On Wednesday night, former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani sat for an interview with Sean Hannity in his first major TV appearance as President Trump’s lawyer.
It did not go well.
Giuliani offered a new — and contradictory — explanation for why Trump fired Comey. This is problematic when the goal of Trump’s lawyers is to provide Mueller with a consistent, and legal, explanation for the firing.
Early in the interview, Giuliani said that Trump fired James Comey as FBI director because “Comey would not — among other things — say that he wasn’t a target of the investigation.” Giuliani said Trump was “entitled to that.”
Giuliani’s statement not only confirms that Comey was fired because he refused to publicly clear Trump in the Russia investigation, but also directly contradicts two other explanations for Comey’s firing offered by Trump.
According to Giuliani, Trump told NBC’s Lester Holt in an interview shortly after Comey’s firing that “I did it because I felt I had to explain to the American people that their president was not the target of the investigation.”
That is not, however, what Trump told Holt. Trump told Holt that he fired Comey because of his frustration with the existence of the entire Russia investigation, which he believed was an excuse concocted by Democrats who lost the election. (Comey was a Republican who was appointed deputy attorney general by George W. Bush.)
And in fact when I decided to just do it I said to myself, I said, “You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story, it’s an excuse by the Democrats for having lost an election that they should’ve won.”
In the interview with Holt, Trump did not mention Comey’s refusal to state publicly that he was not a target of the investigation.
Trump’s answer in the Holt interview, in turn, contradicted the official explanation for Comey’s firing. Officially, Trump fired Comey for the reasons laid out in a memo written by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. The memo criticizes Comey’s handling of the Hillary Clinton email investigation. Specifically, Rosenstein said Comey was too harsh to Clinton and should not have criticized her publicly when he announced that charges would not be filed.
On Hannity, Giuliani made the exact opposite argument.
“Hillary, I know you’re very disappointed you didn’t win. But you’re a criminal. Equal justice would mean you should go to jail,” Giuliani said.
It’s a well-received talking point on Sean Hannity’s show on Fox News. But Giuliani’s failure to tell a consistent story, particularly about Comey’s firing, could create much bigger problems for Trump down the road.