Court Battles

Federal judge to appoint special master to review materials seized from Giuliani

Greg Nash

A federal judge on Friday granted the Justice Department’s request for an independent supervisor to review materials seized from Rudy Giuliani through a search warrant last month in an effort to filter out any privileged documents obtained in the investigation into former President Trump’s personal attorney.

District Judge J. Paul Oetken ordered Giuliani and the Justice Department to confer and come up with recommendations for the court-appointed special master.

The ruling came in a court case brought by Giuliani challenging federal investigators’ search warrant.

In his decision Friday, Oetken, who was appointed to the federal district court in Manhattan by former President Obama, rejected Giuliani’s efforts to mount a legal challenge to the search warrant, as well as a previous one executed two years ago.

“Giuliani requests that the Court unseal the affidavits submitted in support of the 2019 and 2021 warrants so he can challenge their legality,” the judge wrote in a seven-page decision. “But he is not entitled to a preview of the Government’s evidence in an ongoing investigation before he has been charged with a crime.”

Oetken denied similar requests from Victoria Toensing, another attorney ensnared in the federal investigation. He said Giuliani and Toensing could mount any legal challenges to the basis of the search warrants if they end up facing criminal charges.

The judge said a special master would help alleviate concerns that prosecutors might interfere with the attorney-client privileges of Giuliani and Toensing.

“The Court agrees that the appointment of a special master is warranted here to ensure the perception of fairness,” Oetken wrote. “The special master will expeditiously conduct a filter review of the April 2021 warrant materials for potentially privileged documents, and that review can be informed by Giuliani’s and Toensing’s parallel review of the same materials.”

The ruling echoes the early stages of the federal investigation into Michael Cohen, another former attorney for Trump, that ultimately led to a three-year prison sentence on various fraud charges.
In that case a federal judge also appointed a special master following 2018 raids on Cohen’s office, home and hotel room. The special master, former federal judge Barbara Jones, concluded that relatively few of the seized documents were protected under attorney-client privilege.

The investigation is said to be focused on whether Giuliani violated federal lobbying laws by failing to disclose to authorities his work on behalf of foreign entities. The New York Times reported this week that prosecutors are also separately scrutinizing whether Ukrainian officials tried to influence the outcome of the 2020 presidential election by using Giuliani and others to sow disinformation in the U.S.

Giuliani’s attorney did not immediately respond when asked for comment on Friday, but the former New York City mayor has denied any wrongdoing and criticized the investigation as politically motivated.

“They are trying to frame me,” Giuliani said in a Fox News interview earlier this month. “They are trying to find something they can make into a crime, some technical violation, some mistake I made.”

“There is no way on earth that they could have anyone telling the truth that I was acting as a foreign agent,” he added, “nor do they have any evidence that I tried to influence the government on behalf of clients.”

Updated at 11:09 a.m.

Tags 2020 election attorney-client privilege Barack Obama Donald Trump Michael Cohen Rudy Giuliani Search warrant Special Master Ukraine

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