On Thursday night, Trump legal team face Rudy Giuliani went on Sean Hannity’s Fox News Channel show and said this:
“[Deputy Attorney General Rod] Rosenstein and [Attorney General] Jeff Sessions have a chance to redeem themselves and that chance comes about tomorrow. It doesn’t go beyond tomorrow. Tomorrow, [special counsel Robert] Mueller should be suspended and honest people should be brought in, impartial people to investigate these people like [FBI agent] Peter Strzok. Strzok should be in jail by the end of next week.”
End the Mueller investigation! Jail an FBI agent, presumably without trial! (Hard to see how a trial could be conducted between today and Strzok being incarcerated next week.)
What has occasioned Giuliani, never one for understatement, to crash through even his own high standards for hyperbole, you ask? The 500-plus-page report from the Justice Department’s Inspector General, which documents the actions – and inaction – of former FBI head James Comey and a number of his underlings during their 2016 investigation of Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server.
The report makes clear three basic things:
- Comey violated protocol repeatedly during the 2016 election, especially when it came to his decision to publicly announce that there wasn’t a case to prosecute Clinton in July 2016 and his pronouncement just days before the election that more emails potentially pertaining to the probe had been found on Anthony Weiner’s computer.
- No evidence of partisan or political bias was found as a motivator for Comey’s protocol breaks
- Strzok, an agent involved in the Clinton investigation and the FBI’s look into whether and how Russians were seeking to meddle in our elections, acted hugely inappropriately in a series of text messages with FBI lawyer Lisa Page, with whom he was pursuing an affair. In response to a text from Page concerned about Trump winning, Strzok replied: “No. No he won’t. We’ll stop it.”
Those three conclusions are facts – or at least as close as we can hope to come to facts surrounding the FBI circa 2016.
What Giuliani is choosing to do with those facts is, well, a stretch.
Let’s take Giuliani’s call for Mueller to suspend his investigation first.
The argument from the former New York City mayor seems to be that Mueller is focused on all the wrong things. The current probe – into Russian meddling as well as the possibility of obstruction and collusion – is pointless, is a witch hunt, is already proven to be a hoax. Given that, Mueller should go investigate the real criminals – Strzok, Page and Comey (among others).
“We are way beyond Hillary Clinton. We now have an investigation that in the words of President Donald Trump from the very beginning has been a fix, a frame-up and a witch-hunt. It was led by Peter Strzok, who is disgraceful and even for the present director of the FBI to have him there tomorrow would be disgraceful. Every FBI agent should demand that that man be fired and tomorrow Mueller should suspend his investigation and he should go see Rod Rosenstein who created him and the Deputy Attorney General and Attorney General Sessions who should now step up big time to save his Department.”
But, why would Mueller suspend an investigation that has nothing to do with the IG report on how the FBI handled the 2016 Clinton email server probe? Mueller is looking into the active measures Russia took to interfere in our election and the possibility people within the Trump campaign worked with them to do it. His investigation has zero to with Hillary Clinton’s email server.
Also, there’s no need for Mueller to suspend his investigation so that an investigation into Comey, Strozk, etc. could begin. This isn’t a zero sum game. You can have two special counsels at one time! Investigating different things!
Now for Giuliani’s call for Strzok to be imprisoned.
Giuliani never really goes into what crime Strzok should be charged – and immediately convicted – with, which makes it hard to determine if he is serious about this or just trying to score rhetorical points.
He makes a passing reference to Comey being at the “head of this RICO case.” But, in order for this to be a RICO case – which stands for the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations act – there would need to be some sort of broad-scale corruption and bribery – a vast conspiracy designed to bring down Trump.
Remember that the IG report expressly makes clear that he found no evidence that the FBI was influenced by partisan bias in its decision-making regarding the Clinton email server. (The report is more vague on Strzok, saying only that it is impossible to determine whether the sentiments voiced in his texts might have influenced his decision-making on which case – Russia or Clinton – to focus on during the election.)
It’s worth noting here that an FBI agent having opinions is not a crime. Acting on those views to obstruct an investigation is. But, according to the IG report, that evidence simply doesn’t exist.
What explains Giuliani’s hyperbole then? He is doing what Trump wants – pushing the goalposts back as far as possible, trying to set the field on which the debate over the IG report will play out.