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.
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