“Rudy’s defense is that he was a bad lawyer”: Giuliani struggles with questions at D.C. Bar hearing

Giuliani doubled down on false election claims while trying to defend his law license

By Areeba Shah

Staff Writer

Published December 6, 2022 12:44PM (EST)

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani defended his role in challenging the 2020 presidential election after the D.C. Bar accused him of misusing his law license and called for it to be revoked.

The ethics case, brought by the D.C. Bar's Office of Disciplinary Counsel, will determine whether Giuliani violated attorney ethics rules with the federal court by filing a  "frivolous" post-election lawsuit in Pennsylvania that falsely claimed the November 2020 general presidential election was wrought with fraud on behalf of then-President Donald Trump, Politico reported

Giuliani appeared as the first witness in his own attorney misconduct hearing in a trial scheduled for the next two weeks. The panel will issue a report with recommendations after hearing arguments and testimony.

Ultimately, the District of Columbia Court of Appeals will rule on whether to impose sanctions, which can range from a written reprimand to stripping Giuliani's license to practice. A state court in New York suspended Giuliani's license last year for spreading "false and misleading" statements on behalf of Trump about the 2020 election.

Phil Fox, the lead prosecuting attorney for D.C. Bar's Office of Disciplinary Counsel, called Giuliani's fraud allegations "unfounded" and said his lawsuit wasn't based on facts or the law. 

"What this case is about is that Mr. Giuliani was responsible for filing a frivolous action, asking a federal court to deprive millions of the people in Pennsylvania of their right to vote," said Fox, an attorney for the D.C. Bar's Board on Professional Responsibility.

"There was no precedent for this. In addition to the fact that there was no precedent, there was no factual basis [for the suit]," Fox added.

By filing the lawsuit, Giuliani violated the Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct and "engaged in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice," the ODC said. 

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Giuliani defended his actions, saying he had acted reasonably based on information he received from the Trump campaign and other parties claiming that Pennsylvania's election processes were unconstitutional, Bloomberg reported

During his testimony, the ex-Trump lawyer also claimed he has been "persecuted" by federal investigations for the last four years.

"My role was to show how Pennsylvania involved the same set of eight or 10 suspicious actions — illegal actions, whatever you want to call them, irregular actions — that could not be the product of accident," he said.

Giuliani also claimed he wrote only one or two paragraphs of the initial complaint that was filed and that local Pennsylvania attorney Ron Hicks did most of the work. 

The Pennsylvania lawsuit focused on two main issues, which included problems with independent observers being distanced from watching poll workers and Pennsylvania using mail-in ballots. 

Giuliani argued that  instead of observers being allowed to watch people counting votes, they "were being put in pens like they were cows."

"The only thing we had at this stage of the litigation was that in Pittsburgh and Philadelphia, we had a number of ballots that were being counted without any inspection by an independent party," Giuliani said. "You have to plead fraud with specificity with what you have, with what is available. But in discovery you get the additional information. This was specific enough for this stage of the pleading. That's why it's evidence, and not a conclusion."

Legal experts were unimpressed with Giuliani's argument.

"Rudy Giuliani's defense in his bar discipline case is that he was a bad lawyer who was just sloppily throwing allegations out there … even though he was trying to help the President overturn the election," tweeted former federal prosecutor Renato Mariotti. "He's half right—he *is* a bad lawyer.  But he's also a dishonest one."

By Areeba Shah

Areeba Shah is a staff writer at Salon covering news and politics. Previously, she was a research associate at Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington and a reporting fellow for the Pulitzer Center, where she covered how COVID-19 impacted migrant farmworkers in the Midwest.

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