Odd to see Andrew Gillum and Donald Trump -- Democrat and Republican, Tallahassee mayor and U.S. president -- paddling the same, or similar, canoes.
Both have the FBI sniffing in their business and both have confidently claimed it was all instigated by ugly partisan politics and they're not under FBI investigation.
In Trump's case, the situation has changed. His boat is farther along the FBI river.
You may remember, retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn’s firing as Trump's principal adviser on national security matters. It ratcheted up the investigation of the president. When Trump asked then-FBI Director Comey whether he, Donald J. Trump, was being investigated by the FBI, Comey said no THREE TIMES. That was no doubt true at the time. The Trump campaign and the Trump transition team were being investigated, but not Trump personally.
Gillum's journey, meanwhile, has just begun. He's yet to paddle through his first set of rapids.
So, when the mayor, who is running for governor, "proclaimed his innocence of any wrongdoing, and said the Tallahassee FBI field office approved a statement he released Friday saying he is not a target or subject of the investigation," it has little meaning. (See William March's June 25 story in The Tampa Bay Times, "Amid FBI probe of Tallahassee, Gillum says GOP trying to 'put as much dirt on me as they can'.")
I'm no expert on FBI legal procedure, but I doubt the Bureau actually "approved" his statement. I don't think they do that. Unfortunately, they weren't able to comment on the Times story, or confirm or deny Gillum's statement Monday.
I DO think it's very possible an agent in the Tallahassee office told Gillum he wasn't under investigation.
We know from the president's experience how the FBI works. But things change. As they have for the president.
How many times during the Trump/FBI story have we heard the words, "The Bureau will go wherever the investigation leads ...?" Certainly Sunshine State News columnist Barney Bishop heard it, he repeated it in his Friday column.
What is true today could go away tomorrow. That's why I say, Gillum's "statement" or the FBI's response on Friday is meaningless.
Certainly Gillum maintains he is cooperating fully on the federal investigation into development deals in his city.
“The mayor has said he believes the FBI is doing good work and we don’t ascribe any political motives to the investigation,” Gillum spokesman Geoff Burgan told the Times. “What we do ascribe political motives to is the misinformation and rumor spreads by Republican operatives around the FBI’s good work.”
But if Gillum is so happy with the "good work" the FBI is doing, where has he been for the last 14 years?
Apparently it wasn't Gillum who asked the feds to investigate corruption in Tallahassee. If there's anything to the allegations behind this investigation, the mayor ought to have some hint of it, wouldn't you think? He was a Tallahassee city commissioner for 11 years and mayor for three more. Who knows better what goes on in his city? He and others in the Tallahassee power structure have just been served with FBI subpoenas.
There are more bends in the river ahead for Mayor Gillum.
It often seems like the ugliest of double standards at work here, hearing Democrats claim in one breath Gillum shouldn't be under investigation, but Trump should; or hearing Republicans claim in another, Trump shouldn't be under investigation but Gillum should.
These investigations are a good thing, in Tallahassee and in Washington, regardless of political motive.
We live in perilous times -- times that cause us to question the moral fiber of our leaders, times that demand fidelity to first principles. The core of those principles is the rule of law. As we're finding out, no one is beneath our laws' protections, and no one is above their requirements.
Keep going wherever the investigations lead.
Reach Nancy Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 228-282-2423. Twitter: @NancyLBSmith