Misdirection: What did Giuliani know, and when did he know it?

How does a campaign triage a scandal of their own making? By trying to turn it into someone else’s. After Rudy Giuliani hinted on Fox & Friends earlier today that he’d heard lots of rumblings about the investigation into Hillary Clinton from inside the FBI, her supporters are citing this as proof that the probe into her secret e-mail server is nothing more than a politically motivated exercise from the FBI:

Filmmaker Michael Moore says he suspects top Donald Trump advisor Rudy Giuliani “knew something” before the FBI revealed last week it found new emails related to its probe into Hillary Clinton.

“Well it sure sounds like he knew something. You know, I mean this man is a former federal prosecutor, worked for the Justice Department. If somebody slipped him some information there, I mean, that is amazing,” Moore told CNN on Thursday.

Michael Moore isn’t the only accuser [see update below]. Correct the Record, a years-old project to spin news for Hillary Clinton, cited this interview at about the same time:

Here’s the full interview, which doesn’t exactly pay off on the smoking-gun claims. Giuliani walks through the case against both Hillary Clinton and Huma Abedin in the first part of the interview, and calls FBI Director James Comey “dead wrong” on his interpretation of 18 USC 793(f). It’s a good argument, especially when he explains the intent behind Congress’ use of “gross negligence” as a standard for criminal prosecution.

If you want to skip that, the relevant part picks up at the 4:26 mark, when Steve Doocy turns the conversation to the inner turmoil at the FBI. Giuliani makes it clear several times that his sources are not active FBI agents; he explicitly states that he does not want to compromise agents, and that he’s hearing about the turmoil indirectly from retired agents. That hardly constitutes a partisan conspiracy — news agencies like ABC, CBS, and the Wall Street Journal have reported on the same issues with more direct sourcing than Giuliani has.

When discussing the leaks, Giuliani makes it clear that these aren’t his sources, but that he’s not surprised that this is blowing up now. The reference to “three or four weeks ago” doesn’t even relate to the Comey letter, but to the reports now coming out about the revolt “boiling up” in the bureau over the restrictions on the investigation put on the agents in the probes from the beginning:


Not once in this conversation does Giuliani even hint that he knew about the Comey letter. It’s a dishonest argument based on stripping the context of the rest of the conversation from the soundbite. It is, however, exactly what we’d expect to see from a campaign and cadre of supporters desperate to shift the focus of this scandal off of Hillary Clinton and Huma Abedin and onto their political opponents.

The entire allegation is nonsensical anyway. If Comey, the FBI, and the Democrat-run Department of Justice wanted to tip the election, all they had to do was to indict Hillary back in July. As Giuliani points out in the first half of the interview, they had all the evidence they needed to do so.

Update: Michael Moore was referring to an interview that Giuliani had done on October 26th, but Correct the Record and The Hill’s Nikita Vladimirov cited this morning’s interview. The pull quote in The Hill’s tweet — “You’re darn right I heard about it” — was from this morning, and had nothing to do with Comey’s letter.

As for the October 26th interview, that’s in part what Giuliani was explaining. The Washington Post’s reporter on the DoJ beat, Matt Zapotosky, comes to the same conclusion I did:

Giuliani claimed he was “real careful not to talk to any on-duty, active FBI agents,” but he had “a lot of friends who are retired FBI agents, close, personal friends.” He then opined about how his retired agent friends disagreed with Comey’s decision not to charge Clinton in the email case, and they felt the Justice Department was “obstructing” agents’ separate efforts to look into the Clinton Foundation.

That is all roughly true — though it was career public integrity prosecutors, rather than politically appointed Justice Department officials, who were skeptical of the agents’ foundation evidence and denied their request to go forward. But it was also all public, and Giuliani wouldn’t have needed insider or even retired sources to talk about it. …

The answer suggests Giuliani is claiming to have known not of the development in the Clinton email case, but of frustration over the Clinton Foundation matter. Agents wanting to look into the foundation made a pitch to career public integrity prosecutors in February and were told they did not have enough evidence to move forward.

Did Guiliani know about the Clinton Foundation probe? Maybe, but that’s been sotto voce for months, although no one really knew whether it was still active. We know now not because of Giuliani, but because the Wall Street Journal got leaks from active-duty agents. At any rate, Correct the Record and The Hill got this quote badly out of context, and The Hill should correct the record.