Federal Agents Execute a Search Warrant at Rudy Giuliani’s Manhattan Apartment.
The warrant was issued as part of an investigation into whether Mr. Giuliani violated lobbying laws when serving as President Trump’s personal lawyer.
Federal agents in Manhattan conducted a search warrant Wednesday at the Upper East Side apartment of Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York City mayor who became President Donald J. Trump’s personal lawyer, escalating a federal investigation into Mr. Giuliani’s Ukrainian business dealings, three people familiar with the matter said.
According to one of the sources, investigators confiscated Mr. Giuliani’s electronic devices.
Executing a search warrant against a lawyer, let alone a former president’s lawyer, is an unprecedented move by prosecutors, and it marks a watershed moment in the long-running inquiry into Mr. Giuliani.
The federal authorities have concentrated primarily on whether Mr. Giuliani secretly pressured the Trump administration in 2019 on behalf of Ukrainian officials and oligarchs who were assisting Mr. Giuliani in his quest for dirt on Mr. Trump’s political rivals, including President Biden, who was then a leading Democratic presidential candidate.
The Manhattan United States Attorney’s Office and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have been attempting for months to obtain a search warrant for Mr. Giuliani’s mobile.
According to The New York Times, senior political appointees at the Justice Department regularly tried to block such a subpoena during Mr. Trump’s tenure, delaying the investigation last year as it gained traction. The Justice Department withdrew its opposition to the search following Merrick B. Garland’s confirmation as President Biden’s attorney general.
While the warrant does not directly accuse Mr. Giuliani of misconduct, it does indicate that the investigation has entered a new aggressive phase. To obtain a search warrant, prosecutors must convince a judge that they have reasonable grounds to suspect a crime was committed and that the search would unearth proof of the crime.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the United States Attorney’s Office refused to comment.
Mr. Giuliani’s investigation stems from a lawsuit against two Soviet-born men who assisted him in Ukraine in unearthing negative details about Mr. Biden and his son Hunter, who served on the board of directors of a Ukrainian energy firm. The two guys, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, were charged with unrelated offenses in late 2019 and a trial is scheduled for October.
Prosecutors have looked into Mr. Giuliani’s possible business interests in Ukraine and his role in pressuring the Trump administration to remove the American ambassador to Ukraine, which was the topic of testimony during Mr. Trump’s first impeachment trial.
Although pressuring Ukrainian officials to conduct an investigation into the Bidens, Mr. Giuliani became fixated on replacing the ambassador, Marie L. Yovanovitch, whom he saw as impeding those efforts. Mr. Trump eventually fired Ms. Yovanovitch at the behest of Mr. Giuliani and other Republicans.
According to people briefed on the matter, investigators have examined whether Mr. Giuliani was acting not only for Mr. Trump, but also for Ukrainian officials or companies seeking the ambassador’s dismissal for their own purposes.
Under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, or FARA, it is a federal crime to attempt to manipulate or lobby the United States government without reporting the request or guidance of a foreign official.
Prosecutors also examined Mr. Giuliani’s relations with Yuriy Lutsenko, one of the officials who assisted Mr. Giuliani and his associates in their dirt-digging mission while also advising them to work to expel the ambassador.
Prosecutors have investigated, among other items, negotiations between Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Lutsenko about taking on hundreds of thousands of dollars of seemingly unrelated consulting work, which culminated in a draft retainer agreement that was never implemented.
Mr. Giuliani has stated that he declined the offer, which would have included him assisting the Ukrainian government in reclaiming money it believes was stolen and stashed abroad.
As the investigation intensified last summer, prosecutors and F.B.I. agents in Manhattan prepared to request a search warrant for Mr. Giuliani’s documents about his attempts to oust the ambassador, but they needed to alert Justice Department officials in Washington first, according to people familiar with the matter.
Federal prosecutors must meet with Justice Department officials in Washington before executing search warrants involving attorneys, out of fear that they could receive sensitive client communications. Mr. Giuliani’s arrest warrant was especially contentious since his most famous client was Mr. Trump.
Profession Officials at the Justice Department in Washington overwhelmingly approved the search warrant, but senior officials expressed fear that it would be released too close to the election, according to people familiar with the matter.
The Justice Department has a long-standing policy of avoiding aggressive investigative measures within 60 days of an election if such actions might influence the result of the vote.
Prosecutors in Manhattan attempted again after the election, but political appointees in Mr. Trump’s Justice Department moved to delay the warrant once more, according to people familiar with the matter. Mr. Trump was also contesting the election results in some states at the time, those officials acknowledged, a legal campaign led by Mr. Giuliani.