Rudy Giuliani has an unmistakable New Year’s message for special counsel Robert Mueller: It is time for the chief investigator in the Russia case to be investigated in 2019.
In wide-ranging interviews with Hill.TV’s Buck Sexton and me on Wednesday and Thursday, President Trump’s defense lawyer pointedly accused Mueller’s office of destroying evidence by allowing text messages from now-fired FBI official Peter Strzok and his FBI lover, Lisa Page, to be erased in the Russia probe.
“Mueller should be investigated for destruction of evidence for allowing those text messages from Strzok to be erased, messages that would show the state of mind and tactics of his lead anti-Trump FBI agent at the start of his probe,” Giuliani said.
The Justice Department inspector general (IG) reported this month that it found large gaps in the preservation of official government text messages between Strzok and Page, the two top FBI agents who helped to start the Russia probe in 2016, who were having an affair at the time, and who expressed disdain for Trump.
The report said a technical glitch was to blame for the FBI’s failure to save those text messages, but the IG was able to recover more than 19,000 from the early part of the Russia probe before Mueller was named special prosecutor.
However, the IG said it was unable to recover messages from the time Strzok and Page worked for Mueller’s office in spring and summer 2017 because the memories of both FBI officials’ government phones were wiped clean by technicians.
That erasure occurred after Strzok and Page left Mueller’s team over revelations they exchanged anti-Trump text messages, including one string in which they talked about stopping Trump from becoming president.
“That should be investigated, damn it, that should be investigated fully. You want a special counsel, get one for that,” Giuliani said.
When pressed about whether he thought the erasure was intentional and not just a mistake, Giuliani alluded to the infamous erasure of a Watergate tape by President Nixon’s loyal secretary a half-century earlier.
“It’s actually worse than Rose Mary Woods,” he explained. “She erased less than 19 minutes of conversation, but the FBI got rid of more than 19,000 messages,” and the messages from the time Strzok and Page worked for Mueller are lost forever.
Giuliani said the Russia probe investigators also should be investigated for using the Christopher Steele dossier, which he called a “piece of garbage,” to justify a search warrant on a Trump adviser without telling the court it was paid for by 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s campaign and the Democratic Party.
“Do I think that is improper? Yeah, that borders on — that sounds to me a lot more like a false statement than some of the ones they charged,” he said, referring to Mueller’s team.
The former New York City mayor and Republican presidential candidate, who joined Trump’s defense team in 2018, sharply criticized Mueller’s team for allowing what he said were false statements by former Trump attorney Michael Cohen at Cohen’s sentencing a few weeks ago.
“He just lied the other day. He told the judge, ‘I was fiercely loyal to Donald Trump.’ No, he wasn’t. He taped him surreptitiously while he was fiercely loyal. He hid it. And he disclosed it.”
The Mueller prosecutors’ failure to stand up during the sentencing and correct Cohen’s statement “is unethical in and of itself. Making a false statement to a court, even a lawyer, you have to correct it,” Giuliani said.
Giuliani said he is disturbed that the one Cohen tape that has surfaced — in which Cohen and Trump discussed making payments to two women accusers during the 2016 campaign — inexplicably cuts off midway through the conversation.
Giuliani said he believes the missing sections of the conversation include “exculpatory” statements that would prove the president was innocent.
Giuliani expressed hope that the Mueller investigation would end soon, now that Trump has submitted written answers to prosecutors’ questions. He remains confident there is no evidence the president colluded with Russia to hijack the 2016 presidential election.
Giuliani said that, if prosecutors requested additional written answers from Trump, his advice would be for the president not to provide more information to Mueller: “They have everything they need unless they just want to set a perjury trap.”
He said Mueller’s current focus on whether Trump friends such as Roger Stone were communicating with WikiLeaks outside the campaign about hacked Hillary Clinton emails shows just how far astray the probe had gone.
“We’re now four degrees of separation from the original mandate of the investigation, which was collusion which did not occur,” he noted.
When asked whether Mueller should be the last special prosecutor ever appointed by the Justice Department, Giuliani hedged: “I never like to say never, but I must say I have great pause after seeing the abuses in this investigation.”
The FBI, he added, still needs to rehabilitate itself from the damage done by missteps in the Russia probe. Giuliani said he believed that “99 percent of the FBI agents” were doing a great job but that a small group of “FBI politicians” had improperly hijacked the Russia probe during fired Director James Comey’s tenure.
Giuliani said he is uncertain if President Trump’s pick to head the FBI, Director Christopher Wray, could help right the wrongs from the Russia probe. “I’m uncertain because I haven’t heard anything from him. … The first way you fix problems is by acknowledging them.”
As for Mueller, Giuliani made clear he intends to fight back on every remaining move the special prosecutor makes. The Trump defense team already has drafted a robust document to counter any information Mueller sends to the Justice Department in his final report.
And there’s nothing the defense team is leaving without rebuttal, apparently.
For example, Giuliani said it is ironic that, after investigating Trump for possible obstruction because Trump once suggested the FBI consider going easy on former national security adviser Michael Flynn, Mueller himself asked a federal judge to go easy on Flynn by awarding no prison time.
“Maybe Mueller needs to investigate himself for obstruction on Flynn like he did my client,” the former mayor said wryly.
He was joking on that one. But don’t expect any laughs on the disappearance of the Strzok text messages or Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act abuses. On those issues, “America’s mayor” is all business.