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Giuliani lawyers attack prosecutors, searches in Ukraine probe

imagePolitics1 hour ago (May 17, 2021 02:58PM ET)

(C) Reuters. FILE PHOTO: Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, personal attorney to U.S. President Donald Trump, speaks about the 2020 U.S. presidential election results during a news conference in Washington, U.S., November 19, 2020. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Lawyers for Rudy Giuliani attacked federal prosecutors for their recent raids of his home and office, as they probe the former New York City mayor’s business dealings in Ukraine at a time he was serving as then-U.S. President Donald Trump’s lawyer.

In a letter made public on Monday, Giuliani’s lawyers objected to the “sweeping nature” of the April 28 searches and the legitimacy of a November 2019 search of his iCloud account, and want to see prosecutors’ basis for obtaining warrants underlying those searches.

They also said prosecutors claimed to secretly obtain the iCloud warrant on concern Giuliani might destroy evidence or intimidate witnesses, an accusation that “strains credulity” and was “extremely damaging” to Giuliani’s reputation.

Prosecutors “simply chose to treat a distinguished lawyer as if he was the head of a drug cartel or a terrorist, in order to create maximum prejudicial coverage of both Giuliani, and his most well-known client–the former President of the United States,” the lawyers said.

A spokesman for U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss in Manhattan declined to comment.

Giuliani asked U.S. District Judge Paul Oetken in Manhattan to let him review materials underlying the warrants, and block prosecutors from reviewing his seized phones and computers.

He wants the judge to rule before considering prosecutors’ request to appoint a “special master” to review those devices.

Such a review would weed out potentially privileged materials related to Giuliani’s clients including Trump, a fellow Republican.

The raids marked an aggressive new phase of a probe being conducted by the same U.S. Attorney’s office that Giuliani led in the 1980s, where he took on defendants like Mafia leaders and junk bond executive Michael Milken.

Giuliani has not been charged, and said after the raids that his conduct had been “absolutely legal and ethical.”

Robert Costello, one of Giuliani’s lawyers, has said he was “stunned” to first learn about the iCloud warrant on the day after Giuliani’s home and office were searched.

“All of his communications with the President of the United States Donald Trump were in there,” Costello said in a recent interview. “Every communication, text message, email message.”

‘DO-OVER’

In Monday’s filing, Giuliani’s lawyers also accused the Manhattan prosecutors of taking advantage of Democrat Joe Biden becoming president to go after their client.

They said the prosecutors had twice been denied permission by their Department of Justice superiors under Trump to seek the April warrants, and waited for Biden to install his own appointees before attempting a successful “do-over.”

In a separate letter, a lawyer for Giuliani associate Victoria Toensing asked the government to return materials seized from her so she can review them for privilege issues.

Toensing and her husband Joseph diGenova, who are both lawyers, have represented Dmytro Firtash, a Ukrainian oligarch who has been indicted in the United States on bribery and racketeering charges. He has fought extradition from Vienna.

Giuliani began representing Trump in April 2018 in connection with then-Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

He also sought prior to the 2020 U.S. election to dig up concerning Ukraine and Biden, and after Trump lost to Biden promoted baseless claims of election fraud.

Investigators want to review communications involving former Ukrainian officials and two Florida businessmen who helped Giuliani seek details about Biden.

They also are searching for communications concerning Marie Yovanovitch, who the Trump administration ousted as U.S. ambassador to Ukraine in 2019.

Investigators are looking for evidence that Giuliani acted as an unregistered foreign agent, violating lobbying laws.

Giuliani served eight years as New York City’s mayor, and Time magazine named him its 2001 “Person of the Year” for helping the city recover from the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Giuliani lawyers attack prosecutors, searches in Ukraine probe