President Donald Trump's personal lawyer is being investigated by federal prosecutors for possible campaign finance violations and a failure to register as a foreign agent as part of an active investigation into his financial dealings, according to three U.S. officials.
One official said the probe of Rudy Giuliani could also include possible charges on violating laws against bribing foreign officials or conspiracy.
A second official said Giuliani's activities raise counterintelligence concerns as well, although there probably wouldn't be a criminal charge related to that. The officials, who asked for anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter, provided the first indication of the potential charges under investigation.
Giuliani is a central figure in the U.S. House impeachment inquiry, which is investigating whether the former New York City mayor pressured Ukraine's government to investigate a potential 2020 political rival to Trump, and to investigate any meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
"I would not be surprised if he gets indicted," said Mimi Rocah, a former federal prosecutor with the U.S. attorney's office for the Southern District of New York. "It's clear Giuliani is up to his ears in shady stuff, and there's tons of smoke."
Witnesses in the impeachment inquiry have described how Trump withheld military aid to Ukraine and a White House meeting for the country's newly elected president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy. Supporters of the president say Trump wanted to ensure that U.S. aid was not being funneled into a corrupt political system, while critics say Trump wanted to force Zelenskiy to investigate a company connected to former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. Biden is a Democratic frontrunner to challenge Trump in 2020.
Democrats have called Trump's activities with Giuliani's assistance a potential abuse of presidential power, while some Republicans have argued that Trump's conduct doesn't merit his removal from office.
Giuliani is under investigation by the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan, which he once led. The office began to scrutinize his activities in Ukraine as prosecutors investigated two of his associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. The two were subsequently charged in the U.S. with illegally funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars to U.S. officials and a political action committee that backed Trump.
Parnas and Fruman were working for Giuliani on matters related to Trump. It's not clear, however, whether the investigation of Giuliani is focusing on the work he did for the president.
Giuliani, his lawyers and the White House didn't respond to requests for comment.
On Friday, the Wall Street Journal reported that federal prosecutors in New York are investigating whether Giuliani would personally profit from a natural gas business and pipeline from Poland to Ukraine that was advanced by Parnas and Fruman. The two pitched the project to Ukraine officials and energy executives and said it had the Trump administration's support, the newspaper reported.
Giuliani told the Journal that he had no knowledge of the energy company, and no personal interest in any business in Ukraine.
SUPPORT FROM TRUMP
Trump has shown no signs that he is willing to part ways with Giuliani. Trump told reporters on Oct. 25 that Giuliani is a "good man" who is one of "the greatest crime fighters and corruption fighters."
But some Trump allies in Congress have sought to put distance between the two men, painting Giuliani as a rogue player not operating under Trump's orders. That description is at odds with Giuliani's claim he was acting as the president's personal defense attorney.
U.S. Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., said that "the Democrats' motive is to bring Giuliani in front and center, and they believe that by impeaching Giuliani, they can impeach the president."
Giuliani was asked in an interview with The Guardian whether he was concerned Trump might "throw him under a bus." Giuliani laughed and said, "I'm not, but I do have very, very good insurance, so if he does, all my hospital bills will be paid."
Giuliani lawyer Robert Costello interjected to say, "He's joking," according to the report in The Guardian, which was published on Thursday.
But Giuliani could face charges related to extortion or other crimes, said Kenneth McCallion, a former federal prosecutor. McCallion said he represents a number of Ukrainians who learned of the pipeline deal involving Parnas and Fruman.
Charges against Giuliani could implicate Trump in a criminal activity, McCallion said. Justice Department policy prohibits a president from being criminally charged while in office, although it wouldn't shield him after he leaves office.
Rocah said the actions that Trump, Giuliani and other officials took related to Ukraine may be more complicated, and that what appears to be wrongdoing may be hard to charge as crimes.
Giuliani, after several weeks of backing away from the public spotlight, has become somewhat more active in recent days, with The Guardian interview and a Wall Street Journal op-ed defending Trump's conduct and blasting the impeachment inquiry.
Giuliani has been making a case against impeachment and argued that the president's supporters need to mount an aggressive public defense in the media. Giuliani said Friday on an impeachment-focused podcast hosted by former White House senior adviser Steve Bannon that public pressure could convince swing-district Democrats to vote against articles of impeachment.
"We are engaged in combat," Giuliani said. "Even if they don't impeach him, they're hoping that somehow it will take his numbers down and maybe they can beat him."
Information for this article was contributed by Billy House of Bloomberg News.
A Section on 11/16/2019
Print Headline: Giuliani under campaign finance probe, sources say