How 'America's Mayor' Rudy Giuliani could face criminal charges from the office he once led
- Trumpworld was rocked by scandal when the feds raided Rudy Giuliani’s home and office.
- The raids were part of a longrunning investigation into whether Giuliani broke foreign lobbying laws.
- Here’s everything you need to know about the inquiry.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
The political sphere flew into a frenzy this week amid news that the FBI raided the property of yet another lawyer working for former President Donald Trump.
The feds on Wednesday executed search warrants on Rudy Giuliani’s home and office and seized his electronic devices. Agents also seized a computer belonging to his personal assistant, Jo Ann Zafonte, served Zafonte with a grand jury subpoena, and raided the Washington, DC, home of Giuliani’s associate Victoria Toensing.
It was the most significant development to date in an ongoing Justice Department investigation into whether Giuliani broke foreign lobbying laws while working as Trump’s lawyer.
Giuliani has not been charged with a crime, and he has denied any wrongdoing. His lawyer, Robert Costello, called the FBI’s raids “legal thuggery” and said in a statement that they reflected a “corrupt double standard” at the Justice Department.
Here’s everything you need to know about Trumpworld’s latest scandal:
Who’s investigating Giuliani?
The US attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York — sometimes called the Sovereign District of New York because of its independent reputation — is leading the investigation. In an ironic twist, Giuliani previously served as head of the SDNY.
How did Giuliani land in the SDNY’s crosshairs?
Federal prosecutors began scrutinizing the former New York mayor as part of a broader investigation into two of his Soviet-born business associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. The two men were arrested in October 2019 on suspicion of trying to funnel foreign money into a pro-Trump super PAC and other entities to gain leverage in US political circles. Prosecutors also alleged that Parnas and Fruman tried to influence US-Ukraine relations.
The Washington Post reported that the men had been working with Giuliani since late 2018 to find damaging information about the Bidens ahead of the 2020 election. John Dowd, an attorney representing Parnas and Fruman, told Congress in a statement shortly before their arrest that they had helped Giuliani in his work for Trump.
What are prosecutors investigating?
The full scope of the criminal inquiry is unclear, but its central thread appears to be focused on Giuliani’s longrunning effort to dig up dirt on the Bidens. Specifically, prosecutors are examining if he was working solely in his capacity as Trump’s lawyer, or if he was also working on behalf of foreign interests who believed they would benefit from Trump’s reelection.
Investigators are said to be particularly focused on Giuliani’s role in the abrupt removal of Marie Yovanovitch, the US’s former ambassador to Ukraine. Yovanovitch’s ouster was part of a broader effort by Trump and Giuliani to strongam Ukraine into launching political investigations targeting the Bidens ahead of the 2020 election.
Yovanovitch testified to Congress that as part of that effort, Giuliani collaborated with corrupt Ukrainian interests on a smear campaign against her that was based on “false claims by people with clearly questionable motives.”
Giuliani confirmed his role in Yovanovitch’s removal, telling The New Yorker that he needed her “out of the way” because “she was going to make the investigations difficult for everybody.”
Now, prosecutors are looking at whether Giuliani targeted Yovanovitch at Trump’s direction, or if he also did so at the behest of Ukrainian officials who wanted Yovanovitch ousted for their own reasons.
What could Giuliani be charged with?
If Giuliani was working on behalf of foreign interests, it could violate a law known as the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).
Put simply, FARA requires that American citizens notify the Justice Department of any contacts they have with foreign governments or officials, and if they interact with the US government or media at the direction of those officials.
In its modern context, “the core purpose of FARA is to put US government officials and the American people on notice when a foreign government or other foreign interest is behind efforts to influence their opinions or actions, so that they can appropriately consider and weigh information or content in light of that underlying foreign interest,” David Laufman, a partner at Wiggin and Dana and former top Justice Department official who oversaw FARA enforcement, told Insider’s Dave Levinthal and Ryan Barber.
Where does the investigation currently stand?
The longrunning inquiry entered an aggressive new phase with this week’s FBI raids.
Executing a search warrant on a lawyer is an extraordinary step that requires high-level approval and a sign-off from a federal magistrate judge. To secure such a warrant, prosecutors would have had to prove they had reason to believe Giuliani’s home and office contained evidence of a crime.
According to The Times, investigators had been trying to secure a warrant against Giuliani for months, but Trump appointees at the Justice Department quashed their efforts. The probe resumed in earnest last month, and the department lifted its objection to the warrant after Merrick Garland was confirmed as attorney general.
What’s the next shoe to drop?
It’s tough to say.
Giuliani has been in Trump’s orbit for years, and the FBI warned him as early as 2019 that the Russian government was using him as a tool to spread disinformation about Ukraine and the Biden family before the election. Despite the warning, Giuliani forged ahead with a trip to Kyiv in December 2019 where he met with Andriy Derkach, a Ukrainian official and active Russian agent, as part of his mission to find dirt on the Bidens.
Giuliani was a fixture on conservative airwaves in the months leading up to the election, where he repeatedly amplified conspiracy theories about the Bidens and Ukraine. He also pushed the lie that Ukraine and not Russia interfered in the 2016 election, a talking point that can be traced back to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Last October, he was instrumental in placing a highly controversial New York Post story that purported to detail the Bidens’ corrupt ties to Ukraine based on a laptop the tabloid said belonged to Hunter Biden. Shortly after, NBC News reported that the FBI was investigating if the emails contained in the story, which the Post obtained from Giuliani, were part of a foreign influence operation.
These episodes are not known to be part of the federal criminal probe into Giuliani, but they highlight his repeated disregard for counterintelligence officials’ warnings that a foreign government was using him to further its own agenda.
Michael Cohen, a former Trump lawyer who was also raided by the FBI and is currently serving out a sentence for an array of crimes, put forward a blunt assessment of Giuliani’s mounting legal troubles this week.
“We have no idea how expansive this investigation is going to ultimately reveal itself because Rudy’s an idiot,” he told CNN. “And that’s the problem. Rudy drinks too much, Rudy behaves in such an erratic manner that who knows what’s on those telephones or what’s on his computers.”
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