As Rudolph W. Giuliani comes under increasing scrutiny for his efforts to reverse the 2020 election results, another legal threat is quietly waning: the criminal investigation into his ties to Ukraine during the presidential campaign.
The investigation, conducted by federal prosecutors in Manhattan and the FBI, examined whether Mr. Giuliani illegally lobbied the Trump administration on behalf of Ukrainian officials who helped Joseph R. Biden Jr. question, who was then expected to be the Democratic presidential candidate.
But after nearly three years, that investigation into Mr. Giuliani, Donald J. Trump’s former personal attorney, is unlikely to lead to charges, two people with knowledge of the case said.
Although prosecutors had enough evidence last year to convince a judge to order the seizure of Giuliani’s electronic devices, they found no smoking gun in the files, said the people, who spoke on condition of anonymity to a federal to discuss research.
Prosecutors have not closed the investigation, and if new evidence were to emerge, they could still pursue Giuliani. But as a telltale sign that the investigation is nearing completion without a charge, investigators recently returned the electronic devices to Mr. Giuliani, the people said. Giuliani also met with prosecutors and officers in February and answered their questions, signaling that his lawyers were confident he would not be charged.
The Manhattan investigation once posed the greatest legal danger to Mr Giuliani, whose press campaign in Ukraine led to Mr Trump being led to his first impeachment. But in recent weeks, as the Manhattan investigation has come to a close, Mr. Giuliani for Mr. Keeping Trump in power after the 2020 election will come under increasing scrutiny.
He has emerged as a key figure in the Georgian criminal investigation into attempts to reverse Mr Trump’s loss in that state. Federal prosecutors are also investigating his role in creating alternative slates for pro-Trump voters in several states, and he was central to the congressional investigation into the January 6 attack on the Capitol.
The Manhattan Inquiry went further back in time to examine Giuliani’s entanglements with powerful Ukrainians in the run-up to the presidential election, when he blurred the lines between his political goals and his business pursuits in highly unusual ways.
Pushing Trump’s agenda in 2019, Giuliani developed ties to a Ukrainian oligarch charged in the United States, new interviews and documents show. Giuliani stayed at a five-star hotel and took a private flight courtesy of the oligarch’s company, an arrangement not previously reported but of interest to Manhattan authorities, people with knowledge of the matter said. (Both men deny knowing about the travel payments, which were arranged by their associates.)
Mr. Lutsenko traveled to New York in January 2019 and met Mr. Giuliani for hours to provide information that Mr. Giuliani hoped would harm Mr. Biden’s campaign. The following month, Mr. Giuliani considered accepting $200,000 from Mr. Lutsenko to keep both his company and a husband-and-wife legal team in order to recover money believed to have been stolen from the Ukrainian government’s treasury.
As the country’s top prosecutor, Mr. Lutsenko was able to provide what Mr. Giuliani and Mr. Trump so desperately wanted: an announcement of an investigation into Mr. Biden and Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company that had paid his son Hunter as a board member. Mr. Lutsenko also wanted something: the removal of the US ambassador to Ukraine, Marie L. Yovanovitch, with whom he had bumped heads. For weeks, Giuliani urged the Trump administration to remove her, and in April 2019 she was recalled.
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It is against federal law to influence the U.S. government on behalf of a foreign official without registering as a foreign agent, although such prosecutions are difficult and relatively rare. Giuliani has maintained that he was targeting the ambassador simply because he believed she was disloyal to Mr Trump and was hostile to his attempt to find information about Mr Biden.
That argument — that he was working solely in his capacity as the president’s lawyer, not for Mr Lutsenko — could have undercut the central premise of a criminal case against him.
Mr. Giuliani eventually dropped the potential $200,000 deal with Mr. Lutsenko, another challenge to build a criminal case. Violating the lobby law doesn’t require money to change hands, but the absence of a clear consideration would not have satisfies a jury.
Spokespersons for the US law firm in Manhattan and the Federal Bureau of Investigation declined to comment on the investigation.
Authorities in Manhattan also briefly scrutinized Mr Giuliani’s ties to Ukrainian oligarch, Dmitry Firtash, said people with knowledge of the matter.
A DailyExpertNews review of documents and text messages and interviews revealed that Mr. Firtash’s company covered tens of thousands of dollars of Mr. Giuliani’s travel expenses in the summer of 2019, including his stay at the luxury hotel and his private jet flight.
The travel expenses did not appear to break any laws, but they show that Mr. Giuliani’s bond with Mr. Firtash was greater than was commonly known.
“Rudy Giuliani had no idea Firtash was paying for those trips,” said Robert J. Costello, Mr. Giuliani’s attorney, adding that “he certainly wouldn’t have allowed it had he known.”
Both mr. Costello as a lawyer for Mr. Firtash, Lanny J. Davis, said their clients never spoke to each other. “To the best of Mr Firtash’s knowledge, he has never paid any funds or authorized to be paid for Giuliani,” said Mr. davis. The lawyer attributes the payments to “an unintentional error” by one of Mr Firtash’s administrative assistants, who he says failed to notice Mr Guiliani’s expenses among other travel expenses and paid for them “without the knowledge or authority of lord Firtash.”
Mr Firtash was charged in the United States in 2013 with conspiracy to bribe officials in India and is fighting extradition while strenuously denying the charges. mr. Giuliani has considered hiring Mr. Firtash in his extradition case, but said he quickly rejected the idea.
The history of Mr. Firtash in Ukraine, where he made a fortune in the energy sector and publicly followed Mr. Biden regarding the country, the oligarch appeared on Mr. Giuliani when he was looking for dirt on Mr. Biden.
Mr. Giuliani began contacting Mr. Firtash’s lawyers seeking information about corruption in Ukraine in June 2019, around the time that Mr. Trump was pressuring Ukrainian President, Volodymyr Zelensky, to investigate the Bidens. The lawyers of Mr. Firtash told Mr. Giuliani that they didn’t know anything relevant.
There is no evidence that Mr Firtash assisted Mr Giuliani in his attacks on the Bidens, and Mr Davis said the oligarch “categorically denies ever helping Giuliani or anyone else dig up dirt.”
Still, in the summer of 2019, an associate of Mr. Giuliani, Lev Parnas, met the oligarch and recommended that he add new lawyers to his team, the husband and wife, who helped Mr. Giuliani dig into the Bidens. Mr Parnas was paid to act as their interpreter and Mr Firtash agreed to pay part of Mr Parnas’ travel expenses.
The offer seemed ideal. About this time, Mr. Giuliani was preparing to go to London and wanted to determine who would cover his trip. “In money troubles traveling to London,” Mr Giuliani wrote to Mr Parnas in a text message.
During the trip in late June, Mr. Giuliani in a hotel conference room with some Firtash employees, including a banker whose cousin was a director of Burisma.
Mr Davis said the purpose of the meeting was to discuss Mr Firtash’s claim that his extradition was politically motivated, and that his associates were not talking about Burisma. The oligarch’s staff have the help of Mr. Giuliani not invoked, added Mr. Davis to it.
That day, Mr. Giuliani upgraded hotels to the Ritz London. The company of Mr. Firtash, Group DF, later covered the stay for about $8,000, as evidenced by interviews and reports. The following month, the company paid $36,000 for a private flight Mr. Giuliani took from the Dominican Republic to Washington. And in August, Mr. Giuliani traveled to Spain with a friend and a bodyguard at a cost of more than $30,000, an expense quoted on an invoice from a Group DF assistant and longtime adviser to Mr. Firtash.
Mr Costello said Mr Giuliani “doesn’t know how it came about.”
Mr Davis said his client, Mr Firtash, authorized payments only to Mr Parnas – “and never for Mr Giuliani’s expenses.”
In October, Mr Giuliani planned to fly abroad, but an unforeseen development occurred: the arrests of Mr Parnas and an associate, Igor Fruman, on federal campaign finance charges.
Mr Parnas, who had witnessed Mr Giuliani’s interactions with Mr Lutsenko, has said he has offered to cooperate with the investigation, but prosecutors have chosen to take him to trial, where he had been charged last year. was convicted. And although Mr. Fruman pleaded guilty, he did not cooperate with Mr. Giuliani.
Reporting contributed by Masha Froliak, Michael Rothfeld, Maria Varenikova and Kenneth P. Vogel. Susan C. Beachy research contributed.