Giuliani's "disgraceful" courtroom election fraud arguments are from a "fantasy world," defense says

Giuliani, who claims to represent President Trump for free, reportedly asked the campaign to pay him $20,000 a day

Published November 17, 2020 10:12PM (EST)

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (Brooks Kraft/Getty Images)
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (Brooks Kraft/Getty Images)

Former LifeLock spokesperson Rudy Giuliani, who reportedly asked the Trump campaign to pay him $20,000 a day for legal representation, was criticized on Tuesday by attorneys representing the state of Pennsylvania for living in a "fantasy world" after making a series of baseless and confusing allegations of election fraud in his first federal court appearance since 1992.

During the hearing before Pennsylvania Middle District Judge Matthew Brann, Giuliani falsely alleged that "widespread nationwide voter fraud" had tarnished the election. Peddling unsubstantiated claims that "big cities controlled by Democrats" had conspired to rig the contest, Giuliani asked the court to toss nearly 700,000 mail ballots and block the key swing state from certifying its results.

At one point, the former New York mayor wildly claimed that Democratic officials across the country had somehow ensured that only "their little mafia" could count ballots, and that 1.5 million votes should be invalidated.

The case, which is the campaign's biggest legal challenge yet to President Donald Trump's election loss, involves a lawsuit filed against seven Democratic Pennsylvania counties alleging unspecified inconsistencies in how ballots were counted. 

Giuliani also revived discredited allegations that the ballots had been improperly processed without Republican poll observers present. He argued the entire state's results should not be certified as a result.

But the Trump campaign had already dropped those claims from its lawsuit ahead of Giuliani's appearance in court. Republican election officials confirmed they were allowed to monitor the process and denied any irregularities. Independent fact-checkers likewise found no evidence to corroborate the Trump Team's allegations. 

Mark Aronchick, an attorney defending Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar's office, blasted Giuliani, whose legal services one year ago led directly to his client's impeachment, as living in a "fantasy world" and making arguments that were "disgraceful in an American courtroom."

Uzoma Nkwonta, an attorney representing the Democratic National Committee, pointed out that the campaign's actual lawsuit did not include Giuliani's hyperbolic allegations of widespread fraud.

The animated Giuliani established an early rapport with Brann, who gave him wide berth to make his case. At one point, Brann paused to recommend local martini bars to the Trump team. 

The judge later pushed back during questioning, asking Giuliani to explain why the court should toss more than 6 million votes and thus disenfranchise "every single voter in the commonwealth."

"Can you tell me how this result can possibly be justified?" Brann asked Giuliani.

Giuliani, his voice notably hoarse, responded with a long-winded rant, claiming that votes "could have been from Mickey Mouse" and voters should not be given a chance to "cure," or correct, their ballots.

However, Giuliani eventually admitted that the campaign's case did not "plead fraud with particularity."

At one point Giuliani told Brann, "I'm not sure what 'opacity' means. It probably means you can see."

"It means you can't," the judge replied.

The former federal prosecutor had petitioned the court earlier that morning to allow him to argue the case following the resignation of all but one of the campaign's lawyers the day prior. The remaining lawyer — a local business attorney and radio host — not only said in a post-election broadcast that President-elect Joe Biden had won the race but also that the Trump campaign's lawsuits would not alter that result.

Giuliani appears to have presented false information to the court. Once the lead U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, Giuliani told the court in his sworn petition that he was in good standing to practice law in a number of federal jurisdictions, including Washington, D.C., where his license had been suspended for failure to pay dues.

Since Giuliani took over the campaign's legal efforts, courts have dealt Trump a series of defeats, and attorneys have dropped out of a number of cases, with some former campaign lawyers reportedly expressing concern that the frivolous litigation could "undermine" the election.

Giuliani asked the Trump campaign to pay him $20,000 a day for his contributions to the last-ditch crusade, multiple people briefed on the matter told The New York Times. The rate would make Giuliani, who often says he represents Trump for free in his personal capacity, among the most highly paid lawyers in the world.

Giuliani, who has scraped for cash in the last year, denied to The Times that he had asked the campaign for such a high amount.

"I never asked for $20,000," he said. "The arrangement is — we'll work it out at the end."

Giuliani added that whoever told The Times he had requested the exorbitant pay rate was "a liar — a complete liar."

By Roger Sollenberger

Roger Sollenberger was a staff writer at Salon (2020-21). Follow him on Twitter @SollenbergerRC.

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Aggregation Donald Trump Elections Politics Republicans Rudy Giuliani Voter Fraud