Giuliani offers bizarre explanation for ‘misleading’ claims about Clinton | US news

Rudy Giuliani offered the FBI an extraordinary – and seemingly implausible – explanation for “misleading” remarks he made on television just a month before the 2016 election about a “surprise” that could derail the Hillary Clinton campaign.

The former New York mayor, who serves as a personal lawyer to Donald Trump, faced justice department scrutiny last year for remarks he made in October 2016 that strongly suggested he had insider knowledge about a secret FBI investigation into Clinton’s handling of classified information.

James Comey, the then FBI director, publicly disclosed that investigators were looking into new material in the Clinton matter shortly after Giuliani’s public comments, in what proved to be one of the most contentious and controversial decisions in the weeks before the 2016 vote, which Trump won.

In an interview with the Guardian this week, in response to questions about a 2018 leak investigation into the matter by the Department of Justice’s inspector general’s office, Giuliani acknowledged that he told the FBI that he had “probably misled” people when he suggested he had spoken to “current” and “active” FBI agents about the “surprise” Clinton was facing.

But far from acknowledging that he had simply made misleading remarks, Giuliani offered the Guardian a seemingly bizarre explanation for why he had used the words “current” and “active agents”.

In short, he suggested that when he used the word “current” agent he meant that the FBI agents were retired but still in the broader US workforce, and that when he said they were “active” agents, he meant they were retired but still physically youthful and able-bodied.

“Sometimes I described them as active agents, and I probably misled people when I said active agents, because what I meant by that one… was that they were people that I work with. I didn’t mean people that were ‘on duty’. I know agents that are 85 years old, and I know agents that are 60 years old, and I consider the 60-years-olds to be active agents,” he said.

Rachel Maddow clip on Giuliani’s remarks to Fox News.

Giuliani’s comments to the FBI were not considered “sworn testimony”, his attorney, Robert Costello said. However, Costello acknowledged that false statements to the FBI are punishable by perjury charge.

“I did concede to the FBI that the statements that I made to the press were confusing,” he said. “I use the word ‘active’ and ‘current’ … I mean they are not old men, they can still do things.”

Pressed by the Guardian about the fact that the common understanding of the term “active agent” would mean that an individual was still working for the FBI, Giuliani said his use of the words “current” and “active” were understood by people who work in the security business, though perhaps not be laymen.

“I didn’t want to speak to ‘on-duty’ agents because I knew it would be a problem for them, not for me … it could be a crime or a violation for [an on-duty agent] to do that,” he said.

Giuliani added that he had welcomed the chance to clarify his remarks, because he did not want the inspector general’s office to be “running around” searching for “some poor person that didn’t exist”.

“I have no reason not to tell you if I spoke to an FBI agent. He’s the one who would get in trouble, not me,” he said.

The status of the inspector general’s investigation is unclear. Christopher Wray, the current FBI director, has declined to discuss any leak inquiries in congressional hearings.

Giuliani said the two FBI agents who interviewed him seemed satisfied by his remarks and that he has not heard anything else about the matter.

The inspector general’s office declined to comment.

The Huffington Post, and later the New York Times, previously reported on the existence of the leak investigation, and that Giuliani had told investigators that he did not have prior knowledge that the FBI was investigating the email matter when he referred to a Clinton “surprise”.

Giuliani has emerged as a central figure in the impeachment investigation into Trump, and there are new questions about his honesty. An earlier report by the inspector general’s office into the FBI’s actions in 2016 included remarks by former attorney general Loretta Lynch, who told the DOJ that she had complained about the FBI’s New York field office to Comey in late 2016. Specifically, she complained that there were senior people in the office who hated Clinton.

The email investigation into Clinton ended without any finding of criminal wrongdoing.

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