Manhattan federal prosecutors are seeking to examine
communications with an array of former Ukrainian officials, people familiar with the matter said, as investigators home in on whether the former Trump lawyer’s push to remove a U.S. diplomat in Kyiv violated foreign lobbying rules. The search warrants executed by federal investigators on Wednesday at Mr. Giuliani’s New York City apartment and office sought evidence related to
the former U.S. ambassador to Ukraine whom Mr. Giuliani pushed to oust in the spring of 2019, as well as communications with any U.S. government officials or employees regarding the former ambassador or her position, the people said. Former President
ordered Ms. Yovanovitch’s removal in the spring of 2019 after an extensive push by Mr. Giuliani, who personally lobbied the president and then-Secretary of State
The warrants also sought communications with or regarding associates who worked with Mr. Giuliani to push for Ms. Yovanovitch’s ouster and for an investigation by Ukrainian authorities into the Biden family’s activities in the country, the people familiar with the warrants said. President Biden was at the time considered one of Mr. Trump’s top Democratic rivals.
The warrants specifically sought evidence related to former Ukrainian prosecutors general
and Yuriy Lutsenko, former Ukrainian prosecutor Kostiantyn Kulyk and former Ukrainian President
the people said.
Mr. Giuliani has denied ever serving as a lobbyist or agent of a foreign government. The former New York mayor was serving as a personal lawyer for Mr. Trump when he was pushing for the Biden investigations and for the ambassador’s removal.
“From the time I got out of being mayor, I didn’t want to lobby,” Mr. Giuliani said on Fox News Thursday evening. “And I can prove it. Just give me an opportunity.”
Marie Yovanovitch, who was ousted as U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine by Mr. Trump in 2019, arrived to testify at a House impeachment hearing in Washington, D.C., in late 2019.
Andrew Harrer/Bloomberg News
The Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office has been investigating Mr. Giuliani’s work in Ukraine for over a year, but the seizure of his personal electronic devices on Wednesday marked an escalation in the probe. Mr. Giuliani’s efforts in Ukraine were at the center of Mr. Trump’s first impeachment on charges he abused his power by seeking Ukraine’s help in his 2020 election bid. Mr. Trump was impeached by the Democratic-led House and acquitted by the Republican-led Senate.
Mr. Giuliani alleged that Mr. Biden as vice president engaged in corruption when he called for the ouster of Mr. Shokin, then the Ukrainian prosecutor general, who had investigated a Ukrainian gas company where Mr. Biden’s son
served on the board. The Bidens have denied any wrongdoing, and ousting the prosecutor was a goal at the time of the U.S. and several European countries.
Federal prosecutors have pursued a theory that hinges on the idea that Mr. Giuliani’s efforts to remove Ms. Yovanovitch were done at the behest of Ukrainian officials in exchange for damaging information about the Bidens, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday. Such an exchange, even if it involved no financial payment, could violate federal lobbying laws, the Journal reported.
Mr. Giuliani has said that Ms. Yovanovitch was an obstacle to his efforts to push Ukraine to investigate the Bidens and that she displayed an anti-Trump bias in private conversations.
As ambassador, Ms. Yovanovitch had openly criticized the office of Mr. Lutsenko, then Ukraine’s top law-enforcement officer, for its poor anticorruption record. In early 2019, Mr. Lutsenko met twice with Mr. Giuliani and his associates to discuss possible investigations into the Bidens. Mr. Lutsenko was removed from the prosecutor-general office in August 2019.
In her 2019 testimony to impeachment investigators, Ms. Yovanovitch said Mr. Lutsenko spread false allegations about her. “I do not understand Mr. Giuliani’s motives for attacking me,” she said. “What I can say is that Mr. Giuliani should have known those claims were suspect, coming as they reportedly did from individuals with questionable motives and with reason to believe that their political and financial ambitions would be stymied by our anticorruption policy in Ukraine.”
Mr. Lutsenko later recanted his allegations about Ms. Yovanovitch and has defended his handling of anticorruption efforts as prosecutor general. Mr. Kulyk couldn’t be reached for comment. Mr. Shokin has said he was fired illegally.
In a statement, a spokeswoman for Mr. Poroshenko said that he and Mr. Giuliani had discussed little besides Russian aggression and U.S.-Ukraine strategic ties. “When meeting Poroshenko as president of Ukraine, Giuliani had never raised issues that are now under the U.S. probe,” the spokeswoman said. “Absolutely not.”
The warrant also sought evidence related to three Giuliani associates who were arrested in 2019 on campaign-finance charges—
Igor Fruman and David Correia—as well as two lawyers close to Mr. Giuliani, Victoria Toensing and Joseph diGenova, and conservative columnist John Solomon. Investigators on Wednesday executed a search warrant for Ms. Toensing’s phone.
A spokesman for Ms. Toensing’s law office has said she was told she wasn’t a target. Mr. diGenova declined to comment. Mr. Solomon didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Messrs. Parnas and Fruman helped Mr. Giuliani gather information on the Bidens and in private conversations touted their role in the removal of Ms. Yovanovitch, according to people in the U.S. and Ukraine who spoke to them at the time.
Messrs. Parnas and Fruman weren’t charged in connection with Mr. Giuliani’s Ukraine efforts, though the charges against them referred to their efforts to push for the ambassador’s removal.
Messrs. Parnas and Fruman have pleaded not guilty to the campaign-finance charges and are tentatively scheduled to go to trial later this year.
Mr. Correia pleaded guilty last year and was sentenced in February to a year and a day in prison for lying to federal election authorities and for duping investors in a fraud-insurance company.
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Some of the Giuliani associates mentioned in the warrant entered into financial arrangements with some of the Ukrainian officials named.
In the spring of 2019, Ms. Toensing signed an agreement to represent Mr. Shokin to collect evidence related to his March 2016 firing from his prosecutor general post and any role Mr. Biden had played as vice president in his firing, according to documents obtained by impeachment investigators that year. Ms. Toensing also signed contracts that spring to represent Mr. Lutsenko and Mr. Kulyk in meetings with U.S. officials about alleged evidence of Ukrainian interference in the 2016 U.S. elections, according to a report by impeachment investigators.
Mr. Giuliani told the Journal in 2019 that Mr. Lutsenko had asked him to represent him, but that he turned down the case after drafting retainer agreements for a total of about $500,000.
Robert Costello, a lawyer for Mr. Giuliani, earlier this week described the execution of the search warrant as “legal thuggery,” and Mr. Giuliani has complained that the seized electronics contain communications protected by attorney-client privilege.
Mr. Giuliani and his advisers are now strategizing on how to respond, considering whether to file a lawsuit or whether to ask a judge to review the seized communications for privilege, according to a person familiar with the deliberations. The team has also reached out to representatives of Mr. Trump, whose communications with his lawyer could have been seized on Wednesday, about whether he would sign on to a lawsuit, the person said.
Mr. Giuliani has also reached out to constitutional-law professor Alan Dershowitz, who represented Mr. Trump during his first impeachment, for legal advice.
Mr. Dershowitz in an interview said executing a search warrant against a lawyer was a violation of the Fourth Amendment, which prohibits “unreasonable searches and seizures,” and said he had advised Mr. Giuliani and his lawyer to “take all constitutional remedies,” including asking a judge to conduct a review of the seized materials.
Mr. Dershowitz, whose advice to Mr. Giuliani was first reported by the Daily Beast, said he isn’t a formal member of Mr. Giuliani’s legal team.
“He’s going to fight back,” he said. “Rudy is a fighter.”
—Brett Forrest contributed to this article.
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