Last night, Rudy Giuliani, new to his position at the head of President Trump’s legal team, went on Hannity for a friendly interview on Fox News. His comments on the Stormy Daniels’ case and the President reimbursing Michael Cohen for the $130,000 hush money payment are making waves this morning.
But an important detail from that interview is being largely overshadowed by what appears to be proof that Donald Trump lied about his knowledge of the hush money paid to the porn star who says she had an affair with President Trump in 2006 and the implication of crimes that may have been committed.
From The Hill
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) said Wednesday that President Trump fired former FBI Director James Comey because Comey wouldn’t tell Trump that he wasn’t a target of the FBI investigation into Russia’s election interference.
“He fired Comey because Comey would not, among other things, say that he wasn’t a target of the investigation,” Giuliani, who recently joined Trump’s legal team, told Fox News’s Sean Hannity.
“He’s entitled to that. Hillary Clinton got that and he couldn’t get that,” Giuliani said. “So he fired him and he said, ‘I’m free of this guy.’ ”
This contradicts Trump’s recent claim via Twitter that he, in fact, did not fire then FBI director James Comey because of the Russia investigation.
Slippery James Comey, the worst FBI Director in history, was not fired because of the phony Russia investigation where, by the way, there was NO COLLUSION (except by the Dems)!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 18, 2018
That tweet, in turn, contradicts Trump’s statement shortly after Comey’s firing during an interview last May on NBC Nightly News. Trump said then, “Regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey, knowing there was no good time to do it. And in fact, when I decided to just do it, I said to myself, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made up story.’”
Both the tweet and his statement in the Lester Holt interview contradict the official White House position that Comey was fired because of his handling of the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails.
It was the statement on NBC in May of 2017 that prompted Robert Mueller to be brought on as Special Counsel to investigate Russian interference in the 2016 election and the Trump campaign’s possible involvement. As reported in the New York Times, one topic Mueller has expressed interest in discussing with President Trump is his interactions, before and after, Comey was fired.
Giuliani’s statement regarding the firing of Comey on Hannity seems to be playing to the strategy Trump’s newly reconfigured legal team is now taking: they will claim that the President has the unfettered right to fire his employees.
Trump advisers are particularly frustrated by the Mueller team’s focus on whether Trump was obstructing justice by trying to push last summer for Sessions to resign. If the attorney general had stepped down, Trump could have chosen a replacement who was not recused from running the Russia investigation.
Dowd has repeatedly argued that the president has ultimate authority under the Constitution to fire or demote any of his appointees and that his firing decisions cannot be used as evidence of obstruction.
The fact that in the letter firing James Comey, Donald Trump specifically says Comey told him on multiple occasions that Trump was not under investigation, makes Giuliani’s statement to the contrary odd at best.
“While I greatly appreciate you informing me, on three separate occasions, that I am not under investigation, I nevertheless concur with the judgment of the Department of Justice that you are not able to lead the bureau.”
Why It Matters
Dowd, now departed from Trump’s legal team, is absolutely right that the President can fire or demote his employees. But he is absolutely wrong that those decisions cannot be used as evidence of obstruction. As former federal prosecutor, Renato Mariotti, points out:
A President can’t fire employees due to their race or religion. He can’t fire employees in exchange for a bribe. And he can’t fire employees to obstruct an ongoing criminal investigation into his friends.
It is outrageous for any American citizen, let alone an attorney, to postulate that the President has unfettered power to fire anyone under him. Firing someone because they are investigating the President and his colleagues to impede the investigation is Obstruction of Justice. And Obstruction of Justice is a crime.
Rudy Giuliani has further complicated an already complicated situation for the President. Mueller is already looking at the firing of James Comey and the pressure put upon AG Sessions to resign. The list of questions leaked to the NYT indicates Mueller is looking at Obstruction of Justice in the Russia probe and Rudy did his client no favors in that regard.