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NEW YORK (AP) — Claims by federal prosecutors that they've acted lawfully in their probe of two associates of Rudy Giuliani charged with illegally funneling foreign money into U.S. political campaigns only helps prove that they used unfair surveillance tactics to build their case, a defense lawyer said Thursday.
Attorney Gerald Lefcourt said in court papers that the U.S. government showed it has acted improperly by failing to refute defense claims that there were warrant-less interceptions of the defendants' oral and written communications.
“The government has all but admitted it,” Lefcourt told U.S. District Judge J. Paul Oetken.
Two men linked to Giuliani, the former New York City mayor who is also the personal attorney to President Donald Trump, were arrested in October on charges they used foreign money to make illegal campaign contributions.
The men — Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman — have pleaded not guilty.
Lefcourt urged a judge to order the government to conduct a comprehensive agency search to learn about evidence gathered in the case without a warrant so defense lawyers can determine if evidence was derived from illegal searches.
He said extensive dealings by the men overseas make it inconceivable that the U.S. government didn't use tactics in its probe against U.S. citizens that would include gathering information through bulk surveillance programs not subject to judicial and congressional oversight.
Lefcourt said those tactics would enable investigators to see the contents and records of telephone calls, video chats, emails, internet activity and text messages.
He said investigators also might have deployed “stingrays” to track cellphones and put malware on personal computers or conducted sweeping internet surveillance.
“The government refuses to ‘affirm or deny’ its existence," Lefcourt wrote. “Even worse, despite the deafening silence, the government has seemingly filed with this Court a secret submission justifying it.”
In court papers last week, the government said Lefcourt's request should be denied.
The defendants, prosecutors wrote, “have no standing to challenge the lawfulness of any underlying surveillance,” particularly because the government has no plans to introduce any evidence obtained as a result of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. The act defines how physical and electronic surveillance pertaining to foreign intelligence must be gathered.
Prosecutors said Lefcourt's demands were “insufficient and improper” and they told a judge that the defense lawyer should not be allowed “to embark on a fishing expedition through the Government's files.”
“The Government has complied with its disclosure obligations, and there is no basis to require more,” they said.
Prosecutors say Parnas and Fruman made illegal donations while lobbying U.S. politicians to oust the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.
Lefcourt represents Andrey Kukushkin, who along with David Correia, were arrested on charges that they worked with Parnas and Fruman in a separate scheme to make illegal campaign donations to politicians in several states to support a new recreational marijuana business. Correia and Kukushkin have also pleaded not guilty.
For the purposes of challenging surveillance, Lefcourt represented them all.
The four defendants are U.S. citizens, but Kukushkin and Parnas were born in Ukraine and Fruman in Belarus. All are free on bail.