Federal investigators searched Rudy Giuliani's home and office in Manhattan on Wednesday, executing search warrants as part of an investigation into his business dealings in Ukraine, reports The New York Times.
The former New York City mayor and personal lawyer to former President Donald Trump is being investigated over possible illegal lobbying on behalf of Ukrainian officials and his efforts to dig up dirt on Trump's political rivals. "Executing a search warrant is an extraordinary move for prosecutors to take against a lawyer, let alone a lawyer for a former president," writes the Times. "While the warrants are not an explicit accusation of wrongdoing against Mr. Giuliani, it shows that the investigation has entered an aggressive new phase."
Experts agreed the search represented very serious stakes for Giuliani. Former U.S. attorney Harry Litman wrote that "this means that a magistrate judge has found probable cause to believe that [Giuliani's actions in Ukraine] were criminal." As the Times writes, "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."
Federal prosecutor and legal analyst Shanlon Wu called the search an "extraordinary step," and wrote that "no amount of hot air and ranting is going to help Rudy Giuliani now."
Litman continued: "I don't know offhand the percentage of people whose [apartments] are searched by warrant who are then indicted ... but it's high, and given Giuliani's profile, it has to be higher [because] they would be more careful and get lots of approvals."
The search warrant was reportedly a long time coming, and politics may have slowed it down. The process was delayed for the presidential election so as not to sway voters, and Trump appointees at the DOJ reportedly managed to temporarily block the warrant while Trump was still in office.
Giuliani's lawyer called the search, in which investigators seized Giuliani's electronic devices, "legal thuggery." He asked "Why would you do this to anyone, let alone ... the personal lawyer to the 45th president of the United States," though on that front, there is precedent.