Two years after Rudy Giuliani failed in court to produce any evidence of widespread fraud in the 2020 presidential election in Pennsylvania, he was back at it again Monday — this time with his law license on the line.
Facing possible professional sanctions, the once-lauded mayor of New York City turned mouthpiece for former President Donald Trump doubled down on his false claims of a stolen election during a disciplinary hearing before a committee of the Washington, D.C., bar.
He insisted the federal courts in Pennsylvania ruled incorrectly on Trump’s 2020 legal challenges and groused that he’d become a victim of persecution ever since.
“I believe that I’ve been persecuted for years,” Giuliani said Monday, testifying as the first witness in the proceedings, which are set to play out throughout the week. “My defense is to get away from the sound bite and try to get to an explanation of what happened … I find that things have been taken context that are much more complicated in context.”
The disciplinary hearing — the first step in a process that could result in Giuliani losing his license to practice law in Washington — is one of the highest-profile tests yet of efforts to hold accountable attorneys who advanced Trump’s election lies in court.
Nationwide, ethics complaints have been filed against attorneys who represented the campaign in its largely frivolous legal challenges — including at least seven in Pennsylvania.
As Trump’s personal lawyer at the time and the attorney who personally argued the campaign’s primary lawsuit in court, Giuliani’s role has drawn some of the most scrutiny. The New York bar suspended his law license last year for making “false and misleading” misrepresentations to courts amid the 2020 election.
While this week’s disciplinary proceedings are playing out in Washington, they are focused entirely on Giuliani’s conduct in the Pennsylvania case.
His list of potential defense witnesses — including former GOP gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano and Mike Roman, a Philadelphia native and a top strategist for Trump’s 2020 campaign — reads like a who’s who of the state’s prominent election deniers.
Hamilton Fox, lead counsel for D.C. bar’s Board of Professional Responsibility, said Monday that despite Giuliani’s efforts to use the proceedings to relitigate long-settled questions about the validity of the 2020 vote, his actions back then amounted to little more than “weaponiz[ing] his law license … to undermine the Constitution” and disenfranchise millions of voters.
“Lawyers are not permitted to file any case without a basis in fact,” Fox said in his opening statement to the hearing committee. “It was an attempt to undermine the legitimacy of the presidential election.”
» READ MORE: Trump and his allies tried to overturn Pennsylvania’s election results for two months. Here are the highlights.
Specifically, the charges against Giuliani center on the Trump campaign’s primary legal challenge in the state, which contained no specific allegations — let alone evidence of — fraud yet asked a judge to set aside millions of votes. Court rules require attorneys to offer specific allegations from the outset of a lawsuit that they intend to later back up with evidence.
Instead, Giuliani — during a wildly stumbling November 2020 court hearing before U.S. District Judge Matthew Brann in Williamsport — lobbed unsupported conspiracy theories of a nationwide cabal of Democratic leaders plotting to steal the election that bore little relation to anything campaign lawyers had previously laid out in their filings.
Brann ultimately tossed the case, dismissing the Trump campaign’s suit as one built on “strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations … unsupported by the evidence.” That decision was later upheld on appeal.
Still, Giuliani defended his performance on Monday, explaining he’d been brought on to represent the Trump campaign at a particularly chaotic time. Dissatisfied with his previous representation, the president had tapped him to oversee all his election challenges nationwide.
Two of the campaign’s lead attorneys in the state — Republican election lawyers Ronald Hicks and Linda Kerns — had withdrawn just days before the pivotal hearing, leaving Giuliani to argue in court himself.
He said Monday he did the best without the benefit of time to conduct a full investigation.
But as with his scattered performance before Brann — in which he tripped over basic legal procedure, fumbled to remember the names of his opposing counsel, and contradicted himself about the arguments he was advancing — there were moments during Monday’s proceedings in which Giuliani’s appeared equally harried or unprepared.
» READ MORE: Rudy Giuliani’s courtroom showing in Pa. election fight left many scratching their heads. Trump backers praised it as ‘brilliant.’
Just before the hearing broke for lunch, Giuliani was caught on a hot mic telling his attorney he’d accidentally put on two watches while getting dressed for the day.
Later, Giuliani claimed to have never seen several affidavits from voters and election observers that his own lawyers had submitted to the hearing committee as evidence that election fraud had occurred — or at least that Giuliani had a legitimate basis to believing it had.
They included a declaration from a woman who, while staying in Philadelphia, reported that her Uber driver had told her it was “common knowledge” that Black Lives Matter groups came from out of town to vote illegally in the city. She claimed she later saw a large group wearing what she described as “Black Lives Matter gear” at her hotel.
“Is this reliable evidence of fraud?” Fox, the disciplinary counsel, asked incredulously.
Giuliani responded: “I don’t know, we would certainly follow it up.” Unprompted, he then outlined a vague, unsupported assertion that George Soros, the Democratic Party, Black Lives Matter, antifa, and Philadelphia District Attorney Larry Krasner had worked in concert with the Biden campaign to perpetrate fraud.
The back-and-forth with Fox remained combative throughout, with the disciplinary lawyer routinely calling Giuliani out for failing to answer his questions or becoming sidetracked on unresponsive tangents.
“I’m asking you what time it is,” Fox said in frustration at one point, “and you’re telling me how to make a watch.”
Fox’s questioning of Giuliani is expected to continue when the proceedings resume Tuesday.
At the conclusion of the proceedings, the hearing committee will draft a recommendation for any sanctions it deems necessary, which will then be passed on to the full bar disciplinary board and the D.C. Court of Appeals for approval.