NEW YORK — The retired federal judge assigned to review the contents of 18 electronic devices seized from Rudolph W. Giuliani’s home and offices in Manhattan last spring has withheld about half of what former president Donald Trump’s personal lawyer argued should be kept out of the hands of investigators because it was privileged.
More than 3,000 communications were released to prosecutors on Wednesday, an action reflected in a four-page report submitted to a judge overseeing litigation on the FBI’s April 28 seizure of Giuliani’s phones and computers. The contents of the devices were not disclosed.
The Manhattan U.S. attorney’s office has been investigating Giuliani’s dealings in Ukraine while he was representing Trump. Prosecutors have said Giuliani might have acted as an unregistered foreign agent, which was the basis for the agents’ search.
Giuliani, a former mayor of New York who also once headed the prosecutor’s office that now has him under a microscope, has denied any wrongdoing.
Giuliani’s attorney, Robert Costello, said his review of the contents of the devices revealed no messages between Giuliani and the former president, and no proof of any crime. Trump is known for his avoidance of electronic messages, a habit that has frustrated state criminal and civil investigators in New York who are evaluating his business practices.
“There’s no [Foreign Agents Registration Act] violation,” Costello said. “Rudy Giuliani didn’t do anything illegal or unlawful.”
Barbara S. Jones, in her progress statement filed Friday, reported that of the more than 25,000 chats and messages contained on a cellphone dating to the start of 2018, Giuliani initially asserted “privilege and/or highly personal” status on 96 items, 40 of which she granted. His attorneys withdrew their assertions on 19 of the items, and Jones said 37 “were not privileged.”
From that set of records, 56 items were released to federal prosecutors. On another set of Giuliani’s devices, more than 3,000 communications from Dec. 1, 2018 to May 31, 2019 were reviewed, but he did not assert privilege on any of the items. They were also released to prosecutors this week.
Previously, Jones sided with Giuliani with respect to three items he said were privileged.
An attorney’s communications with a client are generally protected from outside inspection unless the exchange advances criminal activity. Privilege reviews are relatively routine and are sometimes done in-house by an independent team at a prosecutor’s office.
In the case of Giuliani, like Michael Cohen, another attorney who represented Trump before a very public falling out, New York federal courts have appointed what is referred to as a “special master” to oversee the exhaustive review process.
Jones was also appointed to review Cohen’s materials before his guilty pleas to charges involving tax evasion, campaign finance violations and lying to Congress about a Trump real estate deal in Russia.
Giuliani’s efforts in Ukraine played heavily in Trump’s first impeachment trial. He was alleged to have tried to pressure Ukraine’s president into announcing an investigation into President Biden and his son Hunter in the lead-up to the 2020 campaign.
In October 2019, two of Giuliani’s associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, were arrested at Dulles International Airport on campaign finance violations, including for using foreign funds to support U.S. political candidates.
Parnas and Fruman also were said to have assisted Giuliani in his efforts to pressure Ukrainian officials to make an announcement that would be detrimental to Biden.
Fruman pleaded guilty in September to soliciting a contribution from a foreign national. On Friday afternoon, he was sentenced to a year in prison and fined $10,000. In court, Fruman said his actions are “a shame that will live with me forever.” Parnas was convicted at trial in October and is awaiting sentencing.