Federal investigators have executed a search warrant at a New York apartment belonging to Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor of the city and personal lawyer to Donald Trump, the New York Times reported.
Federal authorities have been examining whether Giuliani illegally lobbied the Trump administration in 2019 on behalf of Ukrainian officials and oligarchs, who at the same time were helping him search for dirt on Trump’s political rivals, the newspaper reported.
It added that investigators had seized some of Giuliani’s electronic devices from the Upper East Side residence, citing three unnamed people with knowledge of the matter.
Giuliani was a heroic figure in New York politics for his role as a top mafia prosecutor and then as mayor during the 9/11 terror attacks. But his reputation nosedived during the Trump era as he became embroiled in numerous scandals involving the administration and his role as one of Trump’s most fervent cheerleaders and attack dogs.
The newspaper characterized the raid as “a major turning point in the long-running investigation” largely focused on Giuliani’s lobbying efforts.
In the infamous “quid pro quo” episode going on at around the same time, officials in Ukraine were alleged to be simultaneously attempting to “dig up dirt” on Trump’s political rivals, including Joe Biden, who was shortly to become the Democratic party’s presidential nominee.
Biden’s son, Hunter, had business dealings in Ukraine when his father was Barack Obama’s vice-president earlier in the decade, including a seat on the board of Burisma, one of the country’s largest energy companies.
The Foreign Agents Registration Act (Fara) makes it a federal crime to try to influence or lobby the US government at the request of a foreign official without informing the justice department.
Giuliani was back at the heart of the news cycle after the 2020 presidential election last November. He was a leading proponent of “the big lie”, Trump’s false claim that the election was stolen from him by “widespread fraud” in the voting process.
Giuliani became something of a laughing stock when he represented Trump in numerous failed legal challenges to the election result and made inept appearances in court and at press conferences.
But the anti-democratic campaign ultimately led to the 6 January insurrection by Trump supporters at the US Capitol, during which five people lost their lives.
According to the New York Times, the US attorney’s office in Manhattan and the FBI have been seeking a search warrant for Giuliani’s phones for months, which officials in Trump’s justice department continually sought to block.
Following Trump’s departure from office in January, and confirmation in March by the US Senate of Biden’s pick Merrick Garland as attorney general, the justice department dropped its opposition.
The Times noted that while the warrant is not an explicit accusation of wrongdoing against Giuliani, it showed the investigation was entering “an aggressive new phase”.
The newspaper contacted the FBI and US attorney’s office, both of which, it said, declined to comment.