Political News

Giuliani Contradicts Trump on Comey Firing, Saying Russia Inquiry Was a Factor

Posted May 3, 2018 5:49 p.m. EDT

WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani has contradicted Trump’s rationale for firing James Comey as the FBI director, saying he was dismissed because he would not say publicly what he had told the president privately: that Trump was not under scrutiny in the Russia investigation at the time.

“He fired Comey because Comey would not, among other things, say that he wasn’t a target of the investigation,” Giuliani said in an interview late Wednesday with Sean Hannity of Fox News. “He’s entitled to that.”

Giuliani’s assertion contradicted the myriad explanations the president and his aides have given for the firing and was the first public acknowledgment by a Trump adviser for what Comey has maintained: that he was fired for his handling of the Russia investigation.

At the time of Comey’s dismissal last May, both Trump and his aides cited his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server and his decision to say publicly during the 2016 presidential campaign that Clinton, the Democratic candidate, would not be charged with a crime.

Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, said Comey’s handling of the Clinton investigation “was a total disgrace.” Later in the interview, Giuliani added: “I’m sorry, Hillary. I know you’re very disappointed you didn’t win. But you’re a criminal. Equal justice would mean you should go to jail. I do not know why the Justice Department is not investigating her.”

Comey said in July 2016 that Clinton’s handling of classified information was “extremely careless” but fell short of criminal behavior and that he was not recommending charges.

Giuliani’s comments about Comey were overshadowed by his disclosure that Trump reimbursed his longtime lawyer, Michael Cohen, for hush money paid before the election to Stephanie Clifford, a pornographic film actress who has said she had an affair with Trump. Giuliani’s comments directly contradicted Trump, who had said he had no knowledge of the payments.

Giuliani’s assertion that Comey was fired over the Russia inquiry did line up with accounts from both Comey and White House officials who have been interviewed by the office of the special counsel, Robert Mueller, whose appointment was prompted in part by the abrupt firing of Comey.

Those people said Trump became increasingly frustrated in the spring of 2017 with Comey’s reluctance to say publicly that the president was not under investigation.

Comey testified to Congress that during calls to him that spring, the president asked him to get out word that he was not being investigated. Comey responded — and memorialized his answer later in memos — that such a matter needed to be considered through proper channels between the White House and the Justice Department, rather than by the two of them.

Comey was reluctant at the time to publicly exonerate Trump in case he was investigated later. Comey’s top lawyer at the FBI had argued that as the bureau’s inquiry into links between Trump’s campaign and Russia progressed, investigators were almost certainly going to examine Trump’s conduct.

Since then, the special counsel has begun examining Trump’s actions, including his firing of Comey, and whether they constitute an effort to obstruct the investigation itself.

On Thursday, Comey criticized Giuliani’s description of FBI agents who raided Cohen’s office and home as “storm troopers,” although he did not address his firing.