Federal investigators search apartment and office of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani

The entrance to the apartment building of Rudy Giuliani (above) is seen in Manhattan, New York City, on April 28, 2021.
The entrance to the apartment building of Rudy Giuliani (above) is seen in Manhattan, New York City, on April 28, 2021.PHOTOS: REUTERS, NYTIMES

NEW YORK (NYTIMES) - Federal investigators in Manhattan executed search warrants early on Wednesday (April 28) at the home and office of Rudy Giuliani, the former New York City mayor who became President Donald Trump's personal lawyer, stepping up a criminal investigation into Giuliani's dealings in Ukraine, three people with knowledge of the investigation said.

The investigators seized Giuliani's electronic devices and searched his apartment on Madison Avenue and his office on Park Avenue at about 6am, two of the people said.

Executing a search warrant is an extraordinary move for prosecutors to take against a lawyer, let alone a lawyer for a former president. It is a major turning point in the long-running investigation into Giuliani, who as mayor steered New York through the Sept 11 attacks and earlier in his career led the same US attorney's office in Manhattan that is now investigating him.

Giuliani's lawyer, Robert J. Costello, called the searches unnecessary because his client had offered to answer questions from prosecutors, except those regarding his privileged communications with the former president.

"What they did today was legal thuggery," Costello said. "Why would you do this to anyone, let alone someone who was the associate attorney-general, United States attorney, the mayor of New York City and the personal lawyer to the 45th president of the United States."

The federal authorities have been largely focused on whether Giuliani illegally lobbied the Trump administration in 2019 on behalf of Ukrainian officials and oligarchs, who at the same time were helping Giuliani search for dirt on Trump's political rivals, including President Joe Biden, who was then a leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination.

The US Attorney's office in Manhattan and the FBI had for months sought to secure a search warrant for Giuliani's phones.

While the warrants are not an explicit accusation of wrongdoing against Giuliani, it shows that the investigation has entered an aggressive new phase. To obtain a search warrant, investigators need to persuade a judge they have sufficient reason to believe that a crime was committed and that the search would turn up evidence of the crime.

Spokesmen for the FBI and the US attorney's office declined to comment.

The investigation of Giuliani grew out of a case against two Soviet-born men who aided his mission in Ukraine to unearth damaging information about Biden and his son Hunter, who was on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.