Giuliani, who served as former President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, has been the focus of an investigation concerning his activities in Ukraine, including whether he conducted illegal lobbying for Ukrainian officials while he pursued an investigation linked to Trump’s primary political rival, President Joe Biden, CNN has reported. Giuliani hasn’t been charged and has denied wrongdoing.
On Wednesday afternoon, an attorney for Giuliani, Robert Costello, said the warrant described an investigation into possible violation of foreign lobbying laws and that it sought communications between Giuliani and people including a former columnist for The Hill, John Solomon.
As part of the same investigation, agents on Wednesday also executed a search warrant at the home of Victoria Toensing, a lawyer and Giuliani ally, a spokesperson for Toensing said. A person briefed on the matter later clarified that the house itself wasn’t searched but that a phone was handed over when agents arrived in the 6 a.m. ET hour.
“Ms. Toensing is a former federal prosecutor and senior Justice Department official. She has always conducted herself and her law practice according to the highest legal and ethical standards,” her spokesperson said in a statement. “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.”
Toensing and her husband, Joseph diGenova, signed an agreement with a Ukrainian prosecutor as part of an effort to collect information about Biden’s activities in Ukraine while he was vice president, according to the House Democrats’ 2019 impeachment report.
Giuliani’s son Andrew briefly stepped outside of his father’s Manhattan apartment on Wednesday afternoon to denounce the Department of Justice, saying that if this can happen to “the former president’s lawyer, this could happen to any American.”
“All I will say is this: To all Americans out there, our Justice Department should be independent on politics. Enough is enough, ladies and gentlemen,” he continued. “We cannot stand for this anymore.”
A White House official, however, said the Justice Department did not give them advance notice on the warrants. The White House has previously said it will not have any involvement in ongoing Justice Department investigations.
White House senior adviser Cedric Richmond on Wednesday declined to comment on the raid, telling CNN’s Wolf Blitzer on “The Situation Room” that the Department of Justice was acting “completely independent” from the White House.
“This President has said that he wanted the Justice Department to be completely independent. They are,” Richmond said. “And so we don’t interfere with them, and we don’t comment on what they do. We are very mindful that the people in this country have to have full trust in the Department of Justice, and the President is not going to put his thumb on the scale or comment about any investigation, and the investigations should just take their course without political interference.”
Warrant would have required senior authorization
A search warrant for a lawyer like Giuliani would require sign-off by the highest levels of the Department of Justice, likely by Deputy Attorney General Lisa Monaco or the acting deputy attorney general who served prior to her confirmation, according to departmental guidelines.
The Times reported that investigators seized Giuliani’s electronic devices, according to one person with knowledge of the matter.
Then-Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen, along with other officials at Justice headquarters and the US attorney’s office in Manhattan, decided not to make a final decision, CNN reported, in part because there would soon be a change in the administration.
The New York federal prosecutors wanted to seize Giuliani’s devices when they first sought to execute the search warrant last year, CNN previously reported.
Attorney-client communications are generally protected as confidential and sifted out by a special filter team of prosecutors following a search, and sometimes they are reviewed independently by a federal judge.
One attorney who worked with Giuliani on the attempt to overturn Trump’s 2020 election loss said Wednesday that the search of the President’s lawyer may have swept up privileged legal communications about the President’s campaign from November and December 2020 and January 2021.
Giuliani facing legal exposure
Giuliani has been under scrutiny by Manhattan federal prosecutors since early 2019. The inquiry has explored whether Giuliani may have been engaged in undisclosed foreign lobbying for Ukrainian officials when he sought the ouster of the US ambassador to Ukraine as well as an investigation into the Bidens for his own personal benefit at the same time he was pursuing those efforts as Trump’s attorney.
This story has been updated with additional information.