Former New York City mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, now an attorney for President Trump, has rocked the political and legal worlds not only with his revelation that Trump reimbursed attorney Michael Cohen for hush money paid to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels, but that the president fired James B. Comey because the then-FBI director wouldn’t publicly clear Trump in the Russia affair. On Fox News, Giuliani even let on that the Daniels affair would have upset Trump’s presidential campaign in its final stretch. “Imagine if that came out on October 15, 2016, in the middle of the last debate with Hillary Clinton,” he said. “Cohen didn’t even ask. He made it go away. He did his job.” Those trying to make the campaign-finance violation stick should thank Giuliani for helping clarify that the payment was related to the campaign, and thus potentially illegal.
Planned or not, Giuliani’s statements make potential criminal and civil cases against Trump easier — and make Giuliani look like a legal klutz. But those remarks were not the most objectionable ones he made during his tear through cable news. No, that distinction is reserved for his accusation that the FBI officers who — with warrant in hand — searched Cohen’s office, home and hotel room acted like “stormtroopers.” Giuliani disgraced himself by using a term often meant to evoke Nazi paramilitary groups.
This is not the first time this crowd has viewed American law-enforcement officials operating under a lawful search warrant as being akin to Nazis. As we noted last month, Trump supporter Newt Gingrich said of the raid on Cohen: “It ain’t the rule of law when they kick in your door at 3 o’clock in the morning and you’re faced with armed men. And you have had no reason to be told you’re going to have that kind of treatment. That’s Stalin. That’s the Gestapo in Germany. That shouldn’t be the American FBI.”
We warned then that the danger in such comments is that they become normalized. The notion that American law enforcement operating within a constitutional system is in anyway comparable to Nazis is deeply offensive and wrong. It smears admirable men and women who put their lives on the line, and trivializes the Holocaust.
Jonathan Greenblatt, the national director of the Anti-Defamation League, tweeted:
Interestingly, Comey ignored Giuliani’s insults (he called Comey a “liar”) but took great exception to his smear of the FBI. In a tweet on Thursday, Comey wrote, “I know the New York FBI. There are no ‘stormtroopers’ there; just a group of people devoted to the rule of law and the truth. Our country would be better off if our leaders tried to be like them, rather than comparing them to Nazis.” He is right, of course.
Here is where the media must take responsibility. When anyone — especially an emissary of the president — throws around Nazi comparisons, it is incumbent on whoever is interviewing him or her (either in the moment or later) to call them on it. In what way do sworn FBI agents operating with a warrant signed by a federal court magistrate behave like fascist thugs who beat up and killed innocents in a genocide? Do you, Mr. Giuliani, owe actual victims of the Holocaust an apology?
Some of you may wonder, out of all the horrific statements and actions over the last few months, we choose to cite these Nazi references. You see, if we do not call them out, the Holocaust deniers and minimizers and the unhinged right-wing critics of law enforcement get away with it. They cannot be allowed to commandeer the language. These remarks are an abomination and must stop.