Earlier this week a CNN article reported that the Department of Justice is on the verge of making a charging decision in the criminal case against Rudy Giuliani for violations of the Foreign Agent Registration Act. The CNN article portrayed Giuliani as having voluntarily unlocked his own seized cellphone in order to prove to the DOJ that nothing was incriminating on it – and the point of view of this gave away that Giuliani was almost certainly the source for CNN’s story.
This meant we had to take the report with a grain of salt. At the time, we suggested watching for any signs from the DOJ that might serve to corroborate Giuliani’s claims in any way. Now the DOJ has indeed made a move, by criminally indicting a Russian government official yesterday for having illegally paid an unnamed U.S. citizen to violate the Foreign Agent Registration Act back in 2017.
There are a number of intriguing aspects to this indictment. For instance, the Russian official will never be extradited for trial. So this indictment against him appears to be purely to set up the rest of the indictment. After all, the unnamed U.S. citizen is also allegedly guilty of FARA violations.
There are two plausible reasons why this U.S. citizen was not indicted yesterday alongside the Russian official. The first would be that the DOJ is still completing a broader criminal case against the individual. The second would be that the individual has cut a plea deal, and thus his or her identity is being concealed during the cooperation period.
The only clues in the court filing to this person’s identity: it’s a “New York City-based individual with experience relating to international relations and media” who was first recruited by the Russians back in 2011, and committed the alleged FARA crime in question back in 2017.
Rudy Giuliani fits the above description, and he lives in New York City – but so do about ten million other people. Maybe it’s him, maybe it’s not. But either way, this indictment suggests that the Garland DOJ has indeed been going back and working to catch up on the Trump-era FARA crimes that the DOJ was previously blocked from prosecuting by Trump or Bill Barr.
The statute of limitations on FARA is five years, and the alleged crime in question took place in 2017, which could explain why this indictment was brought now. So unless the U.S. citizen in question has cut a deal, we would expect that person to also be indicted rather quickly, given that the statute of limitations is ticking.
Even if this person is not Rudy Giuliani – and there are plenty of other people it could be – this still very much appears to be bad news for Giuliani. It points to the DOJ having indeed been working on all those Trump-era FARA cases all this time. Keep in mind that when the Feds raided Giuliani’s home and seized disputed evidence that the courts just turned over to the DOJ ten weeks ago, the warrant was based largely on Giuliani’s alleged violations of FARA laws.
And now, even as the DOJ has begun bringing indictments in Trump-era FARA cases, Rudy Giuliani is leaking to the media that the DOJ has supposedly told him it’s about to make a FARA charging decision against him. Interesting to say the least.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report