records Act not only allows, but requires this course of action. As Wall details in the letter, the National Archives’ initial review of the documents returned in January found “items marked as classified national security information, up to the level of Top Secret and including Sensitive Compartmented Information and Special Access Program materials” – a label given to the most sensitive secrets in government. This prompted the agency to inform the DOJ. The Presidential Records Act empowers the National Archives, the president, and the DOJ to oversee the handling of presidential documents, including the power of “the Archivist and the Attorney General [to] jointly investigate the unlawful removal or destruction of government and presidential records.”

CLAIM: Next, Solomon says that “President Trump would have had the right … to go to court and say, I have executive privilege, I might have declassified these documents,” but “the current president waives the executive privilege of the past president.” He repeated this point again later on in the interview.

REALITY: His argument that Biden and the DOJ should have allowed Trump to take his executive privilege claim to the courts is debunked by the letter itself. Wall consulted the Office of Legal Counsel, which advised her that “there is no precedent for an assertion of executive privilege by a former President against an incumbent President to prevent the latter from obtaining from NARA Presidential records belonging to the Federal Government where ‘such records contain information that is needed for the conduct of current business of the incumbent President’s office and that is not otherwise available.’”

The precedent that Solomon and other Trump allies refer to when they argue this point applies only to congressional or judicial oversights, not executive branch examination and investigation. To be clear, a former president cannot exert executive privilege claims over a current president, the head of the executive branch itself, when the information pertains to the current business of the administration.

Then, referring to the same case as Solomon, Wall laid out what it actually means for Trump:

“To the contrary, the Supreme Court’s decision in Nixon v. Administrator of General Services, 433 U.S. 425 (1977), strongly suggests that a former President may not successfully assert executive privilege “against the very Executive Branch in whose name the privilege is invoked.” … The Court specifically noted that an “incumbent President should not be dependent on happenstance or the whim of a prior President when he seeks access to records of past decisions that define or channel current governmental obligations.”

The Office of Legal Counsel advised that Trump had no privilege over these documents. There was no need to start a court fight to rehash the same issue; as Wall’s letter noted, “the question in this case is not a close one.”

CLAIM: Solomon claims that on May 8, “the Biden White House says it's over, we're passing privilege. We're giving the documents to the FBI.”

REALITY: This is false. Biden delegated the decision to Wall; he did not make it himself. From the letter:

The Counsel to the President has informed me that, in light of the particular circumstances presented here, President Biden defers to my determination, in consultation with the Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel, regarding whether or not I should uphold the former President’s purported “protective assertion of executive privilege.”

As Politico’s Kyle Cheney explains, “there was no way a former president's claim could override an incumbent administration's need for the review. … Trump allies touted portions of this letter that were revealed by Solomon earlier in the evening, saying it showed Biden had been involved in the process. That's a requirement of any NARA matter involving privilege.”

CLAIM: Solomon argues that “there's an escalation driven by the Biden White House against its likely rival in 2024. … I think most Americans are going to be troubled to find out the current president [was] siccing the FBI on the former president, and I think that’s the way these documents read when you look at it. ”

REALITY: The letter makes clear that the “escalation” came only after numerous attempts by the Trump legal team to delay an FBI investigation. After being granted an initial delay until April 29, the Trump team requested an additional delay based on executive privilege claims, which the National Archives and the Office of Legal Counsel found to be legally unfounded. As the letter painstakingly explains, “The Executive Branch here is seeking access to records belonging to, and in the custody of, the Federal Government itself, not only in order to investigate whether those records were handled in an unlawful manner but also, as the National Security Division explained, to ‘conduct an assessment of the potential damage resulting from the apparent manner in which these materials were stored and transported and take any necessary remedial steps.’”

CLAIM: Solomon says that “in mid-April, there's a discussion – the FBI hears from the National Archives that they got the boxes. They want to see what's in the boxes.”

REALITY: Solomon’s word choice is misleading. Rather than implying that a nosy FBI “want[s] to see what’s in the boxes,” it would be more accurate to say that the bureau needed to investigate the documents, as is procedure per the Presidential Records Act. Nonetheless, this is not what the letter says. It says that the National Archives informed the DOJ, “which prompted the Department to ask the President to request that NARA provide the FBI with access to the boxes at issue so that the FBI and others in the Intelligence Community could examine them.” The FBI heard “from the National Archives that they got the boxes,” because the National Archives and DOJ needed the bureau to investigate whether the boxes contained classified documents.

Under federal law, “The Archivist is not authorized to independently investigate removal or recover records.” Engaging the FBI was a necessary step.

CLAIM: Solomon claims that Trump’s team asked for time to sort out privileged materials and “within a few days of that, those conversations going on, the National Archives came back and said ‘We don’t care about your privilege claims.’”

REALITY: He is putting a false spin on the timeline here. Trump’s lawyers were advised on April 12 that the National Archives would allow the FBI to examine the returned records. They sought and were granted a delay until April 29.

The rejection he’s referring to is the second request for a delay on April 29, two and a half weeks after Trump’s lawyers were notified that the FBI needed to examine the documents. At the time of writing the May 10 letter, Wall noted, “It has now been four weeks since we first informed you of our intent to provide the FBI access to the boxes so that it and others in the Intelligence Community can conduct their reviews.”

CLAIM: Solomon closes by arguing, “This is a chilling potential fact for not only former presidents, but any future president – if any future president knows that the guy who beats him at the polls or succeeds him at the polls can then turn around and release all the documents that a prior president might have considered privileged because he got important advice to do his job, who's going to put anything on paper? Who's going to want to get that advice knowing that could happen?”

REALITY: Solomon ignores that the documents the FBI was sent to recover still legally belong to the federal government, not Trump. Rather than trying to “turn around and release all the documents that a prior president might have considered privileged,” Wall’s letter said that the classified documents in question would need to be reviewed by national security officials to assess “the potential damage resulting from the apparent manner in which these materials were stored and transported” by the former president.

Responding to the Trump team’s objections, she explained that “there is no reason to believe such reviews could ‘adversely affect the ability of future Presidents to obtain the candid advice necessary for effective decisionmaking.’ … To the contrary: Ensuring that classified information is appropriately protected, and taking any necessary remedial action if it was not, are steps essential to preserving the ability of future Presidents to “receive the full and frank submissions of facts and opinions upon which effective discharge of [their] duties depends.”

Further, what Solomon complains about has been possible since 1978; any president since the Presidential Records Act was put in place could release such documents. Trump does not hold executive privilege over the executive branch itself.

Nonetheless, Solomon was not the only pro-Trump figure on War Room spinning the National Archives letter.

Former Trump adviser Boris Ephsteyn also appeared on Bannon’s August 23 show and claimed that Politico’s coverage of the letter somehow exonerates Trump: “The only thing that matters in the Politico article is that it proves once and for all, fully proves that A) there was full cooperation and compliance, as we've been saying consistently, and B) that the Biden administration absolutely and fully participated in this plan to raid and attack Mar-A-Lago. There's no two ways about it.”

The Trump team was not in “full cooperation and compliance.” They sought to delay the investigation at least twice and submitted challenges with no legal basis. The May 10 letter shows that the Biden administration, as Cheney again points out, was remarkably detached from the investigation: “The language about consultation with the White House shows Biden was *more hands off* with the Mar-a-Lago docs than he was with the Jan. 6 records held by NARA. In both cases, archivist consulted with OLC, but in latter Biden delegated privilege decisions to NARA.”

The previous day, president of the Article III Project and regular War Room guest Mike Davis complained that before ordering the Mar-a-Lago search on August 8, Attorney General Merrick Garland did not “take the time to go to the Office of Legal Counsel within his own Justice Department,” whose opinions “are binding on the executive branch.” Davis asserted this meant that Garland knew the Mar-a-Lago search was “unlawful” and “unnecessary.”

Of course, we now know that the Office of Legal Counsel was consulted by the National Archives before the May 10 letter, and its “binding” legal opinion rejected Trump’s defenses. But these facts haven’t stopped right-wing media from spreading other pro-Trump spin and misinformation around the Mar-a-Lago search.

In an August 23 article, Fox News adopted the same false framework with the headline “Biden signed off on FBI review of Trump records, National Archives letter reveals.”

And Solomon has introduced a dubious new line of attack blaming former President Barack Obama.

JOHN SOLOMON (JUST THE NEWS): Joe Biden’s former boss, Barack Obama, actually managed to change the rules. After 9/11, George Bush had put a rule into place that a prior president got to protect his own privilege. If he and the president couldn’t – the sitting president – couldn’t agree on the release of records, that the prior president’s claim to executive privilege was predominant. Barack Obama came in in 2009 and he got rid of that and said, I, the incumbent president, I get the only say on this. … Barack Obama actually set in motion the raid that ultimately ended up in a raid at Mar-a-Lago on Donald Trump’s property.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Smeared By Fox, Indiana Doctor Broke No Laws In Rape Victim's Abortion

Following an Indy Star report about a 10-year-old rape victim traveling from Ohio to Indiana for an abortion, right-wing media have tried repeatedly to disprove the story or attack the individuals involved, even since the story was confirmed to be true.

The source behind the story, Dr. Caitlin Bernard, has been under heavy scrutiny for being the sole source for the story. Washington Post columnist Glenn Kessler, while misspelling her name, dismissed her as an activist. Right-wing media figures were also quick to discredit Bernard, especially after President Joe Biden mentioned the story in a pro-abortion rights speech and the Ohio Attorney General said on Fox News that he was unaware of any report of the rape. After the story was further confirmed by the arrest of a suspect, right-wing media outlets continued unconfirmed attacks against Bernard, claiming that she had a history of not reporting underage rapes. Fox News’ Jesse Watters did not hesitate to pile on to the attacks, and he even invited on the Indiana attorney general, who declared that his office would be investigating Bernard.

Right-wing media figures have continued to target Bernard, repeating claims that she should be investigated for not reporting the crime to authorities, in a clear attempt to discourage other health care providers from coming forward with similar stories. The claim that Bernard failed to report the procedure has been debunked by a local Fox affiliate, which obtained Indiana Department of Health documents showing that she reported the incident. Right-wing media continue to promote the Indiana attorney general’s claims of an investigation into Bernard’s actions, as well as general claims that Bernard acted outside the law.

Following Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita’s appearance on Fox News’ Jesse Watters Primetime, cries for an investigation into Bernard’s response to the crime spread over right-wing news sites. The articles primarily quoted Rokita’s statements directly, with only one of them, from PJ Media, adding a later correction that Bernard had indeed complied with privacy laws.

Fox News host Jesse Watters

Watters, as part of his repeated attempts to undermine the story, claimed on the July 13 edition of Fox News’ Jesse Watters Primetime, that “this Indiana abortion doctor has covered this up,” and that “she has a history of failing to report child abuse cases.” Indiana Attorney General Todd Rokita then appeared on the show to announce his investigation into Bernard, stating, “We have this abortion activist acting as a doctor with a history of failing to report. So, we're gathering the information. We're gathering the evidence as we speak, and we're going to fight this to the end, including looking at her licensure. If she failed to report it in Indiana, it's a crime for – to not report, to intentionally not report.”

Newsmax Co-host Bianca de la Garza

On the July 14 edition of Newsmax’s John Bachman Now, co-host Bianca de la Garza repeated that Indiana authorities are “not sure if she [Bernard] reported the rape, as required by law.” When asked why abortion providers allegedly sometimes fail to report rape, guest Abby Johnson claimed that “most abortion facilities do not report rape. They are a safe haven for abusers. The fact that she, from what we can tell, was not one of the people that reported this, is very very common. They protect abusers. We see that over and over again. We’ve seen that in undercover footage.”

YouTuber Tim Pool

Right-wing YouTuber Tim Pool repeated Watters’ claim that Bernard did not report the crime, stating on July 14 that “the people who were helping this little girl didn’t report it,” and claiming that “if they reported it, then maybe they would have gotten services, and that's where the hoax actually does come into play.”

BlazeTV host Glenn Beck and PJ Media writer Megan Fox

BlazeTV host Glenn Beck got the story wrong on his July 14 show as well, frequently mixing up Bernard and the Ohio doctor who referred the victim to her and claiming that “she instead reported it to the press. She's now also being investigated in Ohio for a violation of HIPAA. A 10-year-old – and tell me these people care.”. PJ Media writer Megan Fox, who has led the charge on Twitter in accusing those involved of protecting the girl’s rapist, later clarified that Bernard is being accused of failure to report rather than the Ohio doctor, but added that “I don't know if she reported to the Indianapolis police her mandated report.” She went on to say that Bernard “still won't answer directly what role she had in helping this investigation or not.”

The Daily Wire's Ben Shapiro

The Daily Wire founder Ben Shapiro claimed on his July 14 podcast that “it does not look as though we have any information about the doctor or who this girl saw making a police report, which is actually required by law.”

Fox co-host Carley Shimkus

Fox & Friends co-host Carley Shimkus reported on July 15 that Rokita’s investigation “comes after it is revealed that the 27-year-old alleged rapist was listed as a minor in the report sent to authorities. Rokita saying the doctor in question has a, quote, ‘history of failing to report criminal incidents.’”

Fox co-hosts Kayleigh McEnany, Emily Compagno, and Fox contributor David Webb

In a July 14 group discussion on Outnumbered, co-host Kayleigh McEnany falsely claimed Bernard did not report, asking, “Why did you report this to a newspaper and not authorities?” Co-host Emily Compagno responded that “it's a crime to intentionally not report. … There are HIPAA violation allegations now. That could lead to criminal and/or also civil penalties. That could lead up to jail time.” Later on, Fox contributor David Webb accused Bernard of using the child for political gain: “Why was she used as a political tool? Why was the doctor not acting on it? Why was she first a political tool?”

One America News’ Kara McKinney

One America News’ Kara McKinney stated on the July 14 edition of her show Tipping Point that “Todd Rokita told Fox News yesterday that his office is investigating the aforementioned Dr. Caitlin Bernard for not reporting the rape of a 10-year-old to authorities, as she is required to do. Bernard faces a possible loss of her license.”

Babylon Bee Managing Editor Joel Berry

Babylon Bee Managing Editor Joel Berry shared a screenshot of Bernard’s work phone number in a tweet and claimed if the story was true then Bernard “helped cover up the rape, failed to report it to authorities, and sent the victim back to her rapist to be raped again.”

Townhall Media

Townhall Media, owner of both Townhall and PJ Media news sites, published articles on the affiliated sites repeating the claims that Bernard is under investigation for possibly not reporting the rape to authorities. The July 14 article published to Townhall included a quote from Rokita declaring his intentions to remove Bernard’s license if she did not go to the authorities. PJ Media’s article was updated at 8:13 p.m. on July 14 with a statement from Bernard’s employer saying that “IU Health’s investigation found Dr. Bernard in compliance with privacy laws.”

The Washington Times

The Washington Times published an article repeating Rokita’s statement and noting, “An Indiana abortion provider is under investigation over whether she reported the rape of a 10-year-old Ohio girl as required by law.”

Just the News

Just the News, a website run by misinformer John Solomon, repeated the claims that Bernard had previously had complaints filed against her for not reporting underage rape. The site quoted from Rokita’s appearance on Fox, where he said, “We have the rape, and then we have this abortion activist acting as a doctor with a history of failing to report.”

National Review

National Review published a July 14 article that discussed Rokita’s intent to investigate Bernard and continued to cast doubt on the original story, saying, “Many pundits and representatives were skeptical of the story.” It also implied there was no evidence Bernard reported the attack to the authorities, saying the original article “did not make any mention of a law enforcement probe, which should have been immediately triggered after a medical professional learned of the rape.”

Blaze Media

Blaze media covered Rokita’s Fox News appearance in a July 14 piece, noting that “Rokita said his office will investigate Bernard because she purportedly failed to disclose the case to law enforcement.” The article also included Bernard’s statement following Rokita’s TV appearance.

The Daily Caller

The Daily Caller published a July 14 article outlining Rokita’s intent to investigate Bernard for “potentially failing to report the rape of a minor to law enforcement.” The article goes on to reference Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, who earlier this week claimed there was no evidence of the rape taking place. The Daily Caller stated, “Yost said Monday his office had no evidence that the rape of the girl had occurred as prosecutors had not been able to identify a report to law enforcement.”

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.

Right-Wing Pundits Blame Weed, Not Assault Weapons, For Mass Shootings

Amid the ongoing crisis of mass shootings in America, conservative media are trying to deflect blame for mass shootings onto anything but guns. One particularly misleading scapegoat for gun violence is marijuana, with Fox News hosts and other right-wing media denizens falsely claiming that mass shootings are the result of heavy pot use.

The narrative has picked up in the aftermath of the July 4 mass shooting in Highland Park, Illinois, that left seven dead and 46 injured. The next day, Fox News host Laura Ingraham claimed that marijuana use is a plausible cause of mass shootings, saying regular pot use in young men can trigger “psychosis and other violent personality changes,” and went on to link other mass shooters’ marijuana use with the extreme violence they carried out.

Fox host Tucker Carlson also blamed the shooting in Highland Park partially on a society full of young men “high on government-endorsed weed.”

Right-wing radio host and PragerU founder Dennis Prager said on his July 5 show that “something is different today and it’s not guns,” suggesting, “I think marijuana, maybe other drugs, but excessive use of marijuana” and “recreational use of marijuana, especially in young people,” may be associated with mass shootings.

Right-wing personalities have used research linking heavy marijuana use to psychosis and paranoia in some individuals to draw false conclusions about causality and dig in their heels to dismiss the role of firearms in gun violence, instead attributing mass shooters’ extreme violence to their marijuana use. In reality, a December 2021 literature review on the studies linking marijuana and violent behavior found that the link between violence and cannabis use is “strictly correlational, and the strength of this relationship varies depending on the population.”

Since 2019, accusations of direct causation between marijuana use and mass shootings have spread through conservative media such as Fox News, One America News Network, the New York Post, The Wall Street Journal, and The Daily Wire. These outlets frequently cite “COVID contrarian” Alex Berenson, whose book on marijuana use, mental health, and violence has been accused of cherry-picking data and “attributing cause to mere associations.”

Berenson appeared on Tucker Carlson Tonight in August 2019 after mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, to argue that “we know that mental illness accounts for an appreciable amount of the extreme violence, not just in the United States but all over the world. And we also know that cannabis can produce psychosis.”

“I don't think it's going way out on a limb to draw that connection then between cannabis use, particularly I assume chronic use, and acts of violence,” Carlson responded.

After the Uvalde shooting this past May, Ingraham reignited the idea of a purposefully hidden marijuana-to-mass-shooter pipeline. In reference to The New York Times removing an unproven reference to the Uvalde shooter’s marijuana use, Ingraham asked “was it bad information or is this the pro-marijuana bias that we've become accustomed to that's so powerful because billions are on the line with it nationwide?”

“The American people are hearing a lot about AR-15s and background checks, but they also deserve to hear about this as well,” Ingraham continued. “Respected medical studies for years now have demonstrated that pot use, especially among teens, can trigger psychosis and increase the chance that the young person will develop violent behavior.”

The next day, Ingraham hosted Dr. Eric Voth of the International Academy on the Science and Impact of Cannabis, who said, “The reality of it is, you know, legal AR-15 owners or handgun owners that are not stoned, that are not violent, are not killing people. If you look through the same information that the doctors are pointing out here, and you go case by case by case, you see a very clear pattern.”

Ingraham’s commentary set off a flurry of clickbait on conservative news sites and blogs, including The Daily Wire, The Wall Street Journal, and Newsmax.

The Daily Wire’s Ben Zeisloft also criticized attention given to gun control instead of marijuana and cited Ingraham’s segment, writing that “while the Left blames so-called ‘assault weapons’ and pushes for more gun control,” they “appear to be missing what could be a significant, yet underreported factor — the shooter’s marijuana use.”

The Wall Street Journal’s Allysia Finley cited Berenson to suggest The New York Times had covered up the Uvalde shooter’s marijuana use and claimed that the Tucson, Aurora nightclub, Pulse nightclub, Sutherland Springs, and Parkland shooters all “were reported to be marijuana users. It could be a coincidence, but increasing evidence suggests a connection.”

Writing for Newsmax, conservative author Ron Kessler criticized the attention given to gun control in the wake of mass shootings and pushed the claim that it should be put on marijuana instead. Kessler argued that “virtually everyone ignores the obvious reason for the dramatic increase in these tragedies: Democrats push legalizing marijuana, which has become three to four times more potent than it was only a few years ago,” and even quoted Ingraham directly: “Democrats who push stricter gun control measures as a solution to mass shootings are ‘completely oblivious to what the legalization of marijuana has done and is doing to an entire generation of Americans — with violent consequences,’ Ingraham said.”

Kessler appeared on far-right cable outlet One America News on June 4 and asserted that “pot has become much more potent” and “18 states have legalized pot because of Democratic legislatures, so you have these two forces coming together, and that has led to a lot of these shootings.” Kessler went on to mislead viewers that “the active ingredient THC creates psychosis, it creates paranoia, it creates schizophrenia, and all these things lead to some of these shootings.”

PolitiFact assessed these kinds of claims in 2019 and concluded that there is no clear causal relationship between marijuana use and mass shootings, writing that “for every study that’s declared a link between pot and violence, there are others that say the opposite.”

James Knoll, director of forensic psychiatry at Syracuse University, told PolitiFact that “marijuana use is higher in young men, people with serious adverse childhood experiences, antisocial personality, low income, low education, use of other illicit substances,” which are all “well known risk factors for violence in their own right.” In other words, while research shows that there is a correlation between marijuana use and some forms of mental illness, there are too many other factors linked to potential violence to clearly establish the causal relationship that right-wing media are pushing. .

While it’s “widely accepted that marijuana and psychosis are linked,” it’s unclear “whether the drug unmasks psychotic symptoms in predisposed people or whether it triggers the onset of psychosis entirely.” Further, PolitiFact noted that those with preexisting psychiatric disorders are more likely to use marijuana to self-medicate.

Most importantly, cannabis use is exceedingly common. As PolitiFact points out, overlap is inevitable “between people who commit violent acts and people who smoke marijuana because of how popular marijuana is. According to the United Nations, 192 million people worldwide used marijuana at least once in 2016.” As legalization has spread, this number has likely increased even more.

Blaming mass shootings on marijuana use is not only misleading and stigmatizing, but speaks to a larger effort to blame nearly unavoidable social and psychological phenomena rather than loosely controlled access to high-powered assault weapons in the United States. As these tragedies continue to happen, right-wing media will continue to use any excuse they can find to deflect attention from even the most minimal gun control measures, creating the opportunity for more mass shootings.

Reprinted with permission from Media Matters.