United States President Donald Trump during the United Nations Assembly in New York (Photo: Reuters)
The federal prosecutor in New York is investigating whether Rudolph Giuliani, US President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, has violated US lobbying laws in his dealings with Ukraine, two people knowledgeable of the investigation report.
Investigators are assessing Giuliani's efforts to undermine former US ambassador to Ukraine Marie L. Yovanovitch, one source said. Yovanovitch was removed from office and called back last semester as part of Trump's broader campaign to pressure Ukraine to help him with his political perspectives.
Giuliani investigations are linked to a case against two of his associates arrested this week on charges related to campaign funding, people with knowledge of the inquiry indicate. Giuliani's associates are suspected of directing illegal contributions to wanted congressmen to help remove Yovanovitch.
Giuliani denies any wrongdoing, but admitted that he and his associates worked closely with Ukrainian prosecutors to collect potentially harmful information from Yovanovitch and other targets of Trump and his allies, including former Vice President Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden. Giuliani shared this material this year with US government officials and Trump-friendly columnists in an effort to undermine the position of Trump's ambassador and other targets.
Federal law requires US citizens to report to the Department of Justice any contact with the US government or media under the direction or request of foreign politicians or government officials, regardless of whether they are paid to represent them. Judicial authorities have made it clear in recent years that covert foreign influence is a major threat to the country, with spies trying to steal government secrets.
Giuliani's criminal investigation increases the risks of Ukraine's scandal for the president, whose dealings with the country are already the subject of an impeachment inquiry. It is also a surprising turnaround for Giuliani, who is under scrutiny by the same US prosecutor's office he led in the 1980s, when he gained fame as a tough prosecutor with the crime and subsequently rose to be elected mayor of New York twice.
It is still unclear how far the investigations have advanced, and there is no indication that prosecutors in Manhattan have decided to file further charges related to the case. A spokeswoman for the prosecutor's office, Geoffrey S. Berman, declined requests for comment.
Giuliani says federal prosecutors have no basis to charge him for violations of foreign lobbying disclosure laws because he was acting on behalf of Trump, not Ukrainian prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko, when he collected information about Yovanovitch and the US. other targets and passed them on to the US government and the media.
"You can try to wriggle anything into anything else, but if they (the prosecutors) have the slightest objectivity or impartiality, it would be kind of ridiculous to say that I was doing it on behalf of Lutsenko when I was representing the president of the United States." Said Giuliani.
Lutsenko was eroded by Yovanovitch's anti-corruption efforts that he wanted her removed from Kiev, the capital of Ukraine. Giuliani also said he was unaware of any investigation, and defended the pressure campaign against the Ukrainians, which he led, as legal and legitimate.
CNN and other news organizations have reported that federal prosecutors were analyzing financial transactions between Giuliani and his associates, but it has not yet been reported that federal prosecutors in Manhattan are specifically investigating whether he violated foreign lobbying laws with his work at Ukraine.
Yovanovitch told lawmakers in the impeachment inquiry that Trump had been pushing for months for her removal even though the State Department knew she "did nothing wrong."
Through his associates who also worked to remove Ambassador Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, Giuliani contacted Lutsenko, who was Ukraine's top prosecutor until last August, earlier this year. Parnas and Fruman had also put Giuliani in touch with Lutsenko's predecessor Viktor Shokin late last year.
Parnas told prosecutors that Yovanovitch was hampering his efforts to enter a gas business in Ukraine. Parnas also said that one of his companies paid Giuliani hundreds of thousands of dollars for an unrelated venture in the US, and that Giuliani advised him and Fruman on a lawsuit in Ukraine.
Lutsenko sought to pass on the information he collected about Trump's targets to US law enforcement officials and saw Giuliani as someone who could make that happen. Giuliani and Lutsenko talked first by phone and then met in person in New York in January.
Lutsenko initially asked Giuliani to represent him, said the former mayor, who said he declined the request because it would conflict with his work for the president. Instead, Giuliani said, he interviewed Lutsenko for hours, and then one of his staff – a "professional investigator who works for my company" – wrote memos detailing the Ukrainian prosecutor's allegations about Yovanovitch, Biden and others.
Giuliani said he had given these memos to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo this year and told him that the State Department had passed the documents to the FBI. He did not reveal who told him that.
Giuliani said he also passed the memos to columnist John Solomon, who at the time worked at The Hill newspaper and published articles and videos criticizing Yovanovitch, Bidens and other Trump targets. It is unclear how far Giuliani's memos served as the basis for Solomon, who independently interviewed Lutsenko and other sources. Solomon did not respond to requests for comment.
The president is trying to distance himself from Giuliani, saying he is uncertain if the lawyer still represents him.
"I didn't talk to Rudy," Trump told reporters on Friday. "I talked to him yesterday quickly." He is a very good lawyer, and has been my lawyer.
Subsequently, Giuliani also claimed to represent Trump.
On Saturday morning, however, Trump came out in defense of Giuliani following the publication of this report by the New York Times.
"So now they are after the legendary‘ crime destroyer and greatest New York mayor in history, Rudy Giuliani, "the president wrote in his Twitter account. “He may seem a little tough at times, but he's also a very nice guy and a wonderful lawyer. That one-sided witch hunt is going on in the US. Deep state. Shameful, ”he added.
. (tagsToTranslate) news (t) news (t) United States