The Trump Justice Department delayed a search warrant for Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani’s electronic records relating to Ukraine that had been sought by federal prosecutors in Manhattan, according to a report by The New York Times.
Prosecutors were seeking the records in late 2020 as part of a probe into whether Giuliani illegally lobbied the White House on behalf of Ukrainians who sought damaging information on then-presidential candidate Joe Biden.
The Times reports that when they reached out to senior Justice officials in Washington, a necessary step in obtaining the communications, senior officials at Justice were concerned such action would be too close to the election.
The Justice Department typically seeks to avoid investigations steeped in politics close to an election. In 2016, FBI Director James Coney announced he was effectively reopening an investigation related to Hillary Clinton’s emails as secretary of State just weeks before Election Day. Clinton, the Democratic presidential nominee, has continued to blame Coney for her loss to former President Trump.
The New York prosecutors sought the warrant again after the 2020 election, but Trump political appointees again did not sign off on the warrant, citing the fact that Giuliani and Trump were still seeking to overturn the election results in multiple states.
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The Times reported that career officials at Justice were largely ready to sign off on the records.
Th blocking led to widespread frustration among the prosecutors, who were skeptical every politically sensitive investigation was being handled the same way after the election. Career Justice Department officials also believed there was enough reason to believe they would uncover evidence of a crime to obtain the warrant, according to the Times.
Senior officials ultimately decided to delay making a decision on the subpoena until after President Biden took office. It is unknown whether the prosecutors have since obtained a warrant.
The investigation specifically involves Ukrainian oligarch Dmitry Firtash, who is currently under indictment in the U.S. People with knowledge of the situation told the Times that Firtash hired two attorneys with ties to Giuliani to lobby the Justice Department to avoid extraditing him, while Giuliani sought information on Biden and his son Hunter from Firtash.
Giuliani has not been directly accused of wrongdoing, and brushed off reports Trump was considering pardoning him pre-emptively. However, as Trump’s presidency drew to a close he asked associates whether he should lobby for one, according to the Times, citing two people with direct knowledge of the discussions.
The Hill has reached out to Giuliani for comment.