Following President Donald Trump’s firing of FBI Director James Comey, conservative media floated extreme right-wing personalities to lead the FBI. These possible FBI director replacements have a history of racist and anti-Muslim comments often made on Fox News, and their records demonstrate they can’t be trusted to lead the bureau impartially through the ongoing FBI investigation into the Trump campaign’s possible collusion with Russia in 2016.
Trump Fires FBI Director James Comey
The NY Times: Trump “Fired The Director Of The F.B.I., James B. Comey.” As reported by The New York Times on May 9, President Donald Trump fired FBI Director James Comey. According to the Times:
President Trump on Tuesday fired the director of the F.B.I., James B. Comey, abruptly terminating the top official leading a criminal investigation into whether Mr. Trump’s advisers colluded with the Russian government to steer the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. [The New York Times, 5/9/17]
Right-Wing Media Hype Extreme Conservative Figures To Replace James Comey
Fox News Named Sheriff David Clarke On A List Of “Possible Replacements” For Comey, NY Post Columnist John Podhoretz Also Suggested Clarke For The Position. On May 10, Fox News suggested Sheriff David Clarke of Milwaukee County, WI, as one of the “possible candidates to run the storied law enforcement agency.” The New York Post columnist John Podhoretz also recommended Clarke for the position in a tweet.
Clarke Is A Right-Wing Media Personality. Clarke hosts “David Clarke: The People’s Sheriff” podcast, focusing on “empowering individuals rather than ‘the state.’” Clarke’s podcast is hosted on his PAC’s website. On the program, he has discussed topics such as “the bastardization of blackness in America,” criticized NFL player Colin Kaepernick’s decision to protest the national anthem, and pushed for a potential indictment of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. [The People’s Sheriff; Stitcher.com, accessed 5/10/17]
Politifact Has Deemed 75 Percent Of Clarke’s Statements It Reviewed As “False Or Mostly False.”
[Politifact, accessed 5/10/17]
Clarke’s Record Includes Inflammatory Comments Against African-Americans, Protesters, Pro-Militias, And His Tenure As Milwaukee County Sheriff Has Been Riddled With Controversy. Clarke’s record as sheriff is questionable at best. According to Mother Jones, “four people died last year in the county jail overseen by Clarke” and he is currently being sued by families of the victims in his jails over his negligence and treatment of prisoners. He has also repeatedly appeared on Fox News to spout racially-charged rhetoric such as comparing Beyoncé’s Super Bowl performance to the Ku Klux Klan. According to Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, he claimed in one of his podcasts that African-Americans sell drugs because they are “uneducated, they’re lazy, and they’re morally bankrupt” [Mother Jones, 3/27/17; Media Matters, 11/16/16]
In More Than 40 Prime-Time Appearances On Fox News Since The First Reported Death Of Many In His Jail, Clarke Was Not Asked Once About This Disturbing Trend. [Media Matters, 11/29/16]
Clarke’s Past Comments Do Not Suggest Impartiality On Current FBI Investigations.
Sources Close To Trump Told New York Magazine That Giuliani Is Being Considered. New York magazine’s Olivia Nuzzi tweeted that a source close to Trump had told her that Giuliani is “100% in consideration for the position”. [Twitter, 5/10/17]
Former FBI Official Philip Mudd: Giuliani “In My World Is Viewed As Toxic” And “Would Corrupt The Sense That The FBI Operates Independently From The White House.” While providing commentary for Comey’s firing on the May 10 edition of CNN’s New Day, CNN counterterrorism analyst and former FBI official Philip Mudd described the consequences of appointing Giuliani to lead the FBI:
PHILIP MUDD: If you pick somebody like Rudy Giuliani, who in my world is viewed as toxic, someone who went over the edge after he lost the mayorship -- he was “America’s mayor” -- and he became Trump's man and later in some statements became unhinged, I think that would not only corrupt the investigation, that would corrupt the sense that the FBI operates independently from the White House. [CNN, New Day, 5/10/17]
Giuliani Has Repeatedly Gone On Fox News To Fearmonger Against Muslims, Make Inflammatory Comments On Race. During his appearances on Fox News programs, Giuliani consistently fearmongers about Muslims, blames former President Barack Obama for terror attacks, and advocates for divisive policies such as surveillance of Muslim communities. Giuliani, who stoked “racial divisions” during his time as New York City’s mayor, has also pushed “false” and “misleading” statistics when talking about race and crime. In fact, The New York Times editorial board criticized him for his “trademark brew of poisonous disinformation” when it came to race-related shootings. [Media Matters, 7/14/16, 12/5/14, 7/12/16]
Giuliani’s Past Comments Do Not Suggest Impartiality On Current FBI Investigations
Giuliani Previously Praised Putin As “What You Call A Leader.” While appearing on the March 3, 2014, edition of Fox News’ Your World with Neil Cavuto, Giuliani praised Russian President Vladimir Putin as “what you call a leader.” [Media Matters, 3/3/14]
NY Times: Giuliani Claimed Ties To FBI Agents And Said They Told Him That Mrs. Clinton Should Have Been Criminally Charged. While providing no evidence, Giuliani claimed that he had access to FBI agents who told him they were “outraged” that Clinton had not been brought to justice. As the Times noted, “it is a violation of F.B.I. policy for agents to share investigative information”:
His most remarkable claim is that he has a pipeline into the Federal Bureau of Investigation and that agents tell him they are “outraged” that they have not been able to bring Mrs. Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, to justice.
“It perplexes numerous F.B.I. agents who talk to me all the time,” Mr. Giuliani said during an August interview with Chris Cuomo on CNN. “And it embarrasses some F.B.I. agents.”
Mr. Giuliani has not named the embarrassed or perplexed agents, and as Wayne Barrett noted in The Daily Beast on Thursday, it is a violation of F.B.I. policy for agents to share investigative information.
“You have outraged F.B.I. agents that talk to me,” Mr. Giuliani said in an interview on Wednesday with Megyn Kelly on Fox News. “They are outraged at the injustice. They are outraged at being turned down by the Justice Department to open a grand jury. They are convinced that Loretta Lynch has corrupted the Justice Department.” [The New York Times, 11/3/16]
On CNN, Giuliani Admitted That He Wanted To See Clinton In An Orange Jumpsuit. On CNN’s New Day, co-host Chris Cuomo said to Giuliani, “You said you want to see [Clinton] in an orange jumpsuit, that she’d be convicted by now if you were prosecutor.” Giuliani responded, “Yeah, true.” From the October 26, 2016, edition of CNN’s New Day:
CHRIS CUOMO (CO-HOST): At the Al Smith dinner the other night, you looked like Grumpy Cat. You were upset. You had -- you didn't like the jokes that Hillary Clinton was making about you --
RUDY GIULIANI: It wasn't so much the joke -- you know what it was?
CUOMO: You said you want to see her in an orange jumpsuit, that she’d be convicted by now if you were prosecutor.
GIULIANI: Yeah, true.
CUOMO: Where is this coming from?
GIULIANI: Coming from being a U.S. attorney for five years, an assistant U.S. attorney for six years, and a federal investigator for two. Law clerk. The crimes she committed are so many, and I see a general like Cartwright get prosecuted for confirming two classified documents that had already been out there. And I see her, having given classified documents to people without classifications, a lot of those people on her staff, straight out federal crime.
CUOMO: But you know --
GIULIANI: Extremely careless in the handling of classified information amounts to the crime of gross negligence. [CNN, New Day, 10/26/16]
Giuliani Said About Clinton: “If She Was Anybody Else She'd Be Under Indictment Right Now.” While providing commentary on CNN regarding the October 19, 2016, presidential debate, Giuliani said that if Clinton “was anybody else she’d be under indictment”:
ERIN BURNETT (HOST): So most recent poll, Washington Post/ABC, 62 percent of Americans say Trump does not have the fitness to be president. 59 percent of Americans say Hillary Clinton does have the temperament to be president. Why are 62 percent of the American people wrong?
RUDY GIULIANI: Well I can’t analyze polls, you do all kinds of polling. What he’s going to have to do is demonstrate that he is fit to be president in that because of the FBI finding her extremely careless in the use of national security information. Not only isn’t she fit to be president, I couldn't hire her as an assistant US attorney. She would have been disqualified as an assistant US attorney. If that was on the background report of someone I decided to hire as assistant US attorney, I couldn't hire them because they have been extremely careless in the handling of sensitive government documents. That would be an automatic disqualifier. And you look at all of these emails and you look at the way the Clinton Foundation was run. The pay-for-play operation at the State Department. I mean, we're looking at somebody who if it wasn't for Hillary Clinton, like the general for example, who's getting prosecuted for two pieces of information that he confirmed, he didn’t even put out. If she was anybody else she'd be under indictment right now. [Media Matters, 10/19/16]
Salon: Giuliani May Be Under FBI Investigation. According to Salon, then-FBI Director James Comey “told Senators that the FBI is looking into the possibility that information regarding the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails was leaked by members within the agency to Donald Trump’s team — this means Rudy Giuliani, because he served as a surrogate to President Trump’s campaign.” From the May 4 report:
Rudy Giuliani may have found himself in the crosshairs of the FBI Director James Comey, and he has no one to blame except for his big mouth.
On Wednesday, Comey told Senators that the FBI is looking into the possibility that information regarding the investigation into Hillary Clinton’s emails was leaked by members within the agency to Donald Trump’s team — this means Rudy Giuliani, because he served as a surrogate to President Trump’s campaign. At the end of October, Comey made a bombshell announcement that the FBI would probe newly discovered emails from Clinton that were found on the computer of Anthony Weiner. But just a few days prior, Giuliani appeared on “Fox and Friends” where he hinted, “We got a couple of surprises left.”
Two days after Comey’s announcement, Giuliani appeared on Fox News once again where he appeared to admit that he had knew about exactly what was going to happen in advance. “Did I hear about it? You’re darn right I heard about it,” Giuliani said on Fox News. [Salon, 5/4/17]
Fox News Put Gowdy On List Of “Possible Replacements” For Comey. Fox News included Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC) in its list of “possible replacements” for Comey to lead the FBI, adding that he “led the House committee investigation of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's actions surrounding the deaths of four Americans in Benghazi, Libya.” [FoxNews.com, 5/10/17]
Gowdy’s Benghazi Committee Spent $7.8 Million Taxpayers Dollars In An Investigation That Found No “Wrongdoing” By Clinton. As reported by USA Today, the House Benghazi Committee that Gowdy led shut down after spending two and a half years and $7.8 million dollars. And while the House Benghazi Committee “accused the government of incompetence at various levels … the [final] report did not single out wrongdoing” by Clinton. [USA Today, 12/12/16 via Media Matters]
Gowdy’s Past Comments Do Not Suggest Impartiality On Current FBI Investigations.
Fox News Named Christie On List Of “Possible Replacements” For Comey. Fox News named New Jersey Governor Chris Christie as a potential replacement for Comey, claiming that he “could bring law enforcement bona fides to the job.” [FoxNews.com, 5/10/17]
Christie Was Involved In The “Bridgegate” Scandal. As reported by Media Matters, “another mark against Christie has been the Bridgegate scandal, in which his subordinates conspired to block traffic on the George Washington Bridge as payback for political slights against the governor.” [Media Matters, 9/23/16]
Fox News Went Far Out Of Its Way To Ignore The Scandal. On the day it was revealed that Christie allegedly shut down traffic on the George Washington Bridge to punish a political rival, Fox News buried the story and media critics widely noted the channel appeared to be protecting his presidential ambitions. [Media Matters, 1/10/14]
Christie’s Past Comments Do Not Suggest Impartiality On Current FBI Investigations
On CNN, Christie Said He Didn’t Think A Special Prosecutor Is Needed To Investigate Potential Trump Ties To Russia. On the February 26 edition of CNN’s State of the Union, host Jake Tapper asked Christie if he thought “a special prosecutor is needed” to investigate Trump campaign's potential ties with Russia. Christie said he didn’t think a special prosecutor was needed as that “doesn’t serve anybody’s purposes:”
CHRIS CHRISTIE: No, I don't. Because the Justice Department over the course of time has shown itself with the professionals that are there that have the ability to investigate these types of things. I just think Jake -- and this is with a Republican or a Democrat, we’ve seen it happen on both sides, when a special prosecutor gets involved, the thing gets completely out of control. That doesn't serve anybody's purposes. We have a lot of important problems to deal with in this country. I’m not saying that’s not one of them, but I believe the Justice Department can handle it. [CNN, State Of The Union, 2/26/17]
Politico: Christie Called For Criminal Investigation Into Clinton Emails. As reported by Politico on August 17, 2015, Christie said there “is ample evidence to criminally investigate” Clinton over her using a private email server:
“Could you imagine if after the bridge investigation began, I came out and said, ‘Oh by the way, I’ve done all my business as governor on a private email server, and I’ve deleted now 30,000 of those emails, but trust me, none of it had to do with the bridge’?” the New Jersey governor said in a Monday interview with CNN’s “New Day.”
“Gimme a break.”
“There is ample evidence here to criminally investigate her conduct,” he added. [Politico, 8/17/15]
Nina Mast contributed research to this item.