On Wednesday, April 28, the New York City home/office of Republican Rudy Giuliani — former New York City mayor and a personal attorney for former President Donald Trump — was searched by FBI agents. Kimberly Wehle, a law professor at the University of Baltimore and former assistant U.S. attorney, offers some legal analysis of the raid in an article published by the conservative website The Bulwark on April 30.
Wehle explains, "FBI agents executed a search warrant at Giuliani's home and office on Wednesday, seizing material that included phones and computers, and at the Washington, D.C.-area home of lawyer Victoria Toensing. Toensing is a former federal prosecutor and Giuliani affiliate who, along with her husband Joseph diGenova, was reportedly involved in collecting information about Joe Biden's activities in Ukraine from back when he served as vice president."
The law professor and Never Trump conservative notes that in October 2019, major media reported that the U.S. Department of Justice was "criminally investigating" Giuliani. Back then, Trump was still president, and loyalist William Barr was his attorney general. But in April 2021, Joe Biden is now president, with Attorney General Merrick Garland serving in the position once held by Barr. And while senior officials in the Trump-era DOJ, according to the New York Times, were able to block search warrants aimed at Giuliani, the environment at the DOJ is much different under President Biden.
"Of course, this is bad news for Giuliani and for Donald Trump, who is now a private citizen and no longer protected by DOJ's internal ban on criminal actions against sitting presidents," Wehle observes. "The attorney general is not fooling around."
When Trump was president, he typically described any investigation of either himself or his allies as a "witch hunt" — and similarly, Giuliani's attorneys have denounced the April 28 FBI raid as "legal thuggery." But Wehle stresses that "given Giuliani's attorney status and connection to a former president, the decision to pursue such a warrant was no doubt vetted at the highest levels of DOJ."
"The Giuliani probe arose out of the Southern District of New York in connection with the arrests of Lev Parnas and Igor Furman, two former business partners of Giuliani who were indicted on four counts of conspiracy relating to foreign donations in elections and falsifying information to the Federal Election Commission," Wehle notes. "Their trial is scheduled for October 2021."
Trump is the only president in U.S. history who was impeached twice. The first impeachment occurred in 2019 as a result of Trump trying to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky into investigating Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. Pursuing opposition research on a political rival is hardly unusual in U.S. politics, but as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Adam Schiff emphasized during Trump's first impeachment trial, requesting such an investigation from a foreign leader seriously crossed the line.
Giuliani, in 2019, was among the Trump allies who was pursuing dirt on the Bidens.
Wehle notes, "Giuliani is reportedly under investigation 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 DOJ. As the DOJ explains on its website, the purpose of FARA is 'to identify foreign influence in the United States and address 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, policy, and laws.'"