Giuliani’s attorney, Robert Costello, sounded the alarm within hours of the warrants being served on his client, who previously represented former President Donald Trump, saying the devices were “filled with material covered by the solicitor-client privilege and other constitutional privileges ”.
While prosecutors months ago investigated his work in other countries, according to people familiar with the matter, the investigation is now focusing mainly on his Ukraine-related activities.
Giuliani denied the wrongdoing and said on the radio Thursday: “What they do to me as a lawyer is unacceptable.” He added: “I was representing my client when I did this – I was not representing any Ukrainian, I was representing Donald J. Trump, president or not, an innocent man who was trapped by a group of crooks.”
A spokesperson for the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s Office declined to comment on Giuliani’s public statements.
The execution of the search warrants is a significant step forward in the investigation into Giuliani, in part because of the high levels prosecutors must reach to get court approval for such warrants to be used against a lawyer like Giuliani – himself a former American lawyer – or Trump. other previous personal attorney, Michael Cohen, because of the likelihood of privileged material.
With Giuliani, prosecutors are bracing for the same type of court challenge they faced in the investigation into Cohen, who recoiled from the seizure of documents from his home, office and hotel room, claiming that reams of documents were subject to solicitor-client privilege.
With the seizure of documents from attorneys, prosecutors use a screening team – a set of attorneys who are not involved in the underlying investigation – to review the evidence and sort the privileged documents, but in the case de Cohen, he argued that this step was insufficient.
Cohen’s lawyers first requested a temporary restraining order to prevent investigators from reviewing the seized documents. After a federal judge rejected the request, Cohen’s lawyers were successful in securing the appointment of a “special master,” an independent authority appointed by the court to review documents and determine which documents were privileged.
The special master ultimately concluded that the privilege only applied to a small portion of the thousands of pages of seized documents.
Charges may not be filed for months
While the execution of the search warrants represents a significant step forward in the Giuliani investigation, that does not mean that it is necessarily in its final stages.
In part because of the expected legal challenge over the privilege claims, any charges against Giuliani are unlikely to be imminent and may not be filed for months, according to a person familiar with the matter.
In Cohen’s case, federal agents confiscated documents from him in April 2018, the special master concluded his examination on August 9, and federal prosecutors filed charges against Cohen just 12 days later.
As in Cohen’s case, any battle over questions of privilege can attract the attention of their former mutual client: Trump.
Trump’s lawyers have joined Cohen’s efforts to block the government’s screening team’s review. In reacting to Giuliani’s search warrants on Thursday, Trump did not issue any privilege objections, but since he no longer occupies the White House, he now faces even greater legal exposure than during the Cohen investigation.
And the search warrant for several electronic devices comes at an interesting time for Giuliani and Trump. Last year, New York prosecutors made several attempts to get approval from Washington Department of Justice officials for the search warrant, including ahead of the 2020 election, but failed to do so. have not received.
They eventually received it at some point after Trump left and, due to the delay, the documents seized can include all kinds of documents and communications that prosecutors may not have received if the warrants had been. approved earlier.
The phone, computers and iCloud accounts could include efforts by Trump and Giuliani to overturn election results, including multiple court challenges and appeals to state officials, and communications ahead of the Jan.6 riot. US Capitol.
While there is no indication that the ongoing investigation goes beyond Giuliani’s efforts in Ukraine, prosecutors often expand investigations if they discover evidence of another crime.
CNN’s Kara Scannell contributed to this report.