WASHINGTON — Rudy Giuliani, US President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, is being investigated by federal prosecutors in New York for possible lobbying violations.
That’s according to a report Friday in The New York Times, citing two anonymous people familiar with the inquiry.
One of the Times’ sources says the investigation is related to Giuliani’s efforts to undermine former US Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.
Two Florida businessmen tied to Giuliani were charged Thursday with federal campaign finance violations. The men, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, had key roles in Giuliani’s efforts to launch the Ukrainian corruption investigation against Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden, a main Trump rival, and his son Hunter. According to the indictment against the men, they agreed to raise $20,000 or more for a US congressman to seek his “assistance in causing the US Government to remove or recall the then-US Ambassador to Ukraine.”
Yovanovitch was recalled from Kyiv as Giuliani pressed Ukrainian officials to investigate the baseless corruption allegations against Biden and his son, who was involved with a gas company there.
Giuliani’s efforts, revealed through a whistleblower complaint and subsequent release of the White House record of a July 25 call between Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, have become the focus of an impeachment investigation launched by House Democrats.
The US attorney’s office in Manhattan declined to comment Friday night on the Times report on the Giuliani investigation.
Yovanovitch made a congressional appearance on Friday – the first for a Trump administration official before the House Democrats’ impeachment inquiry- issuing a scathing critique of the Trump administration’s conduct of foreign policy, the New York Times reported separately, citing her opening statement.
Yovanovitch slammed “fictitious” reports circulated by Trump allies that she was disloyal to him, and said she never did anything to sabotage his campaign or presidency, the Times quoted her as saying.
The very appearance on Capitol Hill by Yovanovitch, who remains a federal employee, is a victory for Democrats given the White House’s public stance against cooperating with the probe.
Her testimony could be a breakthrough for those seeking first-hand details about efforts by Trump, including through Giuliani, to pressure Ukraine to investigate Biden and his son.
Giuliani told the Times that he was unaware of any investigations into his actions, and defended the campaign he led in Ukraine. According to the report, Giuliani said federal prosecutors had “no grounds” to charge him with foreign lobbying disclosure violations because “he said he was acting on behalf of Trump, not the Ukrainian prosecutor, Yuriy Lutsenko, when he collected the information on Yovanovitch and the others and relayed it to the American government and the news media.”
“Look, you can try to contort anything into anything, but if they have any degree of objectivity or fairness, it would be kind of ridiculous to say I was doing it on Lutsenko’s behalf when I was representing the President of the United States,” Giuliani told the Times.
The Times reported that a criminal investigation of Giuliani “raises the stakes” for Trump whose actions are already the subject of the impeachment inquiry.
“It is also a stark turn for Mr. Giuliani, who now finds himself under scrutiny from the same United States attorney’s office he led in the 1980s, when he first rose to prominence as a tough-on-crime prosecutor and later ascended to two terms as mayor of New York,” The Times wrote.