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Opinion Rudy Giuliani’s pre-election comments on Fox News prompted an FBI leak investigation

Former New York mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani joined President Trump’s legal team on April 19. (Video: Victoria Walker/The Washington Post)

Rudolph W. Giuliani was dying to show the country that he remained in the loop. “I mean, I’m talking about some pretty big surprises,” he said on Fox News on Oct. 26, 2016. On an earlier Fox News program, he said, “I do think that all of these revelations about Hillary Clinton finally are beginning to have an impact. He’s got a surprise or two that you’re going to hear about in the next two days.”

On Oct. 28, 2016, then-FBI Director James B. Comey signaled that he was reopening the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails — a momentous event that may have handed the presidency to Donald Trump and is the subject of much chatter on Comey’s ongoing tour for his new book.

After Comey took that fateful step — and the entire newsphere went bonkers — Giuliani returned to Fox News for on Nov. 4 something of a victory lap. “I had expected this for the last — honestly, tell you the truth, I thought it was going to be about three, four weeks ago. Because back — way back in July this started. So, this has been boiling up … I did nothing to get it out. I had no role in it. Did I hear about it? You’re darn right I heard about it. And I can’t even repeat the language that I heard.”

In an interview with MSNBC host Rachel Maddow on Thursday night, Comey relived the drama. Did Giuliani, and by association the Trump campaign, asked Maddow, have forewarning from within the FBI — perhaps the New York office — of Comey’s consequential act of Oct. 28?

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Comey replied:

Not that I know of, but I saw that same publicity and so I commissioned an investigation to see if we could understand whether people were disclosing information out of the New York office or any other place that resulted in Rudy’s report on Fox News and other leaks that we were seeing in the media.
I don’t know what the result of that was. I got fired before it was finished, but I know that I asked that it be investigated.

He wasn’t alone in such a request. Also on Nov. 4, Democratic lawmakers asked Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz to probe the matter. “It is absolutely unacceptable for the FBI to leak unsubstantiated — and in some cases false — information about one presidential candidate to benefit the other candidate,” wrote Reps. Elijah E. Cummings (Md.) and John Conyers Jr. (Mich.).

Asked about his involvement by Fox News’s Megyn Kelly, Giuliani said, “This is the ‘vast right-wing conspiracy’ garbage all over again. … I spoke to no current FBI agents, ever, in the last 10 months. I’ve had no communication with them. I haven’t destroyed any of my emails. … The information I got from former FBI agents … was the FBI, from the time of the Comey investigation until the day Jim came forward with what he said were in revolt about an investigation they believe was being sabotaged.”

And Giuliani told Kelly that the “surprise” he’d referred to previously was “advertising” by the Trump campaign. “Because we were having a big debate about whether he should give a big speech or do a bunch of advertising. That is what I was talking about,” said Giuliani. “I had no idea that Jim Comey was going to do what he did. Not the slightest idea.”

Such protestations notwithstanding, Maddow asked Comey whether the leakiness of certain FBI officials forced his hand in disclosing the re-opening of the Clinton investigation. He responded:

No, I did not consider the prospect of a leak. Now, that actually figured in a conversation I recount in the book that Loretta Lynch and I had the following week, where she appeared to be saying to me it would have come out anyway, basically. But that’s not why I made that decision, because I didn’t know and still don’t know as I sit here whether people in the FBI office in the New York were leaking.

News broke on Thursday that Giuliani will be joining Trump’s legal team, so we may be hearing a bit more from him.

Also breaking on Thursday were copies of memos that Comey himself had written after encounters with Trump — those hurry-up-and-remember documents that the fired FBI director created to memorialize Trump’s various transgressions. Those memos leaked mere moments after they were handed over to Capitol Hill. Irony of ironies — the memos outline some of the president’s thoughts about leak investigations:

It’s a good bet that the president might not support such an aggressive posture vis-a-vis his new lawyer.