Federal agents raid the home and office of Rudy Giuliani in Manhattan

Federal agents on Wednesday raided Rudy Giuliani’s home and office in Manhattan and seized computers and cell phones in a major escalation of the Justice Department’s investigation into the business deal with former President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer.

Giuliani, the former mayor of New York, once celebrated for his leadership in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, has been under federal scrutiny for several years over his ties to Ukraine. The duplicate searches sent the strongest signal so far that he could eventually face federal charges.

Agents searched Giuliani’s home on Madison Avenue and his office on Park Avenue, people familiar with the investigation told the Associated Press. The warrants, which require approval from the highest levels of the Ministry of Justice, mean that prosecutors believe they have a probable cause for Giuliani to commit a federal crime – even if they do not guarantee that charges will be imposed.

The full scope of the investigation is unclear, but it is at least partly about Giuliani’s business in Ukraine, police authorities have told AP.

Those who discussed the searches and Wednesday’s development could not make it public and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity. Search news was first reported by The New York Times.

A statement requesting comment was made by Giuliani’s lawyer, Robert Costello. He told The Wall Street Journal that agents showed up at dawn on Wednesday and threw the raids as “legal theft.” Giuliani himself had previously called the investigation “pure political persecution.”

A spokesman for the Ministry of Justice did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan and the FBI’s office in New York declined to comment Wednesday.

The federal investigation into Giuliani’s Ukraine affairs halted last year due to a dispute over investigative tactics when Trump unsuccessfully sought a second term. Giuliani then took a leading role in contesting the election results on behalf of the Republican.

Wednesday’s raids came months after Trump left office and lost his ability to forgive allies for federal crimes. The former president himself no longer enjoys the legal protection that the Oval Office once gave him – although there is no indication that Trump sees in this probe.

Many in Trump’s circulation have previously been rooted in federal investigations, namely Special Adviser Robert Mueller’s probe of Russian electoral disruption. But most of these criminal cases either rippled or collapsed. Giulianis is different.

Giuliani was central to the then president’s efforts to dig up dirt on Democratic rival Joe Biden and to pressure Ukraine for an investigation into Biden and his son Hunter – who himself is now facing a criminal justice probe by the Justice Department.

Giuliani also tried to undermine former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who was expelled on Trump’s orders, and met several times with a Ukrainian lawmaker who released edited recordings of Biden in an attempt to smear him before the election.

Giuliani’s lawyer, Costello, told The Wall Street Journal that the searches concerned potential violations of foreign lobbying rules and that the warrants sought Giuliani’s communications with people including John Solomon, a former columnist and frequent Fox News commentator close to Giuliani, who pressured several unfounded or unjustified allegations about Ukraine and Biden during the 2020 elections.

Solomon contacted Wednesday and said it was news to him that the Justice Department was interested in all the communications he had with Giuliani, although he said it was not entirely surprising given the issues raised in Trump’s first indictment.

“He was someone who tried to send me information. I did not use most things, Solomon said of Giuliani. “If they want to watch it, there will be nothing surprising in it.” Everything was “in plain sight,” he said.

He said he believed his reporting had “passed the test of time” and claimed that he “was not aware of a single actual error” in any of his stories.

Last year, Salomon’s former employer, The Hill, published a review of some of his columns, stating that they lacked context and lacked important information. Solomon previously worked for the Associated Press and left the news organization in 2006.

Under the Federal Foreign Service Registration Act, persons lobbying on behalf of a foreign government or entity must register with the Department of Justice. The once obscure law, which aims to improve transparency, has received attention in recent years – especially under Mueller’s probe, which revealed a series of foreign influence operations in the United States.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan last year had called for a search warrant for records, including part of Giuliani’s communications, but Trump-era Justice Department officials would not sign the request, according to several people who insisted on anonymity to talk about ongoing investigations they were familiar with. with.

Officials at the then-law firm raised concerns about both the scope of the request, which they believed would include 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 generally expected to be reviewed by the Department of Justice when Attorney General Merrick Garland took office. Garland was confirmed last month and Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco was confirmed for her position and swore last week. The Ministry of Justice requires that applications for search options granted to lawyers be approved by senior officials.

(AP)