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Federal Authorities Raid Rudy Giuliani's Apartment. Aired 2- 2:30p ET
Aired April 28, 2021 - 14:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANNOUNCER: This is CNN breaking news.
ALISYN CAMEROTA, CNN HOST: Hello, everyone. I'm Alisyn Camerota.
VICTOR BLACKWELL, CNN HOST: I'm Victor Blackwell.
Breaking news: Federal investigators have raided Rudy Giuliani's Manhattan apartment. They seized electronic devices. Now, the former personal lawyer for President Trump has been at the center of a criminal investigation concerning his activities in Ukraine leading up to the 2020 election.
And Giuliani denies any wrongdoing, has not been charged. But this executed search warrant underscores and suggests, I should say, that the month-long probe is advancing.
CAMEROTA: CNN reporter Kara Scannell and CNN senior justice correspondent Evan Perez are following this story.
So, Evan, federal investigators had tried, as you know, and failed in the past to obtain a search warrant. So what changed and why today?
EVAN PEREZ, CNN SENIOR JUSTICE CORRESPONDENT: yes, that's the big question we're still trying to get an answer to is whether the FBI and the prosecutors in New York turned up new evidence, because the last time this request was made, which was in the closing months of the previous administration, the deputy attorney general, Jeff Rosen, and some of the other top officials of the Justice Department, they have decided that there wasn't enough evidence.
They viewed that the case wasn't as strong as prosecutors in New York thought, Alisyn and Victor. So, one of the things that we're asking is whether there is new information that has developed.
Here's the issue. The center of this case is really what's known as a FARA case. It's the Foreign Agents Registration Act. It's a law that the Justice Department has had some trouble with. There's been a years-long struggle to try to enforce this law. And there's been a new effort since the Mueller investigation to do more enforcement of this law.
And so the question that prosecutors have struggled with is whether, when Rudy Giuliani was working with Ukrainians to try to drum up dirt on Joe Biden and his family, whether that was being done with foreign officials, or whether he was working for the president, whether he was acting as the personal lawyer of the former president.
And so that's going to be a big thing that you can bet the former president, his lawyers are probably going to get involved, because these types of raids raise immediate questions about attorney-client privilege. And so all of that information will probably have to get reviewed before it even gets to the prosecutors, to the investigators at the FBI who are working this case.
BLACKWELL: And, of course, we know that they're likely to find a lot of what they're looking for, potentially, and maybe more.
Let's go to Kara Scannell.
You're outside Giuliani's home. What did investigators obtain in this raid?
KARA SCANNELL, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Well, Victor, according to sources, prosecutors had gotten this search warrant, that they had to go through all these steps to show that they had enough evidence or probable cause in order to obtain the search warrant for many materials.
Now, as our previous reporting -- Evan and I have reported that they were looking to obtain electronic devices. That was one thing that they wanted to be able to look into to see what kind of communications Giuliani was having with other people.
We expect that would have been part of this search warrant today. And one of the things that prosecutors here are looking to determine is whether Giuliani had violated, as Evan said, the FARA law. And they had made this effort earlier with the Trump Justice Department. It was -- they got a lot of pushback on this.
So, the question here is, did they obtain new evidence? Or is the Biden Justice Department more favorable to this? But this all has to do with this investigation that began with Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman and their efforts to dig up dirt on Biden and his family, what those -- and whether he was doing that on behalf of Ukrainians or on behalf of the former president.
Now, this is one of these investigations where people have different views of the strength of the evidence and the strength of bringing a case under this statute. It is one of the reasons why there was a lot of discussion down at main Justice, sources told us in the last administration.
So, the question here is, did they obtain new evidence that makes it stronger? Or is this finally them being able to execute and see if they can get additional evidence to support the charges that they're exploring here?
But we have not yet heard from Giuliani's attorney. We understand that FOX News said that Giuliani is going to speak on a radio show in just about an hour. So, we will hear more from Giuliani and his reaction to this search warrant that was executed in the early hours of this morning -- Victor.
So, Evan, I mean, you just talked about how this couldn't happen, basically, under the Trump DOJ, OK? So whether it was a lack of evidence or strong enough evidence, or whether it was something political, we don't know. And now Merrick Garland is in charge of the DOJ. And now it's happening.
CAMEROTA: Could it be that simple a difference?
PEREZ: It could be that simple.
Look, I -- fresh eyes could take a look at the same facts and decide that there is enough here to go after. As Kara was pointing out, this is a complicated thing.
And one of the things that happened in the previous administration was that, when this matter came before Rosen and some of the other officials, Rosen was so concerned about this and about the possibility of other -- of these types of raids on attorneys that he set a whole new set of rules, set new -- a whole new -- of hurdles that prosecutors would have to meet in order to get approval for this.
And he required that it get approval from the deputy attorney general. There's a new deputy attorney general. Merrick Garland, of course, took office more than a month ago. Lisa Monaco is now the deputy attorney general. And under this memo that Rosen put in place at the end of December, she would have had to sign off on this raid.
And, again, a lot of people, I think, for good reason, are raising the issue of politics, because, under the previous administration, Bill Barr would intervene in things that had to do with the president. And there were questions raised as to whether he was doing it for political reasons. And those were legitimate questions.
We do not know the answer as to whether it's simply a fresh set of eyes or, as Kara is pointing out, whether it's just simply the fact that they needed to get this, so that they can try to pursue this case that they're looking at.
BLACKWELL: Evan Perez in Washington, Kara Scannell there in New York, thank you both.
If you get more details, let us know. We will bring you right back.
With us now, CNN senior legal analyst Elie Honig and CNN senior law enforcement analyst former Deputy Director of the FBI Andrew McCabe.
CAMEROTA: OK, so, Andrew, let's start with you. What does a raid like this one today say about this investigation and
where it's headed?
ANDREW MCCABE, CNN SENIOR LAW ENFORCEMENT ANALYST: Alisyn, it says a lot.
And it delivers a very strong and concerning message to Mr. Giuliani. And I'm sure he's receiving it loud and clear. What this -- what the search warrant at the residence signifies is the shift in an investigation from what may have been a very quiet, subtle, covert effort to maybe identify witnesses, maybe talk to cooperators, to assemble facts that you could use to build towards a probable cause determination for a search warrant.
Now we're past that. Now we have taken a very overt, very public step. Prosecutors and agents, ultimately, not right away because of the attorney-client privilege issues, but ultimately will have a lot of material to go through. And that will really put a fine point on the direction of this investigation.
So it becomes really head-to-head combat between the prosecutors and the defense attorneys for Mr. Giuliani at this point.
BLACKWELL: So, Elie, talk to us about the Foreign Agent Registration Act, what this potentially could mean for charges for Rudy Giuliani and, if they find other elements in this search, what could be ahead for the former president's former personal attorney?
ELIE HONIG, CNN LEGAL ANALYST: Yes, Victor, so this is a sort of obscure federal law.
But, basically, what it says is, if you are lobbying on behalf of a foreign country or a foreign interest -- here, the allegation is Ukraine -- you have to officially register with the U.S. government as a foreign lobbyist. And if you don't do that, that's a federal crime.
Now, it's unusual. It's not like robbery or extortion or something that we see every day. Also, keep in mind, Rudy Giuliani was implicated, not charged, but implicated in the case involving Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, which involved funneling hundreds of thousands of dollars of foreign illegal campaign contributions to pro-Trump campaign organizations.
The other thing that's so important I want to make sure people understand, it happens all the time that you get a search warrant based on probable cause. As a prosecutor, you have to tell the judge, we have probable cause that a certain crime was committed, and there's evidence in this area.
But it happens all the time that you get a search warrant looking for evidence of crime A, and then you find evidence that you never expected of crimes B, C, and D.
CAMEROTA: Yes, this is the second time, as you know, Andy, that this has happened with President Trump's personal attorney. So, I mean, this is generally unprecedented that you would -- that the
feds -- or you would know how hard it is for the feds to raid an attorney's office and/or home, because often those things are privileged. But it has -- obviously, this has happened. And it happened with Michael Cohen during the Trump administration and now with Rudy Giuliani.
And so I decided I would just call Michael Cohen to see if he could shed any light on what Rudy is feeling at this moment. And I will quote Michael Cohen. He says: "Rudy is in trouble, and he knows it. This is just the beginning."
And as to what Rudy is feeling right now, because Michael Cohen has been through it, he said: "It's like being blindfolded, spun around really, really fast, and being told to run north. In other words, you don't know where you are or what's about to happen."
Andy, would you say that is how Rudy is feeling right now?
MCCABE: I think that that's a great description, and who would know better than Michael Cohen?
And although this seems to be a common occurrence with former President Trump, to have your attorneys' residence subject of a federal search warrant, it is an exceedingly uncommon thing to take place for most people. There are incredibly high bars in the Department of Justice to get approval for a search warrant of an attorney, because of the sensitive attorney-client communications that might be swept up in that search.
So you can be sure that the Southern District of New York has checked all those boxes and has presented not only enough evidence to finally get this search warrant through the Justice Department, but, also, they have convinced a judge that there is probable cause to believe there's evidence of a crime in Rudy Giuliani's residence, and that is a very serious thing.
BLACKWELL: Well, also, Elie, in the case of Michael Cohen, the cooperation with the Department of Justice, we have seen that in other cases as well.
Is it -- is this likely a case in which Rudy Giuliani is the big fish or that there could be a cooperation agreement here for him to get to another one, namely, the former president?
HONIG: Well, federal prosecutors, and, in particular, the Southern District of New York, the office that executed this search warrant that I used to work at, that Rudy Giuliani used to lead in the 1980s, you are always looking up the chain. You are always looking for a more powerful target, for someone higher-ranking who you can go after.
Michael Cohen ended up trying to cooperate after the search warrant on his home. Will Rudy Giuliani make the same calculation? People do that a lot. If Rudy Giuliani calculates that he's looking at potential criminal charges or potential prison time that he doesn't want to do, then people in that situation do choose to cooperate all the time.
And the rule of thumb is, you want to cooperate up, you don't want to cooperate down. So, if you're a prosecutor, and if Rudy Giuliani is willing to cooperate, then you're looking for information that can go to somebody more powerful than him, not less powerful.
CAMEROTA: What about that, Andy? Do you think -- do you agree? And do you think that this is somehow about more than Rudy's dealings with Ukraine?
MCCABE: Well, I absolutely agree with Elie, as always. His commentary is spot on.
But that's the way the system works, right? You -- as Elie said, you never cooperate down. You also never bring anyone in without giving them the chance to provide you more information about someone else, about more significant criminal activity.
So, the simple fact that they are really dialing in the crosshairs on Rudy Giuliani and upping the chances that, at some point, Rudy Giuliani decides to come in and sit down and have a very frank conversation with the prosecutors, everyone above him on the chain of command or even around him in the -- in his former political connections should be very concerned about what comes out of those conversations.
CAMEROTA: Guys, this is a fascinating breaking news moment. Thank you very much for helping us understand what's happening with this developing story.
OK, so we have more on our breaking news and the expected reaction from former President Trump and his allies. That's still ahead.
Plus: a judge's decision in the bodycam video of Andrew Brown's death. The family will get to see it. But there are restrictions, particularly on what the public will know. That's next.
BLACKWELL: All right, if you're just joining us, sources tell CNN that the federal investigators have executed a search warrant on the Manhattan apartment of Rudy Giuliani, the ex-lawyer of former President Trump.
Giuliani has been under federal investigation for his activities in Ukraine, among the allegations, that he did some illegal lobbying for Ukrainian officials while he was trying to get the nation to investigate Joe Biden, who was then the leading candidate against the former president at the time.
And Giuliani has not been charged, has denied any wrongdoing.
CAMEROTA: OK, let's talk about it with David Chalian, our CNN political director, and CNN's Abby Phillip. OK, so, Abby, this is an interesting turn of events in just the past
couple of hours. This is -- this is one of these moments where you think, huh, what if Donald Trump still had Twitter? What would he be saying?
ABBY PHILLIP, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: Yes.
CAMEROTA: Because, clearly, this is going to impact him.
I'm sure we will find out one way or another with a statement in our inboxes from his new office in Mar-a-Lago. But, yes, I mean, this is a big deal. Rudy Giuliani has lashed himself to Donald Trump in so many different ways. And now he's in the crosshairs of federal investigators.
That part is not entirely a surprise, given all the things that Giuliani has done that have raised a lot of concerns about whether he was being influenced by foreigners as he was doing this work for Donald Trump.
But Trump is going to use this as a way of saying that this new administration is coming after him politically. I mean, he is a big fan of the term witch-hunt. And I can almost bet you money that that is what he's going to call this.
So, I think we could -- we will not be surprised to hear what Trump will have to say on this eventually. But it doesn't change the underlying facts here, which is that there's a real investigation happening involving Giuliani, and it's very serious. And there's no amount of rhetoric or spin on the political side that will change what investigators perhaps will find as a result of their of their executing the search warrant.
BLACKWELL: And, David, I just think that this comes during the week during which Republicans are having their legislative retreat, trying to coalesce around a message, a legislative message to the country to regain the majority in 2022.
And back comes discussion of Ukraine and Rudy Giuliani to the headlines at the wrong time for the message they're trying to sell.
DAVID CHALIAN, CNN POLITICAL DIRECTOR: And to what Abby's just describing, which is a former president who's going to drive up the volume on sort of grievance politics, which is his trading card, right, and make this into -- or attempt to make this into a pitched partisan battle.
But here's the difference. The difference is, Donald Trump is no longer president, and it's not his hand-selected, appointed attorney general that he's going to try and apply some political pressure to here. When Joe Biden was choosing attorney general, you guys may recall,
part of the debate about whether it should be Merrick Garland, who ultimately got the job, or someone with more political experience, like Doug Jones, the former senator from Alabama, was, well, Merrick Garland is seen by both Republicans and Democrats as a real straight shooter, all his years on the federal bench, and that political pressure from the White House or others is probably something he's going to be pretty impervious to.
And so while Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump may go back to that playbook of saying, this is a pure Biden administration, partisan witch-hunt, the fact that Merrick Garland is the one there on the -- at the top of the Justice Department, he was put there so that that kind of argument would likely not gain traction.
CAMEROTA: So, Abby, in July of 2018, right after Michael Cohen's home and office were raided by federal investigators -- and, of course, he was also a personal attorney for President Trump -- so Rudy Giuliani on is the second that this has happened to -- I sat down with Rudy Giuliani for a long interview.
And he, at that point, talked about what had happened with Michael Cohen and what he saw is the moral to that story.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
RUDY GIULIANI, ATTORNEY FOR PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Cohen always goes too far. And when you're lying, there's always a trap for you.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CAMEROTA: "When you're lying, there's always a trap for you." And he thought Michael Cohen went too far.
It's just interesting today to think back in retrospect on those things.
PHILLIP: Yes, I mean, it's very interesting.
I mean, I -- first of all, the fact that the two of the president's lawyers, personal lawyers, have now been subject to this kind of extraordinary search warrant is really amazing and remarkable, in and of itself.
But what happened with Michael Cohen, he turned into a cooperator with the federal government as a part of what happened after that raid. I don't know that that will happen with Rudy Giuliani, because Giuliani really wants to protect himself, and he needs Donald Trump to do that.
And so I think both Trump and Giuliani need each other very much. And I think that's probably why you're going to see Giuliani taking a different strategy than Michael Cohen did after a very similar, extraordinary raid, because Giuliani needs the protection of presidential privilege, and he only gets that if he remains in the good graces of former President Trump.
BLACKWELL: David, what do we know about the degree to which the former president and Rudy Giuliani still communicate?
CHALIAN: Well, I don't know the depths of their communication. They obviously still have a relationship.
It's not as if Rudy Giuliani was somehow shunned from Trump's orbit. I don't know how often they speak. But Abby is right to note this is somebody who benefits from staying in Donald Trump's good graces. And there's no indication -- even after many in Trump's orbit were very unhappy with the way Rudy Giuliani was handling the legal election challenges in the immediate aftermath of the 2020 election and leading up to that January 6, insurrection.
There was a real divide in the Trump world about the benefit of Giuliani vs. the cost of having Giuliani around. But the relationship between Giuliani and Donald Trump remained intact.
BLACKWELL: All right, Abby Phillip, David Chalian, thank you both.
And, of course, we will continue our coverage of the breaking news, the raid on Giuliani's apartment. He's expected to speak about this soon.
Plus: A judge denies media requests to publicly release bodycam video in the death of Andrew Brown. But he is allowing some people to see it soon.
We will talk with someone who has been very close to the Brown family throughout all of this, the mother of Eric Garner.