Federal investigators in the United States have searched the apartment and office of Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and seized electronic devices as part of a criminal investigation.
Mr Giuliani, a former prosecutor who served as mayor of New York City from 1994-2001, led Mr Trump’s legal team in its fruitless efforts to overturn last year’s election result in court.
He also featured prominently in the series of events that led to Mr Trump’s first impeachment, as he dug for dirt on then-presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter overseas.
It’s that work, specifically relating to Ukraine, which reportedly led to today’s raids.
The New York Times was the first to report that investigators had executed search warrants at Mr Giuliani’s Manhattan apartment, located on Madison Avenue, and his office on Park Avenue. That happened at about 6am on Wednesday, local time.
“The execution of search warrants is an extraordinary action for prosecutors to take against a lawyer, let alone a lawyer for a former president,” the newspaper noted.
“To obtain a search warrant, investigators must persuade a judge they have sufficient reason to believe that a crime was committed and that the search would turn up evidence of the crime.”
It said authorities were investigating whether Mr Giuliani illegally lobbied the Trump administration in 2019 on behalf of “Ukrainian officials and oligarchs” who were helping in his search for damaging information about Mr Biden.
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Mr Giuliani’s lawyer, Robert Costello, reacted angrily to the searches.
“What they did today was legal thuggery,” said Mr Costello.
“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?”
Mr Costello told The Wall Street Journal Mr Giuliani had offered to answer investigators’ questions “as long as they agreed to say what area they were looking at ahead of time”, but it was “like talking to a wall”.
Meanwhile, Mr Giuliani’s son Andrew addressed reporters outside the apartment building.
“Anybody, any American, whether you are red or blue (Republican or Democrat) should be extremely concerned by what happened here today. By the continued politicisation of the Justice Department,” he said.
“This is disgusting. This is absolutely absurd. And it’s the continued politicisation of the Justice Department that we have seen.
“It has to stop. If this can happen to the former president’s lawyer, this can happen to any American. Enough is enough.
“The only piece of evidence that they did not take up there today was the only piece of incriminating evidence that was in there. And it does not belong to my father. It belongs to the current President’s son.”
In 2019, Mr Trump was preparing for his re-election campaign. Mr Biden, who eventually beat him and is now President, was seen as his most likely opponent.
Mr Giuliani spent a significant amount of time seeking information that could damage Mr Biden, specifically focusing on the business dealings of his son Hunter, who had served on the board of an energy company called Burisma in Ukraine while his father was vice president.
Prosecutors are reportedly interested in the role Mr Giuliani played in pushing Mr Trump to fire the then-US ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch. Mr Trump ultimately did remove her, in May of 2019.
“As he was pressuring Ukrainian officials to investigate the Bidens, Mr Giuliani became fixated on removing the ambassador, whom he saw as an obstacle to his efforts,” The Times reported.
“As part of the investigation into Mr Giuliani, prosecutors have explored whether he was working not only for Mr Trump, but also for Ukrainian officials or businesses who wanted the ambassador to be dismissed for their own reasons.”
It is a crime in the United States to lobby the government at the request of a foreign party without disclosing that relationship to the Justice Department, in accordance with the Foreign Agents Registration Act.