Posts tagged with "Federal investigators"

Federal officers execute sunrise search of Rudy Giuliani’s apartment and office

april 29, 2021

Federal investigators in Manhattan executed search warrants early on Wednesday, April 28, at the home and office of Rudy Giuliani—the former New York City mayor who became President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer—thereby stepping up a criminal investigation into Giuliani’s dealings in Ukraine, three people with knowledge of the investigation told The New York Times.

The investigators seized Giuliani’s electronic devices and searched his apartment on Madison Avenue and his office on Park Avenue at about 6 a.m., two of the sources said.

Executing a search warrant is an extraordinary move for prosecutors to take against a lawyer, let alone a lawyer for a former president, the Times noted. It represents a major turning point in the long-running investigation into Giuliani, who as mayor steered New York through the Sept. 11 attacks and earlier in his career led the same U.S. attorney’s office in Manhattan that is now investigating him.

Giuliani’s lawyer, Robert J. Costello, called the searches unnecessary because his client had offered to answer questions from prosecutors—except those regarding his privileged communications with the former president.

“What they did today was legal thuggery,” Costello said. “Why would you do this to anyone—let alone, someone who was the associate attorney general, United States attorney, the mayor of New York City and the personal lawyer to the 45th president of the United States?”

The federal authorities have been largely focused on whether Giuliani illegally lobbied the Trump Administration in 2019 on behalf of Ukrainian officials and oligarchs; who at the same time were helping Giuliani search for dirt on Trump’s political rivals (among them, Joe Biden, who was then a leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination).

The United States Attorney’s office in Manhattan and the F.B.I. had for months sought to secure a search warrant for Giuliani’s phones.

Under Mr. Trump, senior political appointees in the Justice Department repeatedly sought to block such a warrant, The New York Times reported, slowing the investigation as it was gaining momentum last year. After Merrick Garland was confirmed as President Biden’s attorney general, the Justice Department lifted its objection to the search.

While the warrants are not an explicit accusation of wrongdoing against Giuliani, the wararants show that the investigation has entered an aggressive new phase. To obtain a search warrant, investigators need to persuade a judge they have sufficient reason to believe that a crime was committed and that the search would turn up evidence of the crime.

Spokespersons for the F.B.I. and the U.S. Attorney’s office declined to comment.

Research contact: @nytimes

Feds look at Trump inaugural fund and super PAC for illegal foreign donations

December 17, 2018

When President Donald Trump was sworn in on January 22, 2017, his first instinct was to place his right hand on his own book, The Art of the Deal, rather than the Bible. Looking back, some might say that the how-to book would have been the better choice, in light of the financial machinations that allegedly took place leading up to that day.

Federal prosecutors in New York now are investigating whether foreigners illegally funneled donations to Trump’s inaugural committee and to a pro-Trump super PAC in hopes of “buying influence” in the administration, The New York Times reports.

That would pose a big problem for the White House, because U.S. law prohibits foreign contributions to federal campaigns, political action committees, and inaugural funds.

The inquiry has focused in on money emanating from nations in the Middle East—including Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates. Prosecutors are interested in finding out if entities from those nations used “straw donors” to disguise their donations to the two funds.

Thomas Barrack Jr., a billionaire financier and a longtime associate of Trump’s, raised money for both funds—but his spokesperson, Owen Blicksilver, told the news outlet, “Tom has never talked with any foreign individual or entity for the purposes of raising money for or obtaining donations related to … the campaign, the inauguration, or any such political activity.”

The super PAC, Rebuilding America Now, was formed in June 2016—during a period when the Trump presidential campaign reportedly was short of cash and out of favor with Republican donors. While Trump was adamant that he could finance his own campaign, he refused to dig too deeply into his own pockets.

According to several Times sources, Paul Manafort, the campaign manager at the time, suggested that Barrack step in to raise funds for the PAC, which could collect unlimited amounts of money as long as it avoided coordinating closely with the candidate.

However, in an interview with investigators a year ago, the Times said, Barrack commented that Manafort seemed to view the political committee as an arm of the campaign, despite laws meant to prevent such coordination, according to a person familiar with the interview.

In fact, Manafort asked two campaign aides, Laurance Gay and Ken McKay, to help run the operation. A press officer said at the time that the committee violated no rules because the campaign never paid the two men. Neither man returned repeated phone calls from the Times seeking comment.

According to filings with the Federal Election Commission, the committee raised $23 million and provided funds for Trump advertisements, polls, and other political expenditures. While most of the money came from U.S. donors, prosecutors have asked witnesses whether anyone from the Middle East also contributed to the kitty, perhaps using American intermediaries to cover the transactions.

After the election, the Trump campaign had money rolling in, raising an astounding $107 million for the inauguration—four times as much as the pro-Trump PAC and twice as much as the amount raised for President Barack Obama’s first inauguration.

Today, the question remains, how was that money used for Trump’s much smaller-scale inaugural event—and what happened to any unspent dollars?

Last week, for the first time, Ivanka Trump became publicly involved in the POTUS’s election probe.  According to reports by Newsweek and ProPublica, she hiked the rates for the meeting rooms and the ballrooms at the Trump International Hotel in Washington DC specifically during the days that visitors to the inauguration would be in the city. Any extra profits would have gone straight to the Trump Organization.

The inaugural committee complied with all laws and “has not been contacted by any prosecutors,” Blicksilver, who is also a spokesman for the fund, told The New York Times. Its finances “were fully audited internally and independently,” and donors were fully vetted and disclosed to the Federal Election Commission, as required, he said.

That remains to be seen. If there has been an audit, there is no external evidence of it. Although many news outlets, including the Times, have requested a copy of the financial analysis, none has been made available.

However, prosecutors certainly would be able to obtain those documents, if they exist.

Research contact: @nytimes