Federal authorities in Manhattan executed a search warrant at Rudy Giuliani’s Upper East Side apartment and office on Wednesday, marking a significant escalation in a criminal probe into his dealings in Ukraine.
According to The New York Times, which first reported the raid, investigators seized Giuliani’s electronic devices and searched both his Madison Avenue apartment and Park Avenue office at about 6 a.m. A law enforcement official confirmed to The Daily Beast that the feds raided Giuliani’s home.
A search warrant was also executed at the Washington, D.C. home of lawyer Victoria Toensing, a former top DOJ official and Giuliani associate, who was involved in the effort to dig for dirt on Joe and Hunter Biden in Ukraine, the Times reported. According to ABC News, investigators only requested her cell phone, which she handed over.
The warrants suggest investigators are intensifying their investigation into whether Giuliani, a former New York City mayor and personal lawyer for President Donald Trump, illegally lobbied the Trump administration on behalf of Ukrainian officials and oligarchs in 2019, at the same time he was hunting for dirt on the Bidens.
The Southern District of New York declined The Daily Beast’s request for comment. Details of the search warrant were not immediately available and inquiries to Giuliani and his attorneys were not returned. A tweet on Giuliani’s account said he’d read a live statement on radio on Wednesday afternoon—but it was later deleted and he never appeared on air.
Toensing’s law firm, diGenova & Toensing, said in a statement that she was a “former federal prosecutor and senior Justice Department official” who “would have been happy to turn over” anything relevant. “All they had to do was ask,” it said. “Ms. Toensing was informed that she is not a target of the investigation.”
Giuliani’s lawyer, Robert Costello, told The Wall Street Journal that the search warrant was seeking any communications between Giuliani and people including John Solomon, a columnist who was in communication with Giuliani about his efforts to get Ukraine to open investigations into Biden.
During the Trump-Ukraine saga and scandal of the last administration, Giuliani and Solomon coordinated closely enough that, on one Saturday evening in April 2019, Giuliani texted The Daily Beast, unsolicited and unprompted, a lengthy message that read, “Edited draft of column that goes live at 7a tomorrow.” The rest of the message seemed to have been a copy-and-paste of a whole column, and included headline suggestions such as “Ukrainian to U.S. prosecutors: Why don’t you want our evidence on Democrats?” and “Ukrainians build a case against Democrats, but does anyone in U.S. care?” The text message also read, “By John Solomon.”
It wasn’t clear why Giuliani was getting seemingly full previews of Solomon’s writing before it had been published, and Giuliani claimed at the time he’d gotten the unpublished article from someone other than Solomon, though he declined to say who.
The execution of a search warrant on Giuliani, a former federal prosecutor, is “a huge development,” former federal prosecutor Neama Rahman told The Daily Beast.
“Federal search warrants of lawyer offices or homes generally have to be approved by high-level Department of Justice officials in Washington, D.C. because of the sensitive nature of attorney-client communications and attorney work product,” Rahman said.
The FBI and U.S. Attorney’s Office in Manhattan had reportedly been trying to secure a search warrant for Giuliani’s phones for months but were blocked while Trump was in power. The DOJ reportedly lifted its objections once Merrick Garland was confirmed as Biden’s attorney general.
“In addition, like any search warrant, a District Judge found that there is probable cause that Giuliani’s apartment and electronic devices contain instrumentalities of a crime,” Rahman said. “The next step is for a ‘taint team’ to review the seized materials to ensure that the federal agents and prosecutors who are actually handling the investigation do not access any privileged materials.”
Another former federal law enforcement official told The Daily Beast that the warrants were likely executed “much later than the investigators would have liked—really it’s a perfect example of how political interference in a criminal case causes concrete legal problems [since] when you lose six months, it gives a person like Rudy a chance to do what I suspect he’s already done, which is to purge all of his shit.”
Costello took a different view, telling the Times, “What they did today was legal thuggery. 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.”
Giuliani’s close pal, former police commissioner Bernie Kerik, told POLITICO he was on the phone to Giuliani as agents searched the home. He said he found it “concerning” that seven agents turned up despite Giuliani trying to cooperate with the feds, through his attorney, “for almost two years.”
The investigation into Giuliani appears to be related to charges against two of his former business associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. In 2019, Parnas and Fruman were arrested by the FBI on unrelated campaign finance charges. An indictment by a Manhattan grand jury alleged, in part, that they participated in a scheme to oust the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine “at the request of one or more Ukrainian government officials” and helped to funnel an unnamed foreigner’s campaign donations to U.S. politicians, including to a lawmaker widely believed to be Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX). (Sessions has not been accused of wrongdoing.)
The Times subsequently reported that federal prosecutors in Manhattan were investigating Giuliani in connection with those allegations. Prosecutors were reportedly looking into his possible involvement in the push to oust Marie Yovanovitch, the ambassador to Ukraine—a push that was later brought up in Trump’s first impeachment trial.
They were also reportedly probing Giuliani’s possible business dealings in Ukraine, and whether he worked with Ukrainian officials and businessmen to both push for Yovanovitch’s ouster and dig for dirt on Trump’s political foes.
Foreign lobbying laws require individuals to tell the Justice Department if they’re lobbying the U.S. government on behalf of foreign entities.
Parnas and Fruman also paid Giuliani a reported $500,000 for consulting work on a business venture, Fraud Guarantee, which was billed as a fraud protection service. A 2021 complaint by the SEC alleged that Parnas and Fruman “misappropriated the majority of the investor funds they raised for Fraud Guarantee to pay for personal expenses such as travel, luxury goods, and untraceable cash withdrawals.”
In the months prior to the Trump-Ukraine scandal breaking in the media and after the Mueller report had already dropped, Giuliani would visit the White House frequently to meet with Trump, including in the residence and Oval Office—but so often, those meetings would be private just to the two men and it was generally understood in the West Wing that they were not to be disturbed, according to a former senior White House official.
This caused recurring consternation among White House brass, who often had trouble figuring out what, exactly, the then-president and his personal lawyer were discussing, and fueled suspicion and concerns among White House attorneys that Giuliani, with whatever he kept bringing to Trump, would soon get Trump in trouble or in a legal mess.
It wouldn’t take long for Giuliani and Trump to confirm these fears, with some of their discussions and activity leading directly to Trump’s first impeachment trial over alleged attempts to use foreign interference to bolster his re-election bid.
The former law enforcement official told The Daily Beast of Wednesday’s raid, “One interesting parlor game is to think about how much of this is strategic and how much of this is actually about gathering the information.
“This is probably stuff they’d like to have but don’t necessarily need. They know it’s not going to be a finished review for a long time and I expect they want to indict before that review is completed. This feels to me like something that is gonna be done shortly before they’re going to charge.”