National News

Working for Trump, Giuliani Attacks His Law-Enforcement Roots

Posted May 4, 2018 7:09 p.m. EDT

Over the years, there have been few more vocal or aggressive advocates for law enforcement than Rudy Giuliani. A former top official at the Justice Department, a onetime prosecutor with a tough, crusading style, and a police-embracing mayor who ran New York on a law-and-order platform, Giuliani — both in office and as a private citizen — has spent the better part of his career stridently defending the country’s crime-fighting class and fiercely lashing out at those who attack it.

But in his latest role as a lawyer for President Donald Trump, Giuliani (who, like his client, is volatile by nature) appears to have made an abrupt change of course. In the past few days, he has launched a series of rants in the media, assailing his former colleagues in law enforcement — and the work that they have done — as Nazis, frauds and garbage. And in a phone interview Friday, he defended the strong criticism he had made.

While the path from prosecutor to defense lawyer is a common one that often requires a sharp shift in perspective, several former law-enforcement officials said they found it curious that Giuliani had so quickly and belligerently turned his back on a world he had worked in for nearly 30 years. Even some who expressed support for him said his assaults on everyone and everything from the Russia investigation to James B. Comey, the former director of the FBI, to the bureau’s New York office, seemed to be out of character.

“It’s astonishing, especially from someone who has been so supportive of law enforcement for as long as he has,” said Asha Rangappa, a former FBI agent who now works as a TV analyst and a senior lecturer at Yale University. “I can’t believe that anyone believes that he really believes what he’s been saying. But it’s a standard defense counsel playbook. When you don’t have the facts on your side, you attack the investigators.”

Giuliani’s verbal strikes began Wednesday night when he appeared with Sean Hannity on Fox News and declared that the FBI’s office in New York — with which he worked closely during his time as U.S. attorney in Manhattan — had behaved like “storm troopers” in conducting raids on the president’s former lawyer, Michael D. Cohen. In the same interview, he called Comey “a disgraceful liar” and said he should be prosecuted. He also had strong words for the investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller, which he dismissed as “tainted” and “totally garbage.”

On Thursday morning, after Comey shot back on his Twitter account, saying that the New York FBI was “devoted to the rule of law and the truth,” Giuliani assailed Comey, his onetime colleague in the U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan, as a “sensitive little baby.” By Thursday afternoon, he had tossed another bomb, calling for Attorney General Jeff Sessions to “step in” on the Cohen case and put the people behind it “under investigation.”

In all this, Giuliani was following the lead of Trump, who in both the Cohen and Russia matters has adopted a strategy of attacking agents, prosecutors and the larger institutions of the Justice Department and the FBI. While some former law-enforcement officials said that those attacks had eroded trust in the criminal-justice establishment, others said that the figures singled out by the president and his lawyer were deserving of their ire.

“Rudy is not anti-law enforcement, but he is upset, like me, at a small cadre of people who have lost their way,” said James K. Kallstrom, who once ran the New York office of the FBI and has emerged more recently as a vigorous supporter of Trump and Giuliani. “We’ve had long talks about it and what we can do to rebuild the bureau.”

Though Kallstrom acknowledged that Giuliani, in his television appearances, could have opted “for a better choice of words,” he also said there was ample reason to be wary of some recent decisions by law-enforcement officers. He criticized, for instance, the way that FBI agents, acting on a search warrant last year, broke into the home of Paul Manafort, Trump’s former campaign manager. Kallstrom also blasted the more recent raids on Cohen’s office, apartment and hotel room, saying that they may have violated the attorney-client privilege.

In an interview Friday evening, Giuliani echoed those concerns, adding that while he maintained respect for Mueller, some of the prosecutors on the special counsel’s team had “ethical problems.” He also said that his recent criticisms were not at odds with his law-enforcement past.

“It’s all consistent with law and order, because some of these people aren’t acting appropriately,” Giuliani said. “I’ve never been in favor of out-of-control law and order. I’m not going after the whole FBI. I’m going after the people on this case.”

Still, it is not the normal course for a former top criminal-justice official to savage the institutions that gave birth to him. The inquiries into Trump and his associates are so riven by questions of legal ethics and partisan politics that they seemed to have polarized and stirred up passions in law-enforcement circles. Trying to take the middle course, Nancy Savage, executive director of the Society of Former Special Agents of the FBI, said Giuliani “has a long history of supporting the FBI and of supporting law enforcement.” But Savage also noted, “There are numerous, serious investigations that are ongoing and they need to be respected moving forward.”

Tom O’Connor, president of a similar group, the FBI Agents Association, said of Giuliani, “It is disappointing when former officials who have historically supported FBI special agents and the investigative process now demean agents for performing our jobs.”

A former U.S. attorney in Manhattan, John S. Martin Jr., had an even blunter view of Giuliani, saying that he had more or less betrayed his erstwhile colleagues.

“He’s dancing to Trump’s tune,” said Martin, who has been critical of Giuliani in the past. “He’s playing the political game. He’s saying what Trump wants him to say. He turned his back on law enforcement to make Trump happy.”