FBI seized 10 phones and computers from Giuliani in probe of illegal lobbying, campaign finance violations, and obstruction
FBI agents executed a search warrant at Rudy Giuliani’s New York apartment and office on Wednesday, seizing phones and computers in an investigation into possible violation of foreign lobbying laws.
The probe is focused on Giuliani’s dealings with Ukrainian lawmakers and Russian-linked individuals during his effort to dig up dirt on Biden’s son – to benefit Trump – from 2018 through 2020. While the first impeachment trial of Trump looked at the possibility of a quid pro quo, the federal investigation into Giuliani deals with the lawyer’s lobbying of the administration on behalf of foreign officials and oligarchs. Some key events:
- In April 2018, Ukrainian Lev Parnas told Trump at a fundraiser at the president’s hotel that Marie Yovanovitch, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, needed to be gotten rid of. Trump responds, on tape, “Get rid of her! Get her out tomorrow. I don’t care. Get her out tomorrow. Take her out. Okay? Do it.”
- Parnas says he, business associate Igor Fruman, and Giuliani were tasked with “a secret mission” by Trump to pressure the Ukrainian government to investigate Joe Biden and his son Hunter in December 2018.
- January 2019: Ukraine’s then-prosecutor general, Yuri Lutsenko, reportedly offered to give Giuliani, Parnas, and Fruman potentially damaging information related to Biden in exchange for the firing of Yovanovitch.
- In March 2019, Lutsenko sent multiple text messages to Giuliani, with the Ukrainian getting more upset that Giuliani hadn’t quickly ousted Yovanovitch. “I’m prepared to [thrash] your opponent,” he writes. “But you want more and more. We’re over,” Lutsenko said on one occasion. Roughly a week later, he told Giuliani his investigation into Burisma is “progressing well,” but “you can’t even get rid of one fool,” referencing Yovanovitch.
- Yovanovitch is recalled from Ukraine on April 24, 2019.
- Trump and Ukraine’s newly-elected President Zelensky speak on the phone on July 25, 2019. Trump pressures Zelensky to announce an investigation into Biden. He also tells Zelensky that Yovanovitch was “going to go through some things” and says he’ll put Giuliani in touch with the Ukrainian’s team.
- Parnas and Fruman were arrested on October 9, 2019, for campaign finance violations. According to the indictment, the pair funneled illegal contributions to a congressman whose help they sought in removing Yovanovitch. The unnamed lawmaker was later reported to be U.S. Rep. Pete Sessions (R-TX).
- The New York Times reported in October 2019 that Giuliani is under federal investigation for breaking lobbying laws.
- December 2019: Guliani goes to Ukraine to interview multiple pro-Russian individuals, including Andriy Derkach – who the U.S. government identified as “an active Russian agent for over a decade” – and Dmytro Firtash, an oligarch with ties to the Russian mob. Trump claims Giuliani collected information damaging to the Bidens, but no such evidence was ever released.
- The smear campaign against Biden began in October 2020 with a New York Post story about Hunter Biden’s alleged laptop, obtained by way of Giuliani.
- Last fall, prior to the 2020 election, federal prosecutors pushed for a search warrant for Giuliani’s communications “but officials in the Trump-era Justice Department would not sign off on the request,” according to the AP. “Officials in the deputy attorney general’s office raised concerns about both the scope of the request, which they thought would contain communications that could be covered by legal privilege between Giuliani and Trump, and the method of obtaining the records…”
With Attorney General Merrick Garland in charge of the DOJ, the investigation finally started to move forward. The search warrant executed on Giuliani last week included his communications with or about: Yuriy Lutsenko, corrupt former Ukrainian Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin, corrupt Ukrainian prosecutor Kostiantyn Kulyk, former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, husband-and-wife legal team Victoria Toensing and Joe diGenova, and Parnas and Fruman.
Giuliani’s attorney, Bob Costello, said the FBI agents seized more than 10 cell phones and computers from his client, including a computer belonging to Giuliani’s assistant, who was also served with a subpoena to appear before a federal grand jury next month.
“Well, about six o’clock in the morning, there was a big bang! bang! bang! on the door and outside were seven FBI agents with a warrant for electronics,” Giuliani told Fox News’ Tucker Carlson. “And I looked at the warrant and I said, ‘This is extraordinary because I offered to give these to the government and talk it over with them for two years.’”
A search warrant was also executed at Victoria Toensing’s home, though the premises were not searched; a phone was confiscated and her law firm states she was told she’s not a target of an investigation.
- Victoria Toensing played a central role in Giuliani and Trump’s activities in Ukraine. She represented Shokin and Lutsenko during their crusade to oust Yovanovitch and employed Lev Parnas. Toensing and her husband, Joe DiGenova allegedly “met frequently” with Giuliani, Parnas, Fruman, conservative journalist John Solomon, and Rep. Devin Nunes aide Derek Harvey to “discuss the Biden matter” at Trump’s hotel in spring 2019.
Costello told reporters that agents are also looking at his client’s communications with former columnist John Solomon, who helped smear Yovanovitch and Biden. Solomon published numerous pieces in The Hill in 2019 using Giuliani’s Ukrainian associates as sources. Emails revealed that Solomon collaborated with Giuilaini, Parnas, Toensing, and diGenova in drafting the articles; during the first impeachment of Donald Trump, Devin Nunes read one of Solomon’s articles into the official record.
Once, in April 2019, Giuliani accidentally sent the Daily Beast a draft of Solomon’s article that he edited, including headline suggestions – one of which Solomon actually chose to publish.
Further reading: “How a Veteran Reporter Worked with Giuliani’s Associates to Launch the Ukraine Conspiracy,” ProPublica.
According to Time, at least two of Guiliani’s Ukrainian associates were working with him and simultaneously cooperating with federal investigators in the U.S. This could potentially mean the FBI is in possession of powerful audio recordings.
While the impeachment inquiry was underway that fall, federal investigators began questioning Giuliani’s associates about the smear campaign against the Bidens in Ukraine, wanting to know “everything – every meeting, every text,” says one of people they spoke to at the time.
What interested investigators most of all was the relationship between Giuliani and the Ukrainian businessman Dmitry Firtash, who is wanted in the U.S. on corruption charges, this witness says. “The main things that interested them was: How would you assess, how would you describe, what do you know about his communication with Ukrainian oligarchs,” says this witness, who spoke repeatedly to investigators over the course of more than a year. “Firtash was of course their main focus, without a doubt.”
Time reporter Simon Shuster described the cooperation on Twitter:
Many of Giuliani’s associates in Ukraine have helped investigators ahead of today’s raids on his home. One told me he spoke to FBI agents for 10 hours straight in a DC hotel. Another says he volunteered the passwords to his phone and email, then explained each message from Rudy
Former Ukrainian MP Andrii Artemenko told Politico that he has also cooperated with the federal investigation into Giuliani, saying the FBI reached out to him last year. Artemenko was involved in both Mueller’s Russia investigation and Congress’s Ukraine investigation.
Reuters was shown a 2019 grand jury subpoena for Giuliani’s financial records, indicating that the lawyer may be under investigation for “money laundering, wire fraud, campaign finance violations, making false statements, obstruction of justice, and violations of the federal Foreign Agents Registration Act.”