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Garland faces a Giuliani investigation as he nears AG confirmation.



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Garland faces a Giuliani investigation as he nears AG confirmation.


With Merrick Garland set to be confirmed as Attorney General as soon as next week, one of the first major issues he’ll have to deal with is Rudy Giuliani.

A federal investigation into the former New York City mayor and close ally of former President Donald Trump’s overseas and business dealings came to a halt last year due to a disagreement over investigative tactics as Trump ran unsuccessfully for reelection and Giuliani’s prominent role in later disputing the election results on Trump’s behalf.

According to one current and one former law enforcement official familiar with the investigation, the US attorney’s office in Manhattan has returned to the question of bringing a criminal case against Giuliani, focusing at least in part on whether he broke US lobbying laws by failing to register as a foreign agent related to his work. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not allowed to discuss the pending case.

With the arrival of a new leadership team in Washington, the investigation is likely to get a fresh look. Whatever happens, the investigation ensures that a Justice Department seeking to move forward after a tumultuous four years will be confronted with unanswered, politically charged questions from the Trump era — not to mention calls from some Democrats to investigate Trump personally.

The investigation’s full scope is unknown, but it is believed to involve at least some of Giuliani’s Ukraine dealings, according to officials.

Giuliani was a key figure in then-President Barack Obama’s efforts to unearth dirt on Democratic rival Joe Biden and press Ukraine to launch an investigation into Biden and his son, Hunter, who is now the subject of a criminal tax investigation by the Justice Department. Giuliani also met with a Ukrainian lawmaker who released edited recordings of Biden in an attempt to smear him before the election, and tried to discredit former US ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who was forced out on Trump’s orders.

People who lobby on behalf of a foreign government or entity must register with the Justice Department under the Foreign Agents Registration Act. The once-obscure law, which aimed to improve transparency, has gotten a lot of attention in recent years, especially after former special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation revealed a slew of foreign influence operations in the United States.

According to multiple people familiar with the investigation who requested anonymity to speak about an ongoing investigation, federal prosecutors in Manhattan sought a search warrant for records, including some of Giuliani’s communications, last year, but officials in the Trump-era Justice Department refused to sign off on the request.

According to three of the people, officials in the deputy attorney general’s office expressed concerns about both the scope of the request, which they believed would include communications between Giuliani and Trump that might be covered by legal privilege, and the method of obtaining the records.

Applications for search warrants served on lawyers must be authorised by senior department officials, according to the Justice Department.

Kenneth F. McCallion, a former federal prosecutor who represents Ukrainian clients related to the case and has been in touch with federal authorities regarding the investigation, said, “They agreed it was best to put it off until the dust settled, and the dust has settled now.”

McCallion refused to name his customers, claiming that he was not allowed to do so. He previously represented Yulia Tymoshenko, the former Prime Minister of Ukraine.

Giuliani’s lawyer, Robert J. Costello, told The Associated Press that he has “heard nothing” about Giuliani from federal prosecutors.

It’s possible that Giuliani will try to argue that his actions were taken at the president’s request rather than at the request of a foreign country, in which case federal law would not require him to register.

In a text message to the Associated Press on Thursday, Giuliani said he “never represented a foreign anything before the US government.”

He described the investigation as “pure political persecution.” The US attorney’s office did not respond to a request for comment.

Federal authorities were questioning Giuliani about a wide range of his international business dealings, according to McCallion, and “everything was on the table” when it came to his work in Ukraine. He stated that the investigation was not solely focused on Ukraine, but he did not elaborate.

The investigation into Giuliani’s lobbying first surfaced in October 2019, when The New York Times reported that federal prosecutors were looking into Giuliani’s efforts to oust Yovanovitch, who was recalled amid Trump’s attempt to extort dirt from Ukraine in exchange for Ukraine’s support in his reelection campaign.

Federal prosecutors are also looking into Giuliani as part of a criminal case against two of his former business partners, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, both of whom are Soviet-born and played key roles in Giuliani’s efforts to launch the Ukrainian corruption investigation against the Bidens.

In order to gain support for a new recreational marijuana business, Parnas and Fruman were charged in a scheme to make illegal campaign contributions to local and federal politicians in New York, Nevada, and other states.

Giuliani has stated that he was unaware of any illegal donations and that he had not seen any evidence that Parnas and Fruman were involved in any wrongdoing.

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