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Image: Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani speaks during a press conference at the Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington
Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani speaks during a press conference at the Republican National Committee headquarters in Washington, Nov. 19, 2020.Mandel Ngan / AFP - Getty Images file

Feds have broached making legal request for Giuliani communications

Federal prosecutors' investigation into Rudy Giuliani is ongoing, with one source saying it is "very active."

It was three weeks ago when the New York Times reported that Donald Trump had discussed "pre-emptive pardons" for a variety of figures in his immediate orbit, including his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. The article added that the outgoing president had talked to Giuliani about pardoning him as recently as late November.

Among the questions generated by the reporting is why, exactly, the former New York City mayor might need a presidential pardon before Trump exits the White House. It's against this backdrop that NBC News and The Rachel Maddow Show reported overnight that federal prosecutors have discussed making a legal request for Giuliani's electronic communications.

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 SDNY 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 that approval has been granted by Washington to the SDNY.

It was in February when the Washington Post reported that Giuliani was facing a federal criminal investigation, with federal prosecutors in New York having "contacted witnesses and sought to collect additional documents" related to the probe.

The public has heard little about the matter since, though the NBC News report, citing two sources familiar, added that the investigation into Giuliani is ongoing, with one source saying it is "very active."

As for which controversy surrounding the president's lawyer has sparked the interest of federal prosecutors, that's not yet clear either, though the fact that there's more than one probably isn't a great sign for Rudy Giuliani.

The full NBC News report and Rachel's coverage on the show last night are well worth your time for additional relevant details, including the denial from the former mayor's attorney.

But there was a point Rachel raised that struck me as especially notable: the context in which these developments are unfolding.

Because by any fair measure, the contemporaneous events are extraordinary. First, the public sees reports of Giuliani discussing the possibility of a pardon with his client in the Oval Office. Second, the public also sees Giuliani serving as the mouthpiece for Team Trump's hysterical efforts to contest the election results that the outgoing Republican president clearly lost.

And third, the public then sees Giuliani possibly needing a pardon because of federal prosecutors' scrutiny into alleged misconduct.

In other words, the controversial lawyer who may need a presidential rescue is the same controversial lawyer telling Trump what he wants to hear about trying to overturn an election result and gain illegitimate political power, democracy be damned.

Watch this space.