WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. prosecutor’s office in New York that jump-started Rudy Giuliani’s career now has the onetime “America’s Mayor” in its crosshairs, after federal agents on Wednesday searched his Manhattan apartment and law office as part of an investigation into his business dealings with Ukraine.
The execution of the search warrants represents a major escalation of the probe into New York’s former mayor and Republican President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney, signaling that a judge deemed there was probable cause to believe a crime had been committed.
No charges have been filed against Giuliani, 76.
A lawyer for Giuliani, Bob Costello, confirmed the search, saying the warrants were looking for evidence that his client failed to register as a foreign agent. He said Giuliani denied any wrongdoing.
The search comes as Giuliani is facing intense legal pressure from at least three civil defamation lawsuits seeking to collect billions in damages over his false claims that Trump won the 2020 election, not Democrat Joe Biden.
Giuliani gained fame in the 1980s as the hard-charging U.S. attorney in Manhattan who jailed leading organized crime figures and also went after white-collar criminals such as Wall Street “junk bond king” Michael Milken.
The Republican was elected mayor in 1993, and won a second term four years later.
He was dubbed “Americas’ Mayor” for his steady hand during and after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that brought down the World Trade Center.
He used that profile to launch an unsuccessful bid for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination before becoming a staunch supporter of Trump, a longtime friend and fellow New Yorker.
Giuliani has come under intense criticism over the past six months for his central role in Trump’s failed legal efforts to overturn his 2020 election defeat. That campaign failed to convince any federal or state judge of alleged widespread fraud.
The Brooklyn-born former mayor staged briefings for Republican lawmakers across the country questioning the results of an election that Biden won by a vote of 306-232 in the state-by-state Electoral College contest and by more than 7 million ballots in the popular vote.
Giuliani became a prominent member of Trump’s inner circle in 2018, when he represented the president during a probe by then-Special Counsel Robert Mueller into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Later, he became the subject of a whistleblower complaint in which he was accused of helping the president use U.S. aid as leverage to pressure Ukraine’s president to investigate Biden and his son Hunter.
Congress subpoenaed Giuliani, who admitted in a television interview that he had asked Ukraine’s government to “target” Biden on Trump’s behalf.
The Democratic-controlled U.S. House of Representatives ultimately impeached Trump over the issue and the then-Republican-led Senate acquitted him.
Giuliani has been under a cloud since at least 2019, amid the ongoing investigation.
The probe has looked into his interactions with Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, two Soviet-born business associates of Giuliani who are facing criminal charges alleging they illegally funneled money to election candidates. Parnas was deeply involved in Giuliani’s efforts to investigate the Bidens.
The younger Biden, who has repeatedly denied wrongdoing, became the target of attacks by Trump and his Republican allies during the 2020 presidential campaign. In December, Hunter Biden said he had received a subpoena from federal prosecutors in Delaware as part of a probe into his tax affairs.
Giuliani has been married and divorced three times.
One of his two children, former White House aide Andrew Giuliani, is planning to run for the Republican nomination for governor of New York next year.
Andrew Giuliani first drew national attention at the age of 7, when he stood next to his father in front of New York City Hall and held his hand aloft as the elder Giuliani was sworn in as mayor for the first time in 1994.
He remained next to him through the 17-minute inaugural speech, mimicking his father and making faces.
The next morning, the front page of the New York Daily News read, “Rudy & Son — Andrew steals scene on Dad’s big day.”
(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; additional reporting by Jan Wolfe and Karen Freifeld; Editing by Scott Malone and Jonathan Oatis)