This story was updated at 8:40 p.m. with Fitzgerald’s and Comey’s confirmations of TPM’s previously reported information.
Fired FBI Director James Comey has retained former U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald as one of his personal attorneys, bringing in a heavy-hitting former prosecutor, close friend and longtime colleague to help him navigate his dramatic role as a potential witness in the investigation of President Trump’s campaign and potential obstruction of justice.
Two Capitol Hill sources independently told TPM that Fitzgerald was serving as a lawyer for Comey. After publication, Fitzgerald confirmed that he “has been part of Mr. Comey’s legal team since May 2017.”
The news adds an additional twist to President Trump’s recent decision to pardon Scooter Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s former chief of staff, for his role in the Valerie Plame affair.
Comey, then the deputy attorney general, was the man who authorized the special counsel’s investigation into “the alleged unauthorized disclosure of a CIA employee’s identity” in late 2003, the case that eventually led to Libby’s conviction for perjury and obstruction of justice. His choice for special counsel, the prosecutor who got the guilty verdict on Libby, was none other than Fitzgerald.
Comey and Fitzgerald have been close friends for more than three decades, going back to their time working together in the Southern District of New York’s U.S. Attorney’s Office starting in the late 1980s, and knew each other even before then. Fitzgerald is the godfather of one of Comey’s children. In a joint interview in 2008 about their tight bond, Comey described Fitzgerald as a “close friend” as they reminisced about the glory days working their first cases together.
David Kelley, another of Comey’s old allies whom he’s brought on as one of his attorneys, would neither confirm nor deny to TPM that Comey had hired Fitzgerald — but noted that “Pat and Jim have been friends and colleagues for a long time.”
“I’ve represented Mr. Comey since not long after his firing,” Kelley told TPM, but would only say “Ask Pat” when pressed on if Fitzgerald was working with him.
After publication, Comey confirmed that Fitzgerald was working as his attorney.
“He’s been representing me since I was fired,” he said at a Tuesday evening event in D.C. promoting his book.
Fitzgerald originally declined to comment on TPM’s reporting, or to clarify in what exact role he was working for Comey.
Columbia University Professor Daniel Richman, another close friend of Comey’s who is serving as one of his attorneys and with whom Comey shared some of his memos about his meetings with President Trump to leak to the press, didn’t respond to multiple requests for comment for the story.
When Comey showed up to his Capitol Hill testimony last summer, there was some speculation in the legal community that Fitzgerald, Richman and Kelley might be quietly serving as his attorneys. Kelley and Richman later confirmed that they were, but this is the first time that it’s been reported that Fitzgerald is also on the team.
It’s unclear what exact role Fitzgerald is playing for Comey, or whether he’s involved day to day, though Comey said after TPM broke the news of Fitzgerald’s work that his attorney was advising him on “all the things you might need to talk to counsel about once you’re fired.”
Fitzgerald could be advising Comey on the Justice Department Inspector General’s investigation into his handling of the criminal probe into former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s use of a private email server, including his public pronouncements about the probe before the 2016 election.
It’s unclear whether Fitzgerald has had any direct contact on Comey’s behalf with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s team as it investigates whether there was collusion between President Trump’s campaign and Russia during the 2016 election, or if he’s been directly in touch with the various Capitol Hill committees investigating Trump and Russia.
Trump’s stunning firing of Comey as FBI director in May 2017 quickly led to the appointment of Mueller as special counsel in the Russia probe. Mueller was Comey’s predecessor as FBI director.
At the very least, bringing on Fitzgerald as his attorney gives Comey more freedom to talk to his old friend, potentially giving their conversations attorney-client privilege. As someone intimately familiar with special counsel investigations, Fitzgerald could be a particularly useful sounding board for Comey, no stranger to those prosecutions himself.
Fitzgerald currently works in private practice at the white-shoe firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom. His first major victory was his prosecution of Omar Abdel Rahman, the blind sheik, for the first World Trade Center bombing, which he followed up by leading investigations into as al Qaeda figures including Osama bin Laden in the trials stemming from the bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. As U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, he helped put behind bars former Illinois Govs. Rod Blagojevich (D) and George Ryan (R).