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A Wednesday raid by federal agents of an apartment and office belonging to former New York City mayor and one-time Donald Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani has left allies of the former President feeling uneasy about what could come next, according to sources close to Trump.
"This was a show of force that sent a strong message to a lot of people in Trump's world that other things may be coming down the pipeline," one Trump adviser told CNN.
The searches, which Giuliani and his attorney Robert Costello have criticized as unnecessary due to what they claim is his ongoing cooperation with investigators, were linked to a criminal probe of the former mayor's business dealings in Ukraine and resulted in the seizure of several communications devices.
"Even the most loyal people have their breaking point," said a person close to the former President. The Trump adviser separately added that a potential shift in Giuliani's fealty to his former client "wouldn't shock me at all."
"I think we've seen some more surprising instances of things like that happening, especially with Michael Cohen," the person close to Trump said.
Indeed, longtime Trump fixer Michael Cohen, who once said he would be willing to "take a bullet" for his former boss, became a self-avowed Trump critic in 2018 after he flipped on the then-President following an FBI raid of his own home, office and hotel room. The raid was part of a probe led by the US Attorney's office for the Southern District of New York, which later resulted in charges of tax fraud, false statements to a bank and campaign finance violations that Cohen pleaded guilty to.
During an appearance on CNN earlier this week, Cohen himself speculated that Giuliani could "give up Donald in a heartbeat" if faced with an indictment.
"Prior to Donald becoming president, Rudy didn't like Donald and Donald didn't like Rudy," Cohen claimed. "He certainly doesn't want to follow my path down into a 36-month sentence."
There can be no question that the execution of a search warrant at Giuliani’s residence is a serious step that indicates the criminal investigation against him is far along. Federal prosecutors can’t obtain a search warrant based on a hunch or mere suspicion. They had to present substantial evidence to a federal judge that there is good reason to believe that a federal crime was committed and that evidence of that federal crime was located in Giuliani’s apartment and his electronic devices. It’s significant a judge was persuaded they met that standard.
For that reason, prosecutors likely have a lot of the evidence they need already. During my time as a federal prosecutor, when I sought a search warrant for a subject’s electronic devices, typically I had already obtained some of the subject’s communications or electronic documents from other sources such as cooperators, subpoenas or prior search warrants. I used that evidence to persuade a judge that those communications would also be found on the devices. Even though prosecutors have some communications prior to obtaining electronic devices, the devices can contain more data, including deleted messages, metadata and location information.
In this particular case, one can trust the the evidence was solid and substantial given the significant internal scrutiny that this case would receive within the Justice Department. The criminal investigation of any lawyer is a sensitive matter due to the complexities caused by attorney-client privilege, and the DOJ takes special care when investigating a criminal defense attorney, to ensure that the department does not appear to be targeting opponents. Obviously, obtaining a search warrant for the residence and devices of the personal lawyer of the former president would receive even more scrutiny from senior department leadership.