WASHINGTON — Federal prosecutors have discussed making a legal request for Rudy Giuliani's electronic communications, two sources familiar with the probe tell NBC News, a sign that the investigation into President Donald Trump's personal attorney remains active and may soon be ramping up.
Prosecutors for the Southern District of New York have been in communication with Justice Department officials in Washington about gaining access to Giuliani's emails, the two sources said. The Southern District needs Washington's approval before its prosecutors can ask a judge to sign a search warrant for materials that may be protected by attorney-client privilege, according to department policy. It is not known whether Washington has been granted that approval.
The scope of the current investigation is unclear, but in October 2019, The Wall Street Journal reported that prosecutors from the Southern District were reviewing Giuliani's bank records as part of an investigation into his dealings in Ukraine. Two of his former associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, were arrested that month on charges of campaign finance fraud. Parnas has since been charged with additional crimes related to wire fraud conspiracy. Parnas and Fruman have pleaded not guilty.
In February, The Washington Post reported that prosecutors were contacting witnesses and seeking to collect additional documents as part of their investigation into Giuliani.
Since then, little had been known about the status of the investigation and whether Giuliani was still under scrutiny for his efforts to convince Ukraine to investigate then-candidate Joe Biden over his son Hunter's business dealings in the country.
The two sources familiar, however, say the investigation into Giuliani is ongoing, with one saying it is "very active."
A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment, as did Nicholas Biase, a spokesperson for the Southern District of New York.
Robert Costello, Giuliani's attorney, told NBC News, "I have no reason to believe there’s any truth to the allegations that there is renewed interest in my client.”
In a tweet Tuesday, Giuliani said he was “proud to be number one on Biden Vindictive government list. Sounds like the DOJ anti-Trumpers can’t wait for Biden to make DOJ the GOVERNMENT Secret Police like they were under Obama.”
With the presidential election now over, Justice Department rules that prohibit prosecutors from taking overt actions that may influence an election no longer apply.
Chuck Rosenberg, a former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, said he could see why Justice Department officials in Washington might hesitate to approve a search warrant close to the election out of the concern that its issuance could become public.
"It's sensible to perhaps treat a search warrant as an overt investigative step," said Rosenberg, an NBC News analyst. "Search warrants for a subject's personal belongings are not terribly discreet and the recipient of the warrant can talk about it. That could be a legitimate concern before an election but the equation changes after an election, when you no longer need to abstain from overt investigative steps."
Earlier this month, Hunter Biden announced that his taxes are under investigation by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Delaware. A source familiar with that probe said prosecutors refrained from taking overt steps that might have become public in the days leading up to the election because their work involved the son of a candidate.
Giuliani was released from the hospital on Dec. 10 after treatment related to his positive diagnosis of Covid-19. On Dec. 1, The New York Times reported that Giuliani was in talks with Trump about a possible pre-emptive pardon that would insulate him from federal charges, which Giuliani has since denied.