U.S. investigators raid Giuliani apartment in New York

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Federal investigators on Wednesday executed a search warrant at the Manhattan apartment of Rudolph Giuliani, the former New York City mayor and personal lawyer to former U.S. President Donald Trump, as they probe his business dealings with Ukraine.

A lawyer for Giuliani, Bob Costello, confirmed that a search warrant had been executed. Electronic devices were among the items seized, according to The New York Times. Giuliani did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Federal prosecutors in Manhattan have been investigating Giuliani’s dealings in Ukraine.

While the search warrant does not mean Giuliani committed a crime, it signals that investigators persuaded a judge they believed criminal conduct occurred and that executing the warrant might uncover relevant evidence.

“This is a seismic moment in the investigation,” said Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.

“It’s a big deal to execute a search warrant concerning an attorney because of issues of attorney-client privilege,” she said. “It’s a bigger deal to execute a search warrant of an attorney who worked for the former president.”

Giuliani, 76, began representing Trump, a fellow Republican, in April 2018 in connection with former Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

Giuliani’s role in Washington was complex, with the former mayor frequently proclaiming himself a business consultant and lawyer in the private sector even as he enjoyed extraordinary access to the halls of power.

Giuliani eventually became a key figure into whether Trump abused his office for personal political gain in his dealings with Ukraine.

His work included an investigation before the 2020 election into now-President Joe Biden and his son Hunter’s dealings in Ukraine. The Bidens have denied wrongdoing.

Two former Giuliani associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, have been charged with campaign finance violations and other crimes.

Parnas’ and Fruman’s work included efforts to help Giuliani dig up damaging information about the Bidens, and what prosecutors called an effort to remove then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch.

Giuliani gained early renown in the 1980’s as the U.S. attorney in Manhattan, where he put leaders of five New York Mafia families in prison and successfully prosecuted Wall Street’s “junk bond king,” Michael Milken.

He later won wide acclaim as “America’s Mayor” for his efforts in helping New York City recover from the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks. Giuliani ran unsuccessfully for the 2008 Republican presidential nomination.

(Reporting by Karen Freifeld in New York, and Jan Wolfe and Doina Chiacu in Washington; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Jonathan Oatis)

Trump says he is not involved in potential prosecution of Biden’s son Hunter

By Sarah N. Lynch

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Donald Trump said on Thursday that he had nothing to do with any potential prosecution of Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, who has disclosed that his taxes are being investigated by a federal prosecutor in Delaware.

“I have NOTHING to do with the potential prosecution of Hunter Biden, or the Biden family. It is just more Fake News. Actually, I find it very sad to watch!” the Republican president wrote on Twitter.

His Twitter post came a day after Jeffrey Rosen, the incoming acting attorney general, declined to say in an interview with Reuters whether or not he would appoint a special counsel to investigate Hunter Biden and his foreign business dealings.

Hunter Biden on Dec. 9 disclosed that his tax affairs were under investigation by the U.S. attorney’s office in Delaware, part of the Justice Department.

A person familiar with the matter told Reuters that the investigation has been ongoing for at least two years, but Attorney General William Barr managed to keep it under wraps ahead of the 2020 election.

An attorney for Hunter Biden could not immediately be reached for comment.

Trump and his allies have raised questions about potential conflicts of interest from Hunter Biden’s position on the board of the Ukrainian energy company Burisma at the time his father was vice president under Democratic President Barack Obama. Trump and his allies also have called for investigations into Hunter Biden’s efforts to raise capital for a Chinese fund.

Among the most active in urging a criminal investigation into the Biden family has been Rudolph Giuliani. Barr set up a special intake process at the Justice Department to vet and investigate tips related to Ukraine, including evidence that Giuliani had gathered.

Giuliani and his attorney Robert Costello were invited on Jan. 29 to the FBI field office in Pittsburgh to meet with Scott Brady, the region’s U.S. attorney, and several other prosecutors and FBI agents to present evidence they had collected concerning Hunter Biden, Costello told Reuters in an interview this month.

“They had two FBI agents taking notes on their laptops,” Costello said, noting that Giuliani “did the vast majority of the speaking.”

Costello added that since that meeting, the top assistant in Brady’s office and he had followed up somewhere between six and 10 times.

It is unclear exactly what became of the information once it was handed to Brady’s office, and whether it was forwarded to the prosecutors in Delaware who are handling the Hunter Biden investigation.

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Additional reporting by Pete Schroeder and Steve Holland; Editing by Will Dunham)

U.S. Republican senators ask Treasury for suspicious activity reports on Hunter Biden

By Richard Cowan and Valerie Volcovici

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Republican chairmen of two U.S. Senate committees have asked the Treasury Department to provide any reports of money laundering or fraud related to former Vice President Joe Biden’s son’s business dealings with a Ukraine energy firm, according to a letter seen by Reuters on Friday.

The letter seeks “suspicious activity reports,” which are documents that financial institutions file with the Treasury Department’s Financial Crimes Enforcement Network whenever there is a suspected case of money laundering or fraud. It was unclear whether any such reports exist related to Hunter Biden, the former vice president’s son.

The request comes as Republicans seek to defend President Donald Trump against a Democrat-led impeachment probe into whether the president improperly pressured Ukraine to investigate the Bidens to improve his reelection chances.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley and Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Ron Johnson sent the request in a letter dated Nov. 15 to Treasury Department Director of Financial Crimes Enforcement Network Ken Blanco.

The chairmen said they want information by Dec. 5 related to Hunter Biden, who was on the board of directors of Burisma Holdings, which had been under investigation in Ukraine.

In their letter the senators noted Burisma was paying Hunter Biden as much as $50,000 a month and that their panels are investigating “potentially improper actions by the Obama administration with respect to Burisma Holdings and Ukraine.”

Grassley and Johnson, citing a story by a reporter with conservative ties, said Burisma’s consulting firm Blue Star Strategies used Biden’s board membership to gain access to Obama administration officials at the State Department.

The Bidens have denied any wrongdoing.

The elder Biden is a leading Democratic candidate for president in next year’s U.S. elections in which Trump is seeking a second four-year term.

Grassley and Johnson also said on Friday that they have asked the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration for records of 2016 White House meetings between Obama administration officials, Ukrainian government representatives and officials of the Democratic National Committee.

Trump and Republicans in Congress have been ramping up their rhetoric on the Bidens as the November 2020 U.S. elections near and as Democrats in the House of Representatives intensify their impeachment investigation of Trump.

Democrats are looking into whether Trump used the withholding of U.S. aid to Ukraine as leverage to press Kiev to launch investigations into the Bidens and allegations Ukraine meddled in the 2016 U.S. elections to hurt the Trump campaign. U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded it was Russia that tried to influence the 2016 election in favor of Trump.

On Thursday, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Lindsey Graham, an ally of Trump’s, wrote to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo requesting documents related to 2016 contacts between the Bidens, other Obama administration officials and former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko.

Trump has denied doing anything improper in Ukraine and has called the impeachment inquiry a witch hunt.

(Reporting by Valerie Volcovici and Richard Cowan; editing by Richard Valdmanis and Cynthia Osterman)