DOJ watchdog unable to determine if FBI fed Giuliani information ahead of 2016 election

A government watchdog was unable to determine whether FBI employees were improperly feeding information to Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiLev Parnas found guilty of breaking campaign finance laws Giuliani associate Lev Parnas won't testify at trial Four Seasons Total Landscaping comes full circle with MSNBC special MORE ahead of the 2016 election but found three senior officials had “unethical interactions with reporters.”

The latest report from the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Office of Inspector General (OIG) is part of a series of investigations seeking to root out government “leakers” that had contact with reporters during that year's presidential election.

Giuliani voluntarily interviewed with DOJ officials who had questions about 2016 comments warning of “some pretty big surprises” just days before then-FBI Director James ComeyJames Brien ComeyTrump defends indicted GOP congressman Andrew McCabe's settlement with the Department of Justice is a signal to John Durham Giuliani told investigators it was OK to 'throw a fake' during campaign MORE announced he was reopening the investigation into whether Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonSuper PACs release ad campaign hitting Vance over past comments on Trump I voted for Trump in 2020 — he proved to be the ultimate RINO in 2021 Neera Tanden tapped as White House staff secretary MORE had mishandled classified information while she served as secretary of State.

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“Giuliani told the OIG that he had not received any information about any ongoing FBI investigations, including then Director Comey’s decision to re-open the Hillary Clinton email investigation,” the report states.

“Comey’s statements were a shock to me. I had no foreknowledge of any of them,” Giuliani told investigators.

Giuliani also said he had not been in contact with any active FBI agents in October 2016, and stated that he had only spoken with former agents who did not have any direct or indirect knowledge of FBI investigations in October 2016, and that the extent of his conversations with former agents was “gossip” about Comey’s decisionmaking in 2016. 

Officials launched the investigation after Giuliani during an October 2016 interview with Fox News expressed confidence in Trump’s election prospects and predicted there would be “some pretty big surprises” in the next few days. Two days later, Comey told Congress that he was reopening the investigation into Clinton’s emails. 

But the investigation was largely inconclusive over the FBI’s own concerns its agents may have been in contact with Giuliani.

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While the FBI identified four employees it believed may have been in contact with him, the OIG found the numbers corresponded with the main telephone line of the law firm where Giuliani worked as well as two phone numbers for businesses that had not been affiliated with Giuliani since 2007.

“The telephone numbers attributed by the FBI to Giuliani were not, therefore, specific to Giuliani. Accordingly, the purported investigative leads provided by the FBI based on alleged FBI employee contacts with Giuliani were inaccurate,” the report concluded.

Comey told Congress in 2018 that he opened an investigation into possible leaks about the 2016 Clinton email investigation after Giuliani made public comments suggesting he had inside information. Comey said he was fired by then-President TrumpDonald TrumpGrant Woods, longtime friend of McCain and former Arizona AG, dies at 67 Super PACs release ad campaign hitting Vance over past comments on Trump Glasgow summit raises stakes for Biden deal MORE before the investigation concluded. 

Department of Justice Inspector General Michael Horowitz testified at the end of 2019 that the probe into alleged leaks to Giuliani and other people was still ongoing. 

But overall, the report found broad contact between FBI officers and the media, with 56 FBI employees having been in contact with the media. Each one, however, “denied providing non-public information” and “believed they were authorized under FBI policy and/or by a supervisory official in their office to have and maintain media contacts.”

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“The misconduct by these three senior officials, and the substantial media contacts identified by the OIG involving numerous other FBI employees, evidenced a cultural attitude at the FBI that was far too permissive of unauthorized media contacts in 2016,” Horowitz wrote in the report.

The available evidence, however, did not enable the OIG to determine whether these media contacts resulted in the disclosure of nonpublic information as described in the 2016 preelection report.

The Justice Department has had other leak investigations go dry, including those involving recent efforts to subpoena the records of reporters from three different news outlets. 

Still, the report argues weeding out leakers is necessary as “the unauthorized disclosure of non-public information during the course of an ongoing criminal investigation can potentially impair the investigation, can result in the disclosure of sensitive law enforcement information, and is fundamentally unfair to the subject or target of the investigation.”