EXPLAINER: What To Know About The Giuliani Investigation
The long-running federal investigation into Rudy Giuliani’s dealings in Ukraine moved back into public view Wednesday when federal agents seized electronic devices from the former mayor’s home and office.
The search was the latest development in an inquiry that overlapped with the first impeachment trial of Donald Trump, who was accused of pressuring the leaders of Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and his son.
The probe involves a complex web of international characters who dealt with Giuliani as he tried to stir up support for a Ukrainian investigation of the Bidens.
Federal prosecutors haven’t disclosed which elements of Giuliani’s work are the focus of their probe, currently being led by Audrey Strauss, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York.
But at least one part is an examination of whether Giuliani failed to disclose to the U.S. government work he did on behalf of foreign entities.
WHY IS GIULIANI UNDER INVESTIGATION?
Giuliani’s lawyer, Robert Costello, said the search warrants involved an allegation that Giuliani failed to register as a foreign agent.
The Foreign Agents Registration Act, originally passed before World War II to expose Nazi propaganda, requires people to disclose to the Justice Department when they have been hired to lobby in the U.S. on behalf of foreign governments, figures or political entities.
Criminal prosecutions under the law were once rare, but there have been a number of high-profile cases in recent years, including during special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian election interference. Trump’s campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, was convicted of failing to register work he’d done for a political party in Ukraine. Trump’s first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, admitted making false statements about work he’d done for Turkey.
In addition, Imaad Zuberi, a political fundraiser who attracted attention for large donations to Trump’s inaugural committee, was sentenced in February to 12 years in prison for a violation of the foreign agents’ act and other crimes.
WHAT WORK DID GIULIANI DO ON BEHALF OF UKRANIAN INTERESTS?
In numerous interviews, Giuliani has said that his work in Ukraine was intended to benefit only one person: Trump.
His goal, he has said, was to get the Ukrainian government to investigate Biden’s son, Hunter, who had served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company.
However, at least some of the Ukrainian characters dealing with Giuliani as he tried to dig up dirt on the Bidens have said they also wanted his help with matters related to the U.S. government.
They included Ukraine’s then-prosecutor general, Yuriy Lutsenko. In interviews, Lutsenko has said he asked for Giuliani’s help arranging a meeting with the U.S. attorney general to discuss efforts to recover looted national assets. He also spoke with Giuliani about his clashes with the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch. The Trump administration later removed Yovanovitch from her post.
If Giuliani lobbied the Trump administration on behalf of Ukrainian figures, he might have been obligated to disclose that work.
WHAT HAS GIULIANI SAID?
Costello, Giuliani’s lawyer, castigated Wednesday’s FBI raid as corrupt and said he can demonstrate that the former New York mayor did no work as a foreign agent.
Giuliani previously told The Associated Press he “never represented a foreign anything before the U.S. government.”
In the past, Giuliani has acknowledged that he considered taking on some Ukrainian figures and the Ukrainian government as paying clients, including Lutsenko, but said he ultimately decided not to do so.
That included deals that would have paid him hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to a New York Times report in 2019.
“I thought that would be too complicated,” Giuliani told the newspaper at the time. “I never received a penny.”
HAVE GIULIANI OR HIS ASSOCIATES BEEN CHARGED WITH ANYTHING?
Giuliani has not been charged with any crime and federal prosecutors have not publicly accused him of any misconduct.
Some of Giuliani’s associates in his campaign to dig up dirt on the Bidens have, however, been indicted.
Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who helped arrange Giuliani’s meetings with Ukrainian figures, face federal charges that they helped foreigners make illegal campaign contributions to American politicians, including a pro-Trump political action committee, while trying to gain influence in government.
Initially, prosecutors had accused them of also secretly working on behalf of an unnamed Ukrainian official who wanted the removal of the U.S. ambassador, but that allegation was subsequently quietly erased from a superseding indictment.
It isn’t part of the criminal case, but Parnas in 2019 also helped arrange for an Ukrainian tycoon, Dmitry Firtash, to hire lawyers to lobby the U.S. Justice Department to drop an international bribery charge pending against him in Chicago.
Firtash has said in interviews that at one time he was paying $300,000 per month to those lawyers, Victoria Toensing and Joseph diGenova, who were also involved in Giuliani’s campaign to pressure Ukraine to investigate the Bidens.
The FBI also executed a search warrant Wednesday on a phone belonging to Toensing, who has said she is not a target of the investigation.
Some documents that Toensing or diGenova gathered, ostensibly as part of Firtash’s attempts to fight extradition from Austria, wound up being the basis of conservative media reports that Joe Biden had tried to block a Ukrainian prosecutor from investigating the gas company that had put Hunter Biden on its board.
Biden did press for the prosecutor’s firing, but that’s because he was reflecting the official position of not only the Obama administration but many Western countries that the prosecutor was perceived as soft on corruption.
Original Story (4/28/21):
NEW YORK (AP) — Federal agents raided Rudy Giuliani’s Manhattan home and office Wednesday, seizing computers and cellphones in a major escalation of the Justice Department’s investigation into the business dealings of former President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer.
Giuliani, the 76-year-old former New York City mayor once celebrated for his leadership after 9/11, has been under federal scrutiny for several years over his ties to Ukraine. The dual searches sent the strongest signal yet that he could eventually face federal charges.
Agents searched Giuliani’s Madison Avenue apartment and Park Avenue office, people familiar with the investigation told The Associated Press. The warrants, which required approval from the top levels of the Justice Department, signify that prosecutors believe they have probable cause that Giuliani committed a federal crime — though they do not guarantee that charges will materialize.
A third search warrant was served on a phone belonging to Washington lawyer Victoria Toensing, a former federal prosecutor and close ally of Giuliani and Trump. Her law firm issued a statement saying she was informed that she is not a target of the investigation.
The full scope of the investigation is unclear, but it at least partly involves Giuliani’s dealings in Ukraine, law enforcement officials have told the AP.
The people discussing the searches and Wednesday’s developments could not do so publicly and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity. News of the search was first reported by The New York Times.
In a statement issued through his lawyer, Giuliani accused federal authorities of a “corrupt double standard,” invoking allegations he’s pushed against prominent Democrats, and said that the Justice Department was “running rough shod over the constitutional rights of anyone involved in, or legally defending, former President Donald J. Trump.”
“Mr. Giuliani respects the law, and he can demonstrate that his conduct as a lawyer and a citizen was absolutely legal and ethical,” the statement said.
Giuliani’s son, Andrew Giuliani, told reporters the raids were “disgusting” and “absolutely absurd.”
A Justice Department spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The U.S. Attorney’s office in Manhattan and the FBI’s New York office declined to comment.
The federal probe into Giuliani’s Ukraine dealings stalled last year because of a dispute over investigative tactics as Trump unsuccessfully sought a second term. Giuliani subsequently took on a leading role in disputing the election results on the Republican’s behalf.
Wednesday’s raids came months after Trump left office and lost his ability to pardon allies for federal crimes. The former president himself no longer enjoys the legal protections the Oval Office once provided him — though there is no indication Trump is eyed in this probe.
Trump’s spokesman did not immediate respond to questions about Wednesday’s events.
Many people in Trump’s orbit have been ensnared in previous federal investigations, namely special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian election interference. But most of those criminal cases either fizzled or fell apart. Giuliani’s is different.
Giuliani was central to the then-president’s efforts to dig up dirt against Democratic rival Joe Biden and to press Ukraine for an investigation into Biden and his son, Hunter — who himself now faces a criminal tax probe by the Justice Department.
Giuliani also sought to undermine former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who was pushed out on Trump’s orders, and met several times with a Ukrainian lawmaker who released edited recordings of Biden in an effort to smear him before the election.
Giuliani’s lawyer, Robert Costello, said the warrants involved an allegation that Giuliani failed to register as a foreign agent and that investigative documents mentioned John Solomon, a former columnist and frequent Fox News commentator with close ties to Giuliani, who pushed baseless or unsubstantiated allegations involving Ukraine and Biden during the 2020 election.
Phone records published by House Democrats in 2019 in the wake of Trump’s first impeachment trial showed frequent contacts involving Giuliani, Solomon and Lev Parnas, a Giuliani associate who is under indictment on charges of using foreign money to make illegal campaign contributions.
Contacted Wednesday, Solomon said it was news to him that the Justice Department was interested in any communications he had with Giuliani, though he said it was not entirely surprising given the issues raised in the impeachment trial.
“He was someone that tried to pass information to me. I didn’t use most of it,” Solomon said of Giuliani. “If they want to look at that, there’s not going to be anything surprising in it.”
Everything was sitting “in plain view,” Solomon said. He said he believed his reporting had “stood the test of time” and maintained that he was “unaware of a single factual error” in any of his stories.
Solomon’s former employer, The Hill newspaper, published a review last year of some of his columns and determined they were lacking in context and missing key disclosures. Solomon previously worked for The Associated Press, departing the news organization in 2006.
The federal Foreign Agents Registration Act requires people who lobby on behalf of a foreign government or entity to register with the Justice Department. The once-obscure law, aimed at improving transparency, has received a burst of attention in recent years — particularly during Mueller’s probe, which revealed an array of foreign influence operations in the U.S.
Federal prosecutors in the Manhattan office Giuliani himself once led — springing to prominence in the 1980s with high-profile prosecutions of Mafia figures — had pushed last year for a search warrant for records. Those included some of Giuliani’s communications, but officials in the Trump-era Justice Department would not sign off on the request, according to multiple people who insisted on anonymity to speak about the ongoing investigation with which they were familiar.
Officials in the then-deputy attorney general’s office raised concerns about both the scope of the request, which they thought would contain communications that could be covered by legal privilege between Giuliani and Trump, and the method of obtaining the records, three of the people said.
The issue was widely expected to be revisited by the Justice Department once Attorney General Merrick Garland assumed office, given the need for the department’s upper echelons to sign off on warrants served on lawyers. Garland was confirmed last month, and Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco was confirmed to her position and sworn in last week.