Federal prosecutors may soon reach a charging decision regarding Rudy Giuliani’s foreign lobbying efforts involving Ukraine, after he helped investigators unlock several electronic devices that were seized by the FBI, according to multiple sources familiar with the probe.
Giuliani has also offered to appear for a separate interview to prove he has nothing to hide, his lawyer told CNN, renewing a proposal that federal prosecutors have previously rebuffed.
Investigators seized 18 devices during high-profile raids on Giuliani’s home and office last April. Since then, a court-appointed special master has been reviewing materials on devices to shield from prosecutors any materials that could be personal or protected by attorney-client privilege. The review has been long-running, in part, because investigators haven’t been able to unlock several of the devices.
In recent weeks, Giuliani met with prosecutors and during the meeting he assisted them in unlocking three devices that investigators had been unable to open, according to people familiar with the investigation. It is unclear if Giuliani also answered questions from investigators during this meeting.
Giuliani provided a list of possible passwords to two other locked devices, the people said. Is it unknown if those passwords successfully unlocked those devices and how much relevant material is on the recently unlocked devices.
Now that several more devices are unlocked, that could speed up the review and ultimately lead to a quick decision over whether the former mayor of New York will face criminal charges. Unless new information comes to light that leads to new routes for authorities to pursue, federal prosecutors at the US Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York – which Giuliani led in the 1980s – are likely to decide whether to bring charges soon after the review, people familiar with the matter told CNN. Officials with the Justice Department in Washington will have to sign off on any decision to charge Giuliani since foreign lobbying falls under national security.
Prosecutors are investigating whether Giuliani violated US foreign lobbying laws when he sought the ouster of the US ambassador to Ukraine and an investigation into Joe Biden and his son Hunter. Prosecutors are exploring whether Giuliani was working on behalf of Ukrainian officials at the same time he was pursuing those efforts as then-President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, people familiar with the investigation said.
A spokesman for the US attorney’s office declined to comment.
Giuliani has maintained his innocence and helped in hopes of swiftly resolving the federal criminal investigation into his business dealings in Ukraine. His lawyer, Robert Costello, offered to have Giuliani sit down with federal investigators and answer questions about the case despite the risk that making any false statements to federal agents is a felony punishable by up to five years in prison.
Costello says Giuliani’s cooperation with the investigation shows how confident he is in his innocence:
“If you are innocent, you don’t have anything to hide and you don’t want allegation of a criminal investigation hanging over your head. … You do things like giving passwords to electronic devices that we had no obligation to. If we thought there was anything bad on those devices, we wouldn’t do it. His actions speak louder than words.”
Giuliani’s possible dual role – of acting on behalf of Trump and also for Ukrainian officials – raises novel legal issues that complicate any decision on whether to file charges. Giuliani has previously said his activities in Ukraine were done in his capacity as a lawyer for Trump and that he “never represented a Ukrainian national or official before the United States government.”
The investigation into Giuliani began in 2019. Last April, the Justice Department under Attorney General Merrick Garland gave the green light for an FBI raid on Giuliani’s New York home and office. FBI agents seized 18 electronic devices belonging to Giuliani, his business and associates, and downloaded and accessed the contents of 11 of them, according to court filings. Three weeks after the raid, in May 2021, investigators told Giuliani’s attorneys the FBI would be working to crack those remaining seven devices unless Giuliani was willing to provide passwords for the ones belonging to him, but Giuliani declined to do so at the time, according to multiple sources familiar.
Nearly a year later, the FBI still could not get into five of the devices seized in the Giuliani raids, according to multiple sources. Giuliani met with federal agents in recent weeks to assist them.
As of January 21, 2022, retired judge Barbara Jones, the special master, reported that at least eight devices had been reviewed and she turned over to the government more than 25,000 chats and messages found on one cell phone identified as Device 1B05 that were not designated as falling under any potential attorney-client or other privilege. She also found that 40 of 96 items Giuliani identified as protected.
“So far I have not seen any evidence whatsoever of any possible (Foreign Agents Registration Act) violation, which is what they say they are investigating,” says Costello.
Giuliani faces other legal threats
The New York investigation isn’t the only legal threat Giuliani is facing. His actions trying to overturn the 2020 election results to favor Trump have drawn scrutiny and potentially costly fines or settlements. Dominion Voting Systems filed a billion-dollar defamation lawsuit against Giuliani for his unfounded election fraud claims. In a January court filing, Giuliani’s lawyers said he is “open to settlement discussions once discovery is complete and Dominion realizes that its claims are without merit.” They added that Giuliani has “nothing to show remorse for” and didn’t lie about anything.
In that case, Giuliani has claimed he can’t turn over electronic documents because the FBI took all his electronic records and communications in the April 2021 raid. In a previous court filing, an attorney said Guliani is “unaware as to when/if those electronic files will be returned and/or accessible.”
The House committee investigating the January 6 attack on the US Capitol is also scrutinizing Giuliani’s role.
Giuliani was subpoenaed by the committee in January and has been engaging with lawmakers, through his lawyer, about the scope of the subpoena and whether he may be able to comply with some requests. CNN previously reported that Giuliani may be willing to testify about claims of election fraud but that he did not intend to waive executive or attorney-client privileges and no formal cooperation agreement has been reached.
The committee previously said it still expects Giuliani, a central figure in Trump’s failed bid to overturn the 2020 election, to “cooperate fully” with its subpoena.
CNN’s Katelyn Polantz contributed to this report.