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Giuliani is still under investigation a year after the FBI raided his home and office

ROB SCHMITZ, HOST:

One year ago today, FBI agents showed up at Rudy Giuliani's Manhattan apartment with a search warrant. They took computers and cell phones from both his home and his office. Giuliani is not only a former mayor of New York City, he was also a lawyer for former President Trump.

NPR's Ilya Marritz is here now to catch us up with this high-profile investigation. Hello, Ilya.

ILYA MARRITZ, BYLINE: How's it going?

SCHMITZ: Rudy Giuliani has not been charged with any crime. So tell us; what is the potential crime here?

MARRITZ: Prosecutors are looking at possible violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act. This is a law that says anyone lobbying the U.S. government on behalf of a foreign government or foreign interests has to report that work.

Rudy Giuliani never registered for his activities in Ukraine in 2018 and 2019, but as we know from news reporting and also sworn testimony at President Trump's first impeachment, Giuliani was very active in Ukraine, working to gather information and then make damaging claims about Joe Biden and his son, Hunter. We know he was in close contact with several current and former officials in the Ukrainian government as he did this. And this appears to be the activity prosecutors have been focused on.

SCHMITZ: And in terms of Giuliani lobbying the U.S. government, what do we know about that?

MARRITZ: Well, we know he was in direct contact both with the Department of State and the Department of Justice at - around this time, feeding them his Ukraine materials. He was sending so much stuff to the Trump Justice Department. It went so far as to set up an intake process just for him.

Now, Giuliani has always insisted he followed the law and did nothing wrong. But if we think about it, this is kind of a dicey situation. In 2018, Giuliani becomes personal lawyer to the president, Donald Trump.

SCHMITZ: Right.

MARRITZ: He's also traveling overseas a lot to Ukraine and other places. Foreign officials know he has access to the president. He's the president's lawyer, after all. And he does this while maintaining a long list of other clients around the world who are not the president.

SCHMITZ: So you've mentioned Ukraine a few times. What other details do we have about what Giuliani was doing in Ukraine on Trump's behalf?

MARRITZ: If we think about this kind of big picture, 2019 - that's the year Trump was impeached. But only a few months earlier, he had asked Ukraine's newly elected president, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, someone we all know very well now...

SCHMITZ: That's right.

MARRITZ: ...To do us a favor. And when Zelenskyy didn't announce investigations of the Bidens, Trump froze military aid to Ukraine. Trump was acquitted in his Senate trial, but that year, prosecutors began investigating Giuliani for his Ukraine activities, which were really a prime driver of the pressure campaign. And according to filings from Giuliani's own lawyer, investigators are specifically interested in his actions around the then-ambassador in Kyiv, Marie Yovanovitch.

SCHMITZ: And she testified at Trump's first impeachment. How does she fit into this?

MARRITZ: Yeah. Her testimony was really memorable for her composure as she described being the target of this smear campaign by Giuliani, saying - basically saying she was corrupt.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MARIE YOVANOVITCH: I do not understand Mr. Giuliani's motives for attacking me, nor can I offer an opinion on whether he believed the allegations he spread about me. Clearly, no one at the State Department did.

MARRITZ: In fact, Yovanovitch, I have to say, was known as an anti-corruption leader in Ukraine. But Giuliani's campaign against her did appear to succeed. She was removed from her post without warning, recalled to Washington. And Giuliani has admitted in an interview that he, quote, "needed Yovanovitch out of the way." Why that was is probably something of great interest to investigators.

SCHMITZ: So briefly, Ilya, here we have a year after the FBI search of Giuliani. Is 12 months a long time to run an investigation without seeking an indictment?

MARRITZ: If you want a yardstick, the last time a personal attorney for President Trump was searched by the FBI was Michael Cohen...

SCHMITZ: Right.

MARRITZ: ...Back in April of 2018. It took just four months to get a guilty plea from him for tax evasion and campaign finance crimes. This probe is clearly moving a lot slower. It's very complicated. The war in Ukraine may also play some role in slowing things down. We don't really know. But what legal experts tell me is this is not an unusually long time. They want to get this bulletproof.

SCHMITZ: That's NPR's Ilya Marritz.

(SOUNDBITE OF COCABONA'S "HOWL") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Ilya Marritz