(PhatzNewsRoom / The Hill / AP) — 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.’ ”
Giuliani on Trump being interview by Mueller: “Are they objective? A lot of things point in the direction that they think James Comey is telling the truth and not the president.”
Argues Trump was justified in firing Comey because he wouldn’t say Trump wasn’t a target. pic.twitter.com/YzCb8l9ggh
– Aaron Rupar (@atrupar) May 3, 2018
Giuliani’s statement contradicts Trump’s recent claim that he didn’t fire Comey over the Russia probe.
Trump did cite the Russia investigation as part of his reasoning to fire Comey shortly after he did so last year.
“Regardless of recommendation, I was going to fire Comey,” Trump said during an interview with “NBC Nightly News,” last May, insisting “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,’ ” Trump said.
Trump also stated in his letter informing Comey of his dismissal that the former FBI director had told him he wasn’t under investigation.
“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,” Trump wrote in the letter to Comey.
— Rudy Giuliani’s revelation that President Donald Trump reimbursed his personal attorney for a $130,000 payment to a porn star to keep her quiet about an alleged affair is raising new legal questions, including whether the president and his campaign violated campaign finance laws.
The former New York City mayor insisted on Fox News Channel Wednesday night that the payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels was “going to turn out to be perfectly legal.”
“That money was not campaign money. Sorry, I’m giving you a fact now that you don’t know. It’s not campaign money, no campaign finance violation,” he said.
Some legal experts disagree. A look at some of the issues at play:
Giuliani’s insistence the money had nothing to do with the campaign is complicated by the fact that Daniels’ silence was secured just days before the 2016 presidential election, and as Trump was dealing with the fallout from the “Access Hollywood” tape in which he bragged about sexually assaulting women.
If the payment were wholly personal, said Richard L. Hasen, an expert in election law at the University of California, Irvine, there would be no campaign finance violations.
But Giuliani’s argument that the payment was unrelated to the campaign appears to be “pretty far-fetched” given the timing, said Andrew Herman, an attorney specializing in campaign finance law at Miller & Chevalier.
“Certainly, the argument that the government will make is that the $130,000 payment from Michael Cohen to Daniels was a loan to the Trump campaign to keep these allegations secret obviously and then Trump paying Cohen back would be a campaign expenditure” — a loan and expenditure that should have been disclosed to the Federal Election Commission, he said.
All campaign expenses, including payments and loans, are supposed to be disclosed to the FEC.
Hasen said the question before Wednesday had been whether Cohen had made an unreported contribution to the Trump campaign exceeding legal limits.
“If this is true, then it looks like Cohen may have made an unreported loan to the campaign rather than a contribution,” he said. That could be good news for Cohen, because it would have been up to the president or his campaign to report the loan, not up to Cohen.
“The greatest significance is that it implicates the president, directly,” he said. “If it’s done with Trump’s knowledge … then now we’re talking about something that is related to the campaign and is more serious.”
Norm Eisen, who served as an ethics lawyer in the Obama White House and now chairs the left-leaning Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, which has repeatedly challenged Trump, also said Trump should have disclosed the loan on his federal financial disclosure.
“There’s probably a sufficient basis for DOJ to open another investigation about whether the president was candid on his personal financial disclosure,” he said.
WHY GO THERE?
It wasn’t immediately clear what Giuliani sought to gain with the admission.
Eisen suggested it might have something to do with the fact that Cohen is under criminal investigation in New York. FBI agents also raided his home and office several weeks ago seeking records about the nondisclosure agreement.
“I think the other intention here apparently was to tear the Band-Aid off and to get out in public whatever Cohen might offer should he choose to cooperate,” speculated Eisen.
Sol Wisenberg, a defense attorney who was a deputy independent counsel during the Starr special counsel investigation into President Bill Clinton, said the comment “obviously increases the president’s exposure to potential campaign finance violations, but it also makes him look terrible.”
“I don’t understand the Giuliani strategy,” he added. “Maybe it’s been too long since he’s been in the criminal justice field.”
Associated Press writer Zeke Miller contributed to this report.