Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani attends U.S. President Donald Trump’s rally with supporters in Manchester, New Hampshire, U.S. August 15, 2019.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters
A federal judge on Friday agreed to appoint a so-called special master to review material recently seized via search warrants from Rudy Giuliani, who is under criminal investigation, and another lawyer allied with former President Donald Trump.
The special master will review files on electronic devices seized in April from Giuliani and the other attorney, Victoria Toensing, for material that is potentially privileged, and exempt from being viewed by prosecutors and investigators.
Such material might include documents exchanged between Giuliani and clients, such as Trump, that could be exempt from disclosure to prosecutors because of the attorney-client privilege.
The same special master process was used to review materials seized from Trump’s former personal lawyer Michael Cohen in 2018 as part of a federal criminal probe that ended with Cohen’s conviction.
In the same ruling, Manhattan federal Judge J. Paul Oetken denied a series of requests by the former New York City mayor Giuliani, who turned 77 on Friday, and the Washington-area resident Toenseing related to the warrants.
The lawyers had asked for the seized materials to be returned to them for their own review, the return of the results of 2019 searches of their iCloud and email accounts, and the unsealing of affidavits submitted to justify the search warrants for Giuliani in 2019 and 2021.
“Giuliani and Toensing contend that their status as lawyers, including Giuliani’s status as a lawyer to the former President, makes these searches problematic,” Oetken wrote in his order.
“But lawyers are not immune from searches in criminal investigations. Rather, a law office search ‘is nevertheless proper if there is reasonable cause to believe that the specific items sought are located on the property to be searched,'” the judge wrote, citing a prior court ruling.
Giuliani’s lawyer Arthur Aidala and lawyers for Toensing did not immediately respond to requests for comment on the ruling.
Giuliani is being investigated by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, a position he once held, for his activities in Ukraine.
Prosecutors are eyeing whether he violated federal lobbying law by not registering as a lobbyist for entities who were seeking various actions related to Ukraine, including the removal of the American ambassador under Trump.
Giuliani, who has served as a personal lawyer for Trump, denies any wrongdoing.
Giuliani’s lawyers argue that the search of his iCloud — which was not known to Giuliani for about 18 months — may have violated his attorney-client privilege and the right of Trump as president to have his communications with his lawyer protected.
They say that the recent search warrants might be tainted by their reliance on information obtained from the iCloud search
Aidala last week disputed a claim by prosecutors that Giuliani was somehow arguing he was above the law in his challenging of the search warrants.
“No one is saying Mayor Giuliani is above the law,” Aidala told CNBC at the time.
“However, the government is obligated to follow the specific procedures that must be adhered to when reviewing material obtained from a lawyer by means of a search warrant as opposed to issuing a subpoena.”
“Any lawyer has an attorney-client privilege that he must protect on behalf of his clients, he said.”That privilege is doubly enhanced when the lawyer’s client is the President of the United States who also enjoys Executive privilege.”
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