Trump administration political appointees in the Justice Department blocked federal prosecutors in Manhattan from obtaining a search warrant for Rudy Giuliani’s electronic records, the New York Times reported based on anonymous sources, impeding the ongoing federal investigation into the Trump attorney’s ties to Ukraine ahead of the presidential election and as Giuliani was leading a campaign to overturn its results.
Giuliani has reportedly been under investigation since at least 2019 by federal prosecutors in New York for his business dealings in Ukraine, according to multiple outlets, which potentially may have violated federal lobbying laws.
Prosecutors from the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York sought a search warrant for Giuliani’s electronic records related to Ukraine over the summer as part of the investigation, according to anonymous sources cited by the Times, which required the permission of Justice Department officials in Washington, D.C.
Those officials reportedly did not grant the request due to an agency policy against “taking aggressive investigative actions that could affect the outcome of the vote” in the 60 days before an election—though sources said the request was made more than 60 days in advance.
DOJ officials continued to block the request after the election as Giuliani led President Donald Trump’s legal campaign challenging the election results, even as the agency separately granted a subpoena into a similarly politically sensitive investigation into Hunter Biden.
CNN reports the election was one of several reasons why DOJ officials pushed back against the warrant, in addition to “the strength of the case,” and they considered other methods that could potentially be used to obtain evidence instead of the warrant, which was viewed as an “extraordinary step.”
DOJ officials ultimately declined to make a decision on granting the warrant before the Biden administration took over the department, CNN and the Times report.
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The Biden administration and incoming U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland will now face a decision on whether to grant the warrant, CNN notes, adding that it’s “unclear” the department would make a decision on such a high-profile request before Garland is confirmed by the Senate.
Giuliani has defended his actions in Ukraine, and an attorney for the former New York City mayor declined to comment to the Times “on media speculation.”
Giuliani’s dealings in Ukraine reportedly include efforts to use his influence with the Trump administration to help foreign clients, as well as his campaign to persuade figures in the Ukrainian government to investigate Hunter Biden, which led to President Donald Trump’s first impeachment. The Wall Street Journal reported in Nov. 2019 that subpoenas issued in the federal investigation suggest prosecutors were looking into a range of potential crimes as part of the probe, including money laundering, obstruction of justice and campaign finance violations, and associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman were indicted as part of the investigation. NBC News previously reported in December that federal prosecutors were looking into obtaining Giuliani’s electronic communications, and the Journal reported in 2019 that investigators have also examined the attorney’s bank records. Giuliani attorney Robert Costello told CNN the former mayor has still not been contacted by federal prosecutors in connection with the probe.
Trump Justice Department Sought to Block Search of Giuliani Records (New York Times)