Key takeaways from the FBI’s Giuliani raids
Back in October 2019, reports have revealed that the Justice Department is investigating Rudy Giuliani, former President Trump’s de facto personal lawyer and personal diplomat. This news seems old these days, buried amid the debris of constitutional and legal horrors that litter the landscape after the Trumpian era. But with Attorney General Merrick Garland now at the helm of the DOJ, history – and the ministry – has come to life. FBI agents executed a search warrant at Giuliani’s home and office on Wednesday, seizing equipment including phones and computers, and at the home of a Washington, DC area lawyer Victoria Toensing. Toensing is a former federal prosecutor and an affiliate of Giuliani who, along with her husband Joseph diGenova, was allegedly involved in gathering information about Joe Biden’s activities in Ukraine when he was vice president. According to New York Times, the warrants were blocked by senior officials in Trump’s Justice Department, but that was lifted shortly after Garland’s confirmation as attorney general.
Of course, this is bad news for Giuliani and for Donald Trump, who is now a private citizen and no longer protected by Internal DOJ ban on criminal actions against sitting presidents.
The Attorney General is not having fun. Prior to serving on the DC Circuit Court of Appeals, Garland conducted the DOJ investigation in the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, as well as the conviction of Timothy J. McVeigh. In 2016, he was denied even a hearing on his appointment to the United States Supreme Court by then Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell – a snub that could come back to bite the Republican Party further. long term.
Keep in mind that, also this week, the attorney general announced a DOJ investigation into the Louisville, Ky., subway police department into the Breonna Taylor shooting. And the day after ex-officer Derek Chauvin’s murder conviction last week, he revealed that the DOJ is investigating whether the Minneapolis Police Department is harboring a “pattern and practice” of illegal activity under federal law. (Under the Trump administration, the DOJ was strongly criticized for withdrawing civil rights enforcement and former Attorney General Bill Barr refused to investigate systemic racial discrimination in the Minneapolis Police Department following the death of George Floyd.)
As might be expected, Giuliani’s legal team called the warrants “legal brutality”, ignoring the fact that they were authorized by a federal judge and thus reflect a finding that there is probable cause believe that a crime has been committed and that items related to the crime are likely to be in Giuliani’s home and office. Given Giuliani’s legal status and his ties to a former president, the decision to pursue such a term has undoubtedly been endorsed at the highest level of the DOJ.
Nonetheless, Giuliani, former New York City mayor, United States attorney for the Southern District of New York and assistant United States attorney general, lied on Fox News last night by falsely stating the standard of a warrant as requiring a demonstration “that the person is going to destroy the evidence” or “flee with the evidence”. Andrew Feinberg, one of the top lawyers on Special Advocate Robert Mueller’s team, aptly replied: “This is not how search mandates work. “
The Giuliani investigation originated in the Southern District of New York following the arrests of Lev Parnas and Igor Furman, two former Giuliani business partners who were indicted on four counts of conspiracy regarding foreign donations during elections and falsifying information to the Federal Election Commission. Their trial is scheduled for October 2021.
According to the American lawyer at the time, Geoffrey S. Berman, Parnas, Furman and their two alleged co-conspirators “sought political influence not only to promote their own financial interests, but also to advance the political interests of at least one foreign official – a Ukrainian government official who asked the dismissal of the American ambassador for Ukraine ”, Marie Yovanovitch. As evidence from Trump’s first impeachment case revealed, Giuliani worked to persuade Ukrainian officials to announce an investigation into the Bidens, while peddling the bogus theory that corrupt Ukrainian politicians – not Russians – intervened in the 2016 elections in an effort to help the losers. candidate, Hillary Clinton.
Giuliani successfully pushed for Yovanovich’s removal from his post after insisting that Giuliani works through official government channels in his communications with Ukraine. According to Trump’s White House partial transcription During the July 25, 2019 phone call that prompted Trump’s first indictment, Trump also told Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that Yovanovich was “bad news.” In addition, in a recording done during an April 30, 2018 dinner at the Trump International Hotel in DC with Parnas and Fruman, Trump can be heard saying, “Get rid of her!” Take her out tomorrow. I do not care. Take her out tomorrow. Take her out. OKAY? Do it.”
Yovanovich testified during the impeachment proceedings that she had three contacts with Giuliani, adding: “I do not understand Mr. Giuliani’s motives for attacking me, nor can I give an opinion on his belief in the allegations he has spread to my subject. No one in the State Department did. “
giuliani would be investigated for potential crimes under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), which makes it illegal to act as an “agent of a foreign principal” without registering with the DOJ. As the DOJ explains on his website, FARA’s goal is “to identify foreign influence in the United States and to combat threats to national security” by promoting “transparency” and “ensuring that the United States government and the public know the source of certain information from foreign agents intended to influence American public opinion, politics and law. “According to the New York Times, at least one of Giuliani’s search warrants explicitly cited FARA.
Giuliani’s search warrants appear to match the facts leading to count one of Trump’s first indictments, who accused Trump of abuse of power by corruptly seeking Ukraine’s electoral aid to discredit Joe Biden, his main rival for the presidency.
It is unclear what kind of information investigators hoped to uncover at Giuliani’s home, although, as Daniel Goldman – an attorney for the House Democrats during Trump’s first impeachment – noted, Giuliani’s electronics could contain a wealth of relevant information:
One of the warrants reportedly made it clear that the FBI was seeking communications between Giuliani and Ukrainian officials, including former President Petro Poroshenko and two former Ukrainian prosecutors involved in helping Giuliani gather information about the Bidens. Documents made public in November 2019 further indicate that Giuliani was simultaneously negotiating with former Ukrainian prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko for hundreds of thousands of dollars in consulting fees to “Giuliani Partners”, allegedly to help Lutsenko recover Ukrainian assets. And it has been reported that Giuliani has also sought help in his investigation of Biden from Dmitry Firtash, a Ukrainian oligarch who is under investigation in the United States and whom Toensing (the other recipient of Wednesday’s warrant) represents.
As it happened with the FBI raids targeting former Trump attorney Michael Cohen in 2018, defense attorneys claimed A declaration filled with punctuation, spelling and capitalization issues – that ‘electronics outlet is. . . is full of documents covered by solicitor-client privilege and other constitutional privileges. But as Cohen’s failed attempt to claim attorney-client privilege for the bulk of the documents confiscated from him shows, this rule is limited. It only protects confidential communications made for the purpose of giving legal advice. Discussions with lawyers on other matters are not protected. Notably, Giuliani’s attorney’s reference to “other constitutional privileges” appears to tie the seized documents directly to Trump himself – because Trump is Giuliani’s only client who could possibly claim executive privilege for communications made. while he was still president.
Much of the Constitution’s loyalty to accountability now rests on Merrick Garland, as the US congressional standoff struggles with the most fundamental task of investigation and surveillance in relation to the deadly insurgency January 6, among other matters of deep constitutional concern in recent years. McConnell de Garland’s refusal for a seat on the United States Supreme Court may, in a strange twist of fate, have resulted in exactly what American democracy needs in this particularly dire hour.