Federal authorities investigating Rudy Giuliani are seeking information related to a former US ambassador to Ukraine who was removed from her job two years ago on orders of then-President Donald Trump, a lawyer for Giuliani said Friday.
Robert Costello confirmed via text message to The Associated Press that a search warrant served this week on Giuliani made reference to Marie Yovanovitch, who, as a central player in the first impeachment case against Trump, detailed a smear campaign by Giuliani and other Trump allies that preceded her 2019 removal from the job.
Costello said the warrant also referenced Ukraine’s former top prosecutor Yuri Lutsenko, who met with Giuliani and was also part of efforts to remove Yovanovitch from her position.
The fact that the warrant makes mention of Yovanovitch, and that it seeks communication between Giuliani and several Ukrainians, suggests authorities are attempting to determine whether Giuliani’s efforts to remove the ambassador were being done at the behest of Trump or of Ukrainians.
That distinction matters because federal law requires anyone lobbying the US on behalf of a foreign country or entity to register their work with the Justice Department.
The former mayor of New York City told Tucker Carlson of Fox News that the electronic devices seized at his Manhattan residence and a separate office on Wednesday would show he did not violate federal law as he sought to dig up dirt on Joe Biden in Ukraine in 2019 to support Trump.
The New York Times newspaper was first to report on the warrant’s reference to Yovanovitch.
The May 2019 removal of Yovanovitch was one of the pivotal episodes of the Trump impeachment case, coming just months before a phone call in which Trump urged his Ukrainian counterpart to investigate Biden and his son, Hunter.
Trump and his Republican allies tried to turn Hunter Biden’s business dealings as a board member of the Ukrainian gas company Burisma into a US political scandal that would hurt Joe Biden’s presidential candidacy. Hunter denied any wrongdoing and the Republican scandal-mongering failed to gain traction.
Giuliani advanced those same efforts in his own discussions with Ukrainian officials, meeting with a Ukrainian legislator who released audio recordings during the 2020 presidential campaign in an effort to discredit Biden’s candidacy.
Yovanovitch, a career diplomat who served for decades under both Republican and Democratic presidents and was first appointed by Ronald Reagan, testified in chilling detail during the impeachment trial about a “smear campaign” against her by Giuliani and others before her firing.
Yovanovitch also told House impeachment investigators that she had been told by Ukrainian officials that Giuliani was in touch with Ukraine’s former top prosecutor Lutsenko “and that they had plans, and that they were going to, you know, do things, including to me”.
She said she was told Lutsenko “was looking to hurt me in the US”.
A lawyer for Yovanovitch declined to comment Friday.