A Manhattan federal judge on Tuesday ordered lawyers for a rich Turkish trader accused of Iran sanctions-busting to provide more information on his hiring of two lawyers with strong Trump administration ties, ex-mayor Rudy Giuliani and former attorney general Michael Mukasey.
The order from Manhattan U.S. District Judge Richard Berman followed filings late Monday in which the government revealed the hiring of the two Republican powerhouses for Reza Zarrab’s defense team to aid in “efforts to explore a potential disposition of the criminal charges.”
Prosecutors said that Giuliani’s law firm, Greenberg Traurig, and Mukasey’s firm, Debevoise & Plimpton, may have a conflict of interest because they also represent banks that were caught up in Zarrab’s alleged sanctions evasions, and urged Berman to hold a hearing.
Zarrab lawyer Ben Brafman argued that since Mukasey and Giuliani will not appear in court in the case, no hearing on possible conflicts was necessary.
Mukasey whose son Marc is viewed as a leading candidate to replace fired former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara and Giuliani did not return calls for comment.
Berman scheduled a hearing to consider the issue for April 4, and asked for written filings laying out the roles of Giuliani and Mukasey relative to eight defense lawyers who have already filed appearances for Zarrab.
Zarrab, 33, a key figure in a 2013 scandal in Turkey seen as an ally of Turkish leader Recep Erdogan, has been in prison since he was charged in the United States last year.
The charges won Bharara thousands of Twitter followers in Turkey. Zarrab’s trial is tentatively scheduled for Aug. 21.