Call it a pre-emptive smear.
With former FBI Director James Comey’s book tour going from media blitz to media bust, interviewers are trying to breathe some life into it by opening a new attack on the Trump administration.
But Comey’s latest slam of Rudy Giuliani just might be a mistake.
In an interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow on Thursday, only hours after the news broke that the former New York mayor is officially joining President Donald Trump’s legal team, Comey reiterated what he’d told a Senate panel last year only a week before he was fired.
He told Maddow he had ordered an investigation of potential leaks from the FBI, based on statements Giuliani had made in the final days of the campaign that indicated he’d known the bureau was going to re-open its investigation of the Hillary Clinton email scandal.
The statement came after Maddow played several clips from Giuliani appearances on Fox News in October of 2016, including one where Giuliani flat out said he’d known the re-opening was coming.
“This has been boiling up in the FBI…,” Giuliani told “Fox & Friends” at the time. “I did nothing to get it out. I had no role in it. Did I hear about it? You’re darn right I heard about it. And I can’t even repeat the language that I heard.” (The interview can be seen here. It’s all interesting, but that specific quote comes about the 6-minute mark.)
Statements like that were enough to trigger an FBI investigation, Comey told Maddow — an investigation that appears to have ended only with Trump firing Comey from the FBI.
“… I saw that same publicity and so I commissioned an investigation to see if we could understand whether people were disclosing information out of the New York office or any other place that resulted in Rudy’s report on Fox News and other leaks that we were seeing in the media,” Comey told Maddow.
“I don’t know what the result of that was. I got fired before it was finished, but I know that I asked that it be investigated.”
If nothing else, the incident proves just how politicized the nation’s premier law enforcement agency had become under Comey’s leadership:
Besides the now notorious actions of FBI special agent Peter Strzok and bureau lawyer Lisa Page to influence the FBI’s Clinton investigation in Hillary’s favor, Comey’s own FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe was orchestrating leaks to The Wall Street Journal about the bureau’s handling of the Clinton investigation — which he later lied about.
But Comey’s statements to Maddow about Giuliani might be something else too: A pre-emptive strike to cast suspicion on the one of the most familiar figures in American politics, just as he joins the president’s team in its dealings with an aggressive special counsel’s office.
There’s no way of knowing whether Comey knew Maddow’s question was coming — considering how publicity tour interviews generally work, it’s a good chance they’d discussed it in advance of the show.
And the investigation itself was already a matter of public record. As reported by the New York Post among other news outlets, Comey told the Senate Judiciary Committee on May 3 of last year, that he had ordered an investigation into Giuliani’s remarks. That was six days before Trump fired Comey.
Still, it’s clear the two men have a history of antipathy that amounts to a vendetta.
Comey’s book doesn’t hide his feelings. According to Vox, Comey writes in the book that Giuliani is “dangerous” with a style that can cause “resentment.”
(Now, what former FBI director does that sound like to you?)
It’s also clear that Giuliani’s long experience as a federal prosecutor who worked with special counsel Robert Mueller and his reputation as the tough former New York mayor whose tenure in the 1990s brought the city back to a world-class location after the dismal tenure of Democrat Dinkins will be an invaluable asset to Trump’s legal team in its dealings with Mueller.
And his stand as New York’s mayor after 9/11 is an indelible part of the history of that dark time.
Comey’s statement to Maddow amounted to dragging Giuliani down into the tangle of charges and counter-charges that are surrounding the so-called “Russia collusion” probe now.
It was a pre-emptive smear, aimed at tarnishing Giuliani’s presences on Trump’s team before it even takes hold.
But organized crime figures, liberal Democrats, and even Islamist terrorists have learned through Giuliani’s career that he’s not a man to be taken lightly.
Comey’s latest slam of Giuliani might be a big mistake. It won’t be Comey’s first one.
Truth and Accuracy
We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.