A search warrant used to raid former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani’s home and office this week focused on Giuliani’s role in the firing of former Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch, The New York Times reports.
Investigators raided Giuliani’s office on Wednesday and seized his phones and computers. While the years-long federal investigation into Giuliani has largely focused on whether he illegally lobbied on behalf of Ukrainian officials and oligarchs while representing Trump, one of the search warrants sought evidence related to Yovanovitch.
Yovanovitch testified during Trump’s first impeachment that Giuliani led a smear campaign against her, which led to Trump firing her, because she pushed back on Giuliani’s attempts to get Ukraine to announce an investigation into Joe and Hunter Biden.
Investigators are looking at whether Giuliani targeted Yovanovitch solely on behalf of Trump or whether he was also doing so on behalf of Ukrainian officials who wanted her gone.
“Even if the Ukrainians did not pay Mr. Giuliani, prosecutors could pursue the theory that they provided assistance by collecting information on the Bidens in exchange for her removal,” The Times reported.
Giuliani has denied any wrongdoing and claims he is being politically targeted even though the investigation was launched under Trump and investigators have sought to execute the search warrant since at least last summer.
Giuliani admitted he pushed out Yovanovitch:
“I believed that I needed Yovanovitch out of the way,” Giuliani told The New Yorker in 2019. “She was going to make the investigations difficult for everybody.”
Giuliani admitted that he compiled a dossier on the ambassador that he shared with Trump and said Trump put him in touch with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
Yovanovitch was ultimately ousted in April 2019.
Investigators are now looking at Giuliani’s actions in the smear campaign as well as Giuliani’s relationship with Ukrainians who had an ax to grind with the ambassador, who made numerous enemies as she targeted corruption in the country.
Investigators are particularly interested in Yuri Lutsenko, a former top Ukrainian prosecutor who fed Giuliani false information about the Bidens that he later recanted. Lutsenko hoped it would help him in his own corruption case after his assets were seized and he was fired.
Lutsenko wanted Yovanovitch removed, according to the Times, and “hinted at a potential quid pro quo in text messages that became public during the impeachment trial.”
“I do not know Mr. Giuliani’s motives for attacking me,” Yovanovtich later testified to Congress. “But individuals who have been named in the press who have contact with Mr. Giuliani may well have believed that their personal and financial ambitions were stymied by our anti-corruption policy in Ukraine.”
Correction: An earlier version of this report cited a Washington Post report that the FBI briefed Giuliani that he was the target of a Russian disinformation campaign. The Post has since retracted its story and said the FBI never briefed Giuliani.