Federal investigators in Manhattan executed a search warrant Wednesday at Rudy Giuliani's apartment as part of a probe into the former New York City mayor's activities involving Ukraine, his attorney told NPR.
Robert Costello said the FBI conducted the raid at Giuliani's apartment on the Upper East Side of Manhattan at around 6 a.m. and seized electronic devices. He said the search warrants are connected to an investigation into possible violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act tied to Giuliani's Ukraine-related work.
The news was first reported by The New York Times.
In a statement late Wednesday, which Costello said was authorized by Giuliani, Costello made unsubstantiated — and unrelated — allegations about the president's son, Hunter Biden, whose business dealings have come under scrutiny.
"The search warrants involve only one indication of an alleged incident of failure to register as a foreign agent. Mayor Giuliani has not only denied this allegation, but offered twice in the past two years through his attorney Bob Costello to demonstrate that it is entirely untrue," he said in the statement. "Twice the offer was rejected by the SDNY by stating that while they were willing to listen to anything Mr. Costello had to say, they would not tell Mr. Giuliani or Mr. Costello, the subject matter they wanted him to address."
The activities of the former mayor and prosecutor, who later became the personal lawyer to former President Donald Trump, was the focus of attention during Trump's first impeachment trial in 2020 related to the Ukraine scandal.
Giuliani also played a key role in amplifying falsehoods about the 2020 election and orchestrated many of Trump's attempts to overturn the results. Those efforts led to Trump's second impeachment trial after he left office.
The raid amounts to a dramatic change of fortune for a man who made his name as the top federal prosecutor in New York City, pursuing Wall Street insiders who broke the law for personal profit in the 1980s.
It is unusual but not unheard of for agents to execute a search warrant against a lawyer because of concerns about attorney-client privilege. Senior Justice Department officials normally have to approve such a move.
The search warrant then would have to be approved by a federal judge who would have determined — based on information presented by prosecutors — that there was probable cause to believe a crime had been committed and that evidence of the offense was at the location or on the devices authorities wanted to search.
In this case, former prosecutors said the search warrant suggests the investigation into Giuliani's activities is at an advanced stage.
FBI agents also showed up early Wednesday at the house of Victoria Toensing, a Washington lawyer who worked with Giuliani on Ukraine issues, with a warrant for her cellphone. The warrant mentioned foreign lobbying violations, according to a person familiar with the matter.
In a statement, Toensing's law firm said that Toensing is a former federal prosecutor and Justice Department official who has "always conducted herself and her law practice according to the highest legal and ethical standards."
"She would have been happy to turn over any relevant documents. All they had to do was ask. Ms. Toensing was informed that she is not a target of the investigation," it said.
Federal investigators were known to be scrutinizing Giuliani's business dealings and Ukraine work.
Two of Giuliani's business associates have already been indicted on counts that include campaign finance violations and false statements.
Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman are accused of illegally funneling foreign money to a U.S. congressman for help in ousting the woman who was then the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. They have pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Parnas and Fruman also helped introduce Giuliani to influential people in Ukraine as he tried to dig up unflattering information in 2019 for use against now-President Biden and his son Hunter as Biden was launching his presidential campaign.
Costello said subpoenas indicate investigators are seeking Giuliani's communications with a long list of individuals, including Parnas and Fruman, as well as the journalist John Solomon, who helped amplify Giuliani's claims tied to Ukraine.
Giuliani's involvement took place before, during and then after the core events of the Ukraine affair in 2019 in which Trump ordered assistance be frozen to extract concessions from Ukraine's government.
Ultimately the aid was released, and Ukrainian officials did not give Trump the political ammunition he wanted — but Democrats nonetheless called the exchange an abuse of power and impeached Trump.
Hunter Biden's payments by a Ukrainian company at the time his father was vice president have embarrassed the family, but investigators have concluded that no laws were broken.
America's former mayor
Giuliani, a two-term mayor of New York, rose to international prominence after he steered the city through tragedy on Sept. 11, 2001, when two planes piloted by terrorists crashed into the World Trade Center.
His later efforts to win higher office, in the U.S. Senate and the Republican nomination for the White House, floundered.
In recent years, Giuliani monetized his reputation for security and policing into lucrative side ventures. But it's his close association with Trump and his financial dealings with foreign governments that drew American law enforcement scrutiny.
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Rudolph Giuliani has worn many hats over his decades in public life - federal prosecutor, mayor of New York City, presidential candidate, President Trump's personal attorney. And now he's facing possible legal trouble after FBI agents executed a search warrant yesterday at his Manhattan apartment and office. NPR justice correspondent Ryan Lucas has covered Giuliani for years and is on the line. Ryan, good morning.
RYAN LUCAS, BYLINE: Good morning.
INSKEEP: So what are the investigators doing?
LUCAS: Well, we've known for a while that investigators in New York were probing Giuliani's business dealings and his work related to Ukraine. And now that's taken a significant step forward with this search warrant, which around a half-dozen FBI agents executed early yesterday at Giuliani's apartment and Upper East Side, Manhattan, office as well. Giuliani's lawyer, Robert Costello, told me the agents took Giuliani's electronic devices. Costello said the search warrants indicate that investigators are looking into possible violations of foreign lobbying laws related to Giuliani's Ukraine work. Giuliani, of course, had business dealings in Ukraine going back many years. But he famously played a central role in the Ukraine scandal that led to President Trump's first impeachment.
INSKEEP: Yeah. And so now they've executed these search warrants and not only on him, right? There's an associate that has also been a target here?
LUCAS: That's right. The lawyer - it's a lawyer that Giuliani worked with on Ukraine matters. Her name is Victoria Toensing. Our colleague Carrie Johnson has learned that two agents from New York showed up at Toensing's house outside Washington with a warrant for her cellphone, which she handed over. The warrant mentioned foreign lobbying violations. Toensing's law firm put out a statement which said that Toensing is not the target of this investigation. But as you said, Toensing did collaborate with Giuliani on his Ukraine claims. You may remember two of Giuliani's associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, who were indicted in 2019 on campaign finance and other charges. They helped Giuliani try to gather damaging information in Ukraine about Joe Biden. Parnas also worked with Victoria Toensing. Now, Giuliani's lawyer told me that investigators are seeking Giuliani's communications with Parnas and Fruman and others. One of those others is John Solomon, who is a columnist who helped amplify Giuliani's Ukraine claims.
INSKEEP: Giuliani's lawyer and his son have complained about this treatment because he is a lawyer. Is it unusual for prosecutors to execute a search warrant on a lawyer?
LUCAS: It's unusual. But it's not unheard of for investigators to do this. Something like this normally requires approval from senior officials at the Justice Department because of concerns about attorney-client privilege. It's obviously a huge deal when the attorney worked for the former president of the United States. But remember, a federal judge has to sign off on a search warrant like this as well. So that means investigators were able to convince a federal judge that a crime was likely committed and that there would be evidence of it in this specific location. All of this suggests, former prosecutors tell me, that this investigation is pretty far along.
INSKEEP: What's Giuliani himself saying? He's normally quite talkative.
LUCAS: He is normally quite talkative. He has not said anything. He tweeted out a statement from his attorney late last night, but that's it. His son, Andrew, as you mentioned, has talked about this. He talked briefly with reporters on his way into his father's building. He said it was absurd, it was disgusting. He said if it can happen to the former president's lawyer, it can happen to anybody. It's important to say that Giuliani hasn't been charged with a crime at this point. I've spoken with him in the past about his foreign lobbying. He said he always followed the law. His lawyer told me the same yesterday. Nevertheless, this is a remarkable change of fortune for Giuliani. He was America's mayor after 9/11. He was deeply involved in some of President Trump's controversies, including, of course, perpetuating the falsehood that Trump lost the election to Biden because of fraud. But some people may forget that he was a hard-charging U.S. attorney in Manhattan in the 1980s. And now he's being investigated by that very same office he once led.
INSKEEP: Ryan, thanks.
LUCAS: Thank you.
INSKEEP: NPR's Ryan Lucas. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.