In response to the Republican House Judiciary Committee’s exposé of abuses disclosed by FBI whistleblowers, Director Christopher Wray pushed back by claiming that “outside” critics “don’t know what we know….”
Some of us do, Director, because we have been targets of Justice Department and FBI weaponization of the criminal process against political opponents. I am one of them.
At dawn on April 28, 2021, four FBI agents rang my Chevy Chase, Maryland, doorbell armed with a search warrant from the Southern District of New York (SDNY) seeking evidence of a Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) violation during the year 2019. Not coincidentally, in 2019, I was talking to a Ukrainian whistleblower, Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko, for legal representation to bring evidence to the DOJ of Biden family corruption in that country.
Viktor Shokin, who was investigating Hunter Biden’s employer, Burisma, and whom Biden bragged he had fired, also wanted representation. Both had been denied visas by then U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. Both had approached Rudy Giuliani for representation. However, because he was representing President Donald Trump at the time, Giuliani thought it was a conflict to represent the Ukrainians and asked me to talk with them.
I have extensive experience representing whistleblowers, including Gregory Hicks (Benghazi), Doug Campbell (Uranium One), and Janine Brookner (CIA). After I spoke with Lutsenko, Giuliani and I made plans to travel to Kyiv in May 2019. But days before our scheduled departure, we were told there were threats against us and the U.S. Embassy would refuse to provide protection. We canceled our trip. I never represented either Ukrainian. I went on with my life.
Then the search warrant was executed, seizing all my clients’ privileged information and all my private correspondence. The Obama-appointed judge who had approved the warrant ruled the SDNY was not limited to reviewing documents only relative to a FARA violation. He appointed a special master to protect only privileged information. My personal information had no protection.
The SDNY repeatedly told my lawyers I was not a target of the FARA investigation. I had no client who would have required FARA registration in 2019. So, the warrant was for evidence of another person’s crime. Thus, DOJ violated its rules for obtaining evidence from a lawyer, which expect prosecutors to use the “least intrusive approach” possible. That would be a subpoena. Importantly, such request had to be approved by the Department of Justice’s Washington headquarters. Was it run by Attorney General Merrick Garland?
DOJ rules also forbid any government lawyer from notifying the media of any investigative information. But then how did CNN know to call me within one hour of the FBI agents’ departure to get a comment about the “raid” of my house?
Even worse, my lawyers were told that in late 2019 the SDNY had covertly asked Google and Apple to access my accounts and provide specifically listed information, which I cannot identify here because the SDNY refuses to unseal that request. I can only say clients and putative clients of mine were in the covert requests.
The SDNY refused to detail the steps it took to protect my clients’ and putative clients’ Sixth Amendment rights as, unlike the April 2021 seized evidence, there was no special master. It would only say the matter was handled internally. To seek such information covertly, the government had to claim that I would flee the country, destroy evidence, intimidate a witness, or seriously jeopardize the investigation. Really?!
On Nov. 14, 2022, after more than 18 months, the SDNY finally closed the matter by informing the court that a special master would no longer be needed because there would be no charges filed.
Throughout the entire 18 months, the SDNY refused to tell my counsel who was being investigated, the identity of either the foreign client or the government person who was lobbied, or what the issue was. Despite numerous requests, the SDNY failed to provide one document it had seized that was relevant to the search warrant or about which they had a question. Ironically, the few seized documents that referenced FARA were draft retainer letters to the putative Ukrainian clients informing them, if retained, I may have to register under FARA.
After being served with an illegal warrant for documents I never possessed, and after spending over a half million dollars to defend myself and my clients’ privileged information, I am woefully aware that the SDNY achieved its goal for me. As one FBI whistleblower agent told Congress, the “process is the punishment.”
Director Wray, what is it you know that we don’t?
Victoria Toensing is a former U.S. deputy assistant attorney general and partner in the Washington law firm diGenova & Toensing with her husband Joe diGenova, a former U.S. district attorney for the District of Columbia. She is a paid contributor to Newsmax.
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