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  • Writer's pictureThe San Juan Daily Star

Giuliani will not face federal charges over lobbying, prosecutors say

Rudy Giuliani, former President Donald Trump’s onetime personal lawyer, enters the Fulton County Courthouse to testify before a Grand Jury, in Atlanta, Aug. 17, 2022.

By William K. Rashbaum, Rebecca Davis O’Brien and Ben Protess

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan said earlier this week that they would not bring charges against Rudy Giuliani in a long-running investigation into whether he violated lobbying laws.

In a brief letter to the judge overseeing a review of materials seized during a search of Giuliani’s home and office last year, the prosecutors wrote that “based on information currently available to the government, criminal charges are not forthcoming.”

The decision deals a major victory to Giuliani, Donald Trump’s onetime personal lawyer and the former mayor of New York. Giuliani decades ago headed the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, which conducted the investigation with the FBI.

“Having seen all the evidence, I’m not at all surprised,” said Robert J. Costello, Giuliani’s lawyer, while adding that he was “very grateful” to the prosecutors for publicly announcing their decision.

The U.S. attorney’s office and the FBI declined to comment on the conclusion of the investigation, which was focused on whether Giuliani illegally lobbied the Trump administration on behalf of Ukrainian officials. Those same Ukrainians helped Giuliani impugn Joe Biden, who was then on his way to becoming the Democratic presidential nominee.

The prosecutors’ decision to close the investigation without an indictment signifies the end of a sprawling legal and political saga that enveloped the United States and Ukraine, an ally. It upended Giuliani’s already unsteady reputation as a lawman and compounded pressures on Trump’s inner circle.

The move comes months after The New York Times reported that Giuliani was unlikely to face charges. Although prosecutors had enough evidence last year to persuade a judge to order the seizure of Giuliani’s electronic devices, they did not uncover definitive proof of wrongdoing in the records, the Times reported, citing people with knowledge of the matter.

Giuliani’s legal troubles are not behind him, however. He also faces federal and Georgia state investigations into his efforts to reverse the 2020 election results on behalf of Trump, and his law license has been suspended in New York for making false statements about the election.

A spokesperson for Giuliani nonetheless suggested that the decision by the Southern District prosecutors indicated that his client had done no wrong.

“The mayor has been completely and totally vindicated,” the spokesperson, Ted Goodman, said in a statement.

While the investigation into Giuliani’s dealings in Ukraine began more than three years ago, it reached a turning point in April 2021, when federal investigators seized cellphones and computers from his Manhattan apartment and office. It was not only an escalation of the long-running inquiry but an extraordinary step to take against a lawyer, let alone one who had represented a sitting president.

The investigation grew out of a case against two Soviet-born men who helped Giuliani pressure Ukrainian officials to investigate Trump’s rivals, including Biden and his son, Hunter, who had served on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.

The prosecutors charged the men, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, with unrelated crimes in 2019. Parnas, who turned on Giuliani and offered to provide evidence against him, was convicted at trial last year on campaign finance-related offenses and sentenced to 20 months in prison. Fruman pleaded guilty to campaign finance crimes and was sentenced to a year and a day.

On Monday, Parnas’ lawyer, Joseph A. Bondy, criticized the decision not to charge Giuliani.

“There has long been a criminal justice disparity in our country, which protects the elite,” he said, and “it comes as no surprise that Rudy Giuliani, the former U.S. attorney, mayor and president’s lawyer, will not be charged.”

At the heart of the investigation was Giuliani’s role in pushing the Trump administration to remove the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie L. Yovanovitch. Trump recalled her in May 2019, a move that was a focus of his first impeachment trial.

Prosecutors examined whether there was a quid pro quo: removing the ambassador in return for information about the Biden family that would benefit Trump.

Yuriy Lutsenko, a Ukrainian official, had butted heads with Yovanovitch, who had taken aim at corruption in the nation’s law enforcement and government.

Federal prosecutors scrutinized Giuliani’s dealings with Lutsenko, who helped Giuliani and his associates as they tried to dig up dirt on Biden and push for Yovanovitch’s removal. Giuliani had discussions about taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in consulting business from Lutsenko, but ultimately turned it down.

Prosecutors suspected Giuliani was working not only for Trump at the time but also for Ukrainian officials who wanted the ambassador dismissed, people briefed on the matter told the Times last year.

It is a federal crime to influence or lobby the United States government at the direction of a foreign official, business or citizen without disclosing it to the Justice Department. At least one of the search warrants for Giuliani’s devices specified that among the possible crimes he committed were violations of that law, the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

Prosecutions under the lobbying law increased dramatically during Trump’s presidency, driven in part by a Justice Department directive to enforce such laws more rigorously.

But prosecutors have struggled to convince judges and juries that the conduct charged in these cases amounted to federal crimes. Earlier this month, a jury acquitted Thomas J. Barrack Jr., a businessman and close adviser to Trump, on charges that he served as an agent of the United Arab Emirates.

The search warrants against Giuliani were subject to a political battle. In the final months of the Trump administration, senior Justice Department officials repeatedly sought to block the Manhattan federal prosecutors from securing them. They cited concerns, including that the search would be conducted too close to the 2020 election, the Times reported last year.

After the search warrants were executed in 2021, prosecutors and Giuliani’s lawyers recommended that Barbara S. Jones, a former judge in Manhattan, be appointed to review the materials seized by the FBI in the searches of Giuliani’s home and office. Jones had played a similar role in the 2018 review of materials seized by authorities in the investigation of another former lawyer for Trump, Michael Cohen.

Prosecutors’ request for a “special master” reflected concerns about “unusually sensitive privilege issues” raised by searches of a lawyer for a former president.

On Monday, as part of an unrelated civil case that the New York attorney general recently filed against the Trump Organization, a judge, Arthur F. Engoron, named Jones as the company’s independent monitor.

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