Former New York Mayor Giuliani to join Trump legal team

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, a one-time federal prosecutor, is joining U.S. President Donald Trump’s personal legal team, Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow said in a statement on Thursday.

“Rudy is great,” Sekulow quoted Trump as saying. “He has been my friend for a long time and wants to get this matter quickly resolved for the good of the country.”

JoAnn Zafonte, a representative for Giuliani, did not respond to a request for comment.

Giuliani was one of three attorneys Sekulow said were being added to the president’s legal team dealing with Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Russia has denied meddling in the election. Trump has said there was no collusion and has called the Mueller probe a “witch hunt.”

Sekulow also announced south Florida husband-and-wife white-collar defense lawyers Martin and Jane Raskin were joining the president’s legal team.

The addition of Giuliani and the Raskins represents a major boost to Trump’s legal firepower. The president has previously struggled to retain a top-flight criminal lawyer to represent him in the Mueller probe. Washington lawyer John Dowd, the most recent head of his team, resigned last month.

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Harry Sandick, a partner at Patterson Belknap Webb & Tyler and former federal prosecutor, said it was not clear how Giuliani would quickly resolve the Mueller probe, given the number of people who have pleaded guilty and have become cooperating witnesses.

But Sandick said Giuliani’s personal relationship with Trump could make the former mayor’s job as the president’s attorney “a little easier.”

Giuliani had a storied career as a federal prosecutor before becoming mayor of New York in 1994 and achieved wide respect for his leadership when the city was attacked on September 11, 2001. But his often hard-bitten remarks in recent years, some made in support of Trump’s candidacy, have drawn criticism.

During the 2016 campaign, he claimed there had not been “any successful radical Islamic attacks in the United States” in the eight years before former President Barack Obama took office, seeming to forget the 2001 attacks, when nearly 3,000 people died.

Trump’s legal worries have recently expanded beyond the Mueller probe to include a criminal investigation in New York of the president’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen, whose home and offices were raided by the FBI on April 9.

The Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s Office, which is overseeing the Cohen investigation, is headed by Geoffrey Berman, a former law partner of Giuliani’s at the firm of Greenberg Traurig.

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The Republican mayor of New York from 1994 to 2001, Giuliani was also the Manhattan U.S. Attorney for much of the 1980s. During that time, he brought many high-profile cases targeting insider trading on Wall Street, prosecuting Ivan Boesky and the firm of Drexel Burnham Lambert.

Giuliani was also a top Department of Justice official in the Reagan administration. He ran unsuccessfully for the Republican nomination for president in 2008.

Since exiting the mayor’s office, Giuliani has been in private practice, most recently at Greenberg Traurig. The firm said Giuliani is on a leave of absence, effective Thursday.

The Raskins, whose firm is based in Coral Gables, Florida, are both former federal prosecutors. Martin Raskin headed the criminal division for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Miami in the early 1980s and Jane Raskin prosecuted organized crime cases in Boston.

Miami defense lawyer Silvia Pinera-Vasquez, who knows and has worked with the Raskins, praised them as “excellent strategists” and said Trump was fortunate to have them representing him.

Martin Raskin declined to comment on their behalf and referred inquiries to Sekulow.

Reporting by Karen Freifeld; Additional reporting by Jan Wolfe, Nathan Layne and Noeleen Walder; writing by Anthony Lin; editing by Lisa Shumaker and Diane Craft