Poor Rudy, trapped between a fact and a presidential narrative. I watched POTUS say this during Friday’s press gaggle and had to laugh at his audacity.
"I think that the report yesterday … totally exonerates me. There was no collusion, there was no obstruction," President Trump says of the Justice Department IG report https://t.co/PwsMccqlXf
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) June 15, 2018
The IG report doesn’t exonerate him. How could it? It doesn’t address Russiagate, which will come in a separate report. That report won’t exonerate him either, strictly speaking: It might expose bias in the investigation by the DOJ or FBI but the only person who can clear Trump of wrongdoing is Mueller. The president is a master of messaging, though, and seized on an opportunity here to shape perceptions among people who don’t pay much attention to the news. There are at least six separate investigations in the news mix — Emailgate and Russiagate, the IG probes of how the DOJ handled each, and the separate House and Senate intel committee probes. If you’re a casual news consumer and see a headline somewhere to the effect that “DOJ report is harshly critical of Comey,” then see Trump on TV claiming “exoneration,” why wouldn’t you jump to the conclusion that he’s been cleared?
That’s a leap too far for Giuliani, though, whose increasingly zealous advocacy for POTUS isn’t yet quite so zealous that he’ll go along with the pretense that a report that wasn’t about Russiagate exonerated the president on Russiagate:
“Well I don’t think it exonerates him,” Giuliani told ABC News in a phone interview Saturday.
“In some respects, it dramatically supports his position … that the people who conducted the Hillary probe who were extreme partisan for Hillary and against Trump.”
Indeed, although that’s another degree of difficulty for the average joe in following all of this. The IG’s Emailgate report simultaneously (1) shows anti-Trump bias by Peter Strzok, Lisa Page, and other FBI personnel and (2) describes in minute detail a series of controversial decisions by Comey that ended up damaging Clinton. The supposed smoking gun that the Bureau was out to get Trump, the document that allegedly “exonerates” Trump according to Trump himself, is all about how the head of the Bureau went out of his way to publicly cast suspicion on Hillary. More than once.
To make this even more complicated, it’s not the case that the IG report speaks only of anti-Trump bias inside the FBI. Take it for what it’s worth, but Loretta Lynch told the IG that both she and Comey suspected strong anti-Clinton bias at the FBI’s New York office:
According to the testimony of the Attorney General in the IG report, nine days before the election she and the FBI Director discussed how a “deep and visceral hatred of Secretary Clinton” by a cadre of senior NY FBI agents “has put us where we are today” w/r/t the Weiner laptop. pic.twitter.com/Owg69kuAlG
— southpaw (@nycsouthpaw) June 16, 2018
I’m not aware of Comey saying anything that damning about the New York office publicly, but he did tell George Stephanopoulos this at the start of his book tour:
I knew that there were leaks coming– or appeared to be leaks about criminal investigation of the Clintons coming out of New York. And I don’t know exactly where that was coming from. I commissioned an investigation to find out. I don’t know what the investigation found.
But, yeah, I was worried about– the– the team that had done the investigation was in the counterintelligence division at headquarters, of the emails. And there were no leaks at all, very tight. But the criminal folks in New York were now involved in a major way, and I don’t want to single anybody out ’cause I don’t know where it was coming from.
But there’d been enough up there that I thought there was a pretty reasonable likelihood that it would leak, and that’s what Loretta was reflecting.
He’s talking about his decision to reopen the Emailgate probe in late October 2016. One of the reasons he decided to make that public, he’s saying, is that he thought certain people in the New York office would have leaked the fact that the investigation had been reopened if Comey didn’t announce it. And that would have made it appear as though the FBI, at the behest of its Democratic superiors at the DOJ, was trying to conceal an explosive eleventh-hour revelation about the Democratic candidate for president. As late as October 30 of that year, people in the New York office were leaking that they were gung ho to investigate the Clinton Foundation but had met resistance from the DOJ in Washington. The fact that they wanted the press to know that suggests they thought the DOJ was playing politics to favor Hillary; Comey assumed they’d react the same way if he decided not to announce the reopening of Emailgate late that fall. None of that proves anti-Clinton bias by the New York agents, but someone should press Comey on it the next time he’s interviewed. Does he think the New York office was out to get Hillary or were they just frustrated that they weren’t getting the support they thought they deserved from the DOJ?
Here’s Rudy on CNN this morning being asked about what he said a few days ago on the subject of Trump “cleaning up” Russiagate with pardons. Relax, says Giuliani. There’s no way Trump’s going to pardon anyone … while the investigation is pending. But after it’s over? Hey, he’s the president and presidents do have the power to pardon. Glad that’s been cleared up.
.@JakeTapper: "If Manfort is convicted, will President Trump pardon him?"
Rudy Giuliani: "The President is not going to issue any pardons in this investigation … When it's over? Hey, he's the President of the United States, he retains his pardon power" https://t.co/NEYgsxa8QV
— CNN Politics (@CNNPolitics) June 17, 2018