Meet Donald Trump’s Top FBI Fanboy
Trump supporters with strong ties to the agency kept talking about surprises and leaks to come—and come they did.
Two days before FBI director James Comey rocked the world last week, Rudy Giuliani was on Fox, where he volunteered, un-prodded by any question: “I think he’s [Donald Trump] got a surprise or two that you’re going to hear about in the next few days. I mean, I’m talking about some pretty big surprises.”
Pressed for specifics, he said: “We’ve got a couple of things up our sleeve that should turn this thing around.”
The man who now leads “lock-her-up” chants at Trump rallies spent decades of his life as a federal prosecutor and then mayor working closely with the FBI, and especially its New York office. One of Giuliani’s security firms employed a former head of the New York FBI office, and other alumni of it. It was agents of that office, probing Anthony Weiner’s alleged sexting of a minor, who pressed Comey to authorize the review of possible Hillary Clinton-related emails on a Weiner device that led to the explosive letter the director wrote Congress.
Hours after Comey’s letter about the renewed probe was leaked on Friday, Giuliani went on a radio show and attributed the director’s surprise action to “the pressure of a group of FBI agents who don’t look at it politically.”
“The other rumor that I get is that there’s a kind of revolution going on inside the FBI about the original conclusion [not to charge Clinton] being completely unjustified and almost a slap in the face to the FBI’s integrity,” said Giuliani. “I know that from former agents. I know that even from a few active agents.”
Along with Giuliani’s other connections to New York FBI agents, his former law firm, then called Bracewell Giuliani, has long been general counsel to the FBI Agents Association (FBIAA), which represents 13,000 former and current agents. The group, born in the New York FBI office in the early ’80s, was headed until Monday by Rey Tariche, an agent who just retired from the New York FBI office. In Tariche’s letter to the Association stepping down as president because he's retiring from the Bureau to take a job "within the Banking Industry," he wrote that “we find our work—our integrity questioned” because of it, adding “we will not be used for political gains.”
When the FBIAA threw its first G-Man Honors Gala in 2014 in Washington, Giuliani was the keynote speaker and was given a distinguished service award named after him. Giuliani left Bracewell this January and joined Greenberg Traurig, the only other law firm listed as a sponsor of the FBIAA gala. He spoke again at the 2015 gala. The Bracewell firm also acts as the association’s Washington lobbyist and the FBIAA endorsed Republican Congressman Mike Rodgers, rather than Comey, for the FBI post in 2013. Giuliani did not return a Daily Beast message left with his assistant.
Back in August, during a contentious CNN interview about Comey’s July announcement clearing Hillary Clinton of criminal charges, Giuliani advertised his illicit FBI sources, who circumvented bureau guidelines to discuss a case with a public partisan. “The decision perplexes me. It perplexes Jim Kallstrom, who worked for him. It perplexes numerous FBI agents who talk to me all the time. And it embarrasses some FBI agents.”
Kallstrom is the former head of the New York FBI office, installed in that post in the ’90s by then-FBI director Louis Freeh, one of Giuliani’s longtime friends. Kallstrom has, like Giuliani, been on an anti-Comey romp for months, most often on Fox, where he’s called the Clintons as a “crime family.” He has been invoking unnamed FBI agents who contact him to complain about Comey’s exoneration of Clinton in one interview after another, positioning himself as an apolitical champion of FBI values.
Last October, after President Obama told 60 Minutes that the Clinton emails weren’t a national security issue, Megyn Kelly interviewed Kallstrom on Fox. “You know a lot of the agents involved in this investigation,” she said. “How angry must they be tonight?”
“I know some of the agents,” said Kallstrom. “I know some of the supervisors and I know the senior staff. And they’re P.O.’d, I mean no question. This is like someone driving another nail in the coffin of the criminal justice system.”
Kallstrom declared that “if it’s pushed under the rug,” the agents “won’t take that sitting down.” Kelly confirmed: “That’s going to get leaked.”
When Comey cleared Clinton this July, Kallstrom was on Fox again, declaring: “I’ve talked to about 15 different agents today—both on the job and off the job—who are basically worried about the reputation of the agency they love.” The number grew dramatically by Labor Day weekend when Comey released Clinton’s FBI interview and other documents, and Kallstrom told Kelly he was talking to “50 different people in and out of the agency, retired agents,” all of whom he said were “basically disgusted” by Comey’s latest release.
By Sept. 28, Kallstrom said he’d been contacted by hundreds of people, including “a lot of retired agents and a few on the job,” declaring the agents “involved in this thing feel like they’ve been stabbed in the back.” So, he said, “I think we’re going to see a lot more of the facts come out in the course of the next few months. That’s my prediction.”
Kallstrom, whose exchanges with active agents about particular cases are as contrary to FBI policy as Giuliani’s, formally and passionately endorsed Trump this week on Stuart Varney’s Fox Business show, adding that Clinton is a “pathological liar.”
Kallstrom, who served as a Marine before becoming an agent, didn’t mention that a charity he’d founded decades ago and that’s now called the Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation, was the single biggest beneficiary of Trump’s promise to raise millions for veterans when he boycotted the Iowa primary debate. A foundation official said that Trump’s million-dollar donation this May, atop $100,000 that he’d given in March, were the biggest individual grants it had ever received. The Trump Foundation had contributed another $230,000 in prior years and Trump won the organization’s top honor at its annual Waldorf Astoria gala in 2015.
The charity, which Kallstrom has chaired without pay since its founding, says it has given away $64 million in scholarships and other aid to veteran families. Rush Limbaugh is a director and has given it enormous exposure on his show and helped it fundraise. Its executive director also worked at the highest levels of New York Governor George Pataki’s Republican administration, and its vice president is also the regional vice president for Trump Hotels in the New York area. The FBI New York office, the charity’s 2015 newsletter noted, then employed 100 former Marines.
Kallstrom, who first worked with Giuliani when the future mayor was a young assistant prosecutor in the early ’70s, was Pataki’s public safety director for five years after the 9/11 attacks and claims he was the one who recommended Comey to Pataki, who got the Bush White House to name him to Giuliani’s old job, U.S. attorney for the Southern District in 2001. Comey had worked in the Southern District for years, hired as a young assistant in 1987 by Freeh, then a top Giuliani deputy.
Kallstrom’s victory tour this weekend also included an appearance on Fox with former Westchester District Attorney Jeanine Pirro, another close associate of Pataki’s, who complained on air that she’d been the victim in 2006 when word emerged that the U.S attorney and FBI were probing her in the midst of a race she eventually lost to Andrew Cuomo to become New York Attorney General.
Her concern about the political impact of law enforcement leaks, though, didn’t extend to Democrat Hillary Clinton. “He couldn’t hold on to this any longer,” Kallstrom said of Comey. “Who knows, maybe the locals would’ve done it,” he added, a reference to leaks that elicited glee from Pirro, who echoed: “New York City, that’s my thing!”
In a wide-ranging phone interview on Tuesday with The Daily Beast, Kallstrom first repeated his claim that he gets hundreds and hundreds of calls and emails but stressed they all came from retired agents, adding that he didn’t “want to talk about agents on the job.” Then he acknowledged that he did interact with “active agents.” The agents mostly contacted him before the recent Comey letter because “in all but two cases,” they agreed with what he was saying in his TV appearances, noting that those two exceptions both thought “I should be more supportive of Comey.”
Kallstrom adamantly denied he’d ever said he was in contact with agents “involved” in the Clinton case, insisting that he didn’t even know “the agents’ names.” He asked if this story was “a hit piece,” and contended that it was “offensive” to even suggest that he’d communicated with those agents. When I emailed him two quotes where he made that claim, he responded: “I know agents in the building who used to work for me. I don’t know any agents in the Washington field office involved directly in the investigation.”
Later, though he acknowledged that “the bulk” of the agents on the Weiner case are “in the New York office,” even as he insisted that the “locals” he told Pirro would’ve leaked the renewed probe had not Comey revealed it were not necessarily agents.
He declined to explain why Megyn Kelly stated as a fact that he was in contact with agents “involved” in the case. Asked in a follow up email if he suggested or encouraged any particular actions in his exchanges with active agents, Kallstrom replied: “No.”
“Now, I’m supporting Comey,” Kallstrom told me on the phone, adding that he can’t do or say anything else before election day. “He can’t characterize” what the bureau has from the Weiner emails. “The FBI can’t say anything without having all the information,” Kallstrom contends, just after telling me he supports the FBI director who’s under fire for having done just that.
And, though he predicted in September that more facts about the Clinton case would soon come out, he told me he was “surprised” by the Comey letter. Calling Giuliani a “very good friend,” who he’s seen in TV studios a couple of times recently when they were both doing appearances, Kallstrom said he thought Giuliani was more likely referring to WikiLeaks revelations or videotapes from Project Veritas when he teased big surprises to come.
Kallstrom said he hasn’t spoken to Trump for months, though he did email Trump’s office the day he endorsed him and got a thank you response from an aide. He says he first met Trump when he solicited a donation from him for a Vietnam Vet memorial and that they’d see each other—usually at public events and dinners—over the years, sometimes as often as two or three times a year. Kallstrom said he’d have breakfast at the Plaza with his wife and visit with Trump and his kids, who he got to know at an early age.
When Trump owned casinos in Atlantic City, he allowed Kallstrom’s organization to hold fundraisers “pro bono” there. Trump became a major supporter of New York’s Police Athletic League, run for decades by Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, all moves that endeared him to law enforcement officials in jurisdictions where he did business.
Despite his ties to Pataki, Limbaugh, and Trump, Kallstrom says he’s apolitical and has never been involved in a campaign, including Trump’s now. He says he’s a registered independent, and that the people he’s known in the FBI over all his years are as nonpartisan as he is.
But, as quiet as it’s kept, no Democrat has ever been appointed FBI director. Four Democratic presidents, starting with FDR’s selection of J. Edgar Hoover in 1935, have instead picked Republicans, including Obama’s 2013 nomination of Comey, who was confirmed 93 to 1. This tally does not include the seven acting directors, who were named for brief periods over the last 81 years. For the first time in FBI history, the agency is now run by a director who isn’t a Republican, since Comey announced in a congressional hearing this year that though a lifelong Republican, having donated to John McCain and Mitt Romney, he had recently changed his registration (he did not say how he is currently registered).
Six months into his first term in 1993, President Bill Clinton tapped Freeh, a onetime FBI agent who’d worked under Kallstrom, and Freeh spent much of his eight years at the bureau’s helm trying to put Clinton in jail, even dispatching agents to a White House side room to get the president’s DNA during a formal dinner. When Freeh stepped down in 2001, shortly after George Bush replaced Clinton, he went to work for credit-card company MBNA, a giant Republican donor where Kallstrom and another top Freeh FBI appointee were already working. He’s still hunting for the Clintons, though—delivering a speech assailing them at an annual FBI office event in New York last year.
It’s not just the man at the top who’s invariably a Republican. Like most law enforcement agencies, the FBI hierarchy and line staff has a Republican bent—it’s a white, male, usually Catholic, and conservative culture.
Giuliani and Kallstrom claim that the agents revolting against Comey’s handling of Hillary Clinton were doing it because they want apoltical investigations, with all targets treated the same. But neither of them, much less FBI brass or agents, were publicly upset when the worst Justice Department scandal in modern history exploded in 2007, with Karl Rove, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, and the Bush White House swamped by allegations that they’d tried to force out nine U.S. attorneys and replace them with “loyal Bushies,” as Gonzales’s chief of staff put it. Democratic officials, candidates and fundraisers were five times as likely to be prosecuted by Bush’s justice than Republicans.
Then at the top of the polls in the 2008 presidential race, Giuliani had to answer questions about it and said that he thought Gonzales should get “the benefit of the doubt,” calling him “a decent man” a few months before he resigned. “We should try to remove on both sides as much of the partisanship as possible,” lectured Giuliani. He recalled that strict rules were put into place while he was at the top levels of justice in the aftermath of Watergate limiting contact between law enforcement and political figures, a particular irony in view of the fact that he talks freely today about engaging in just such conversations on national television, oblivious to the fact that he is now a “political figure.”
Giuliani’s mentor, Michael Mukasey, who succeeded Gonzales as attorney general, appointed a special investigator to examine the U.S. attorney scandal and she concluded that no laws had been broken. It was later reported that four days before Mukasey named this special prosecutor, a federal appeals court vacated seven of eight convictions in a case she supervised in Connecticut, ruling that the team suppressed exculpatory evidence, including the notes of an FBI agent. Kallstrom contends he didn’t say anything about the blatant partisan interference then because he was “never asked to comment,” though he had been a law enforcement consultant for CBS News in about the same time frame. How he became a frequent Fox commentator now is unclear.
It’s clear enough, though, why when Comey sent a note to FBI staff on Friday explaining his decision to inform Congress about the renewed Clinton probe, the scoop about that internal memo went to Fox News. Why Kallstrom gets booked to talked about the Clintons a “crime family.” Why Clinton Cash author Peter Schweitzer, caught in a web of Breitbart and Trump conflicts, would announce on Fox that he was asked in August to sit down with New York office FBI agents investigating the Clinton Foundation (with The New York Times reporting this week that the agents were relying largely on his discredited work when they pitched a fullscale probe).
Fox is the pipeline for the fifth column inside the bureau, a battalion that says it’s doing God’s work, chasing justice against those who are obstructing it, while, in fact, it’s doing GOP work, even on the eve of a presidential election.