During heated testimony at Rudy Giuliani’s ethics hearing Monday, the attorney for ex-President Donald Trump insisted there was evidence of widespread voter fraud during the 2020 election, adding he was duty-bound to make certain arguments in court.
Giuliani, who is accused of promoting baseless voter fraud claims in Pennsylvania federal court in violation of attorney ethics rules, doubled down on his familiar claims of fraud during the first day of the hearing, which turned combative at times as the former New York City mayor failed to concisely answer some lines of questioning.
Disciplinary bar counsel Hamilton Fox kicked off questioning by repeatedly asking Giuliani whether he helped local counsel Ronald Hicks of Porter Wright Morris & Arthur draft the initial complaint, which was filed in the Middle District of Pennsylvania six days after Election Day. Giuliani didn’t sign the initial complaint filed against seven Democratic-leaning counties and Pennsylvania’s secretary of state, but signed a second amended complaint once the court accepted his pro hac vice application.
Giuliani answered the question by delving into postelection lawsuits he coordinated in numerous other states at the request of Trump, and how former Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski called him about issues with Republican observers who were watching ballot counting in Philadelphia. In many counties, ballot watchers had to abide by social-distancing rules due to the pandemic.
“I’m asking you what time it is and you’re telling me how to make a watch,” Fox said before repeating his question.
Robert Bernius, the chair of the hearing committee, reminded Giuliani to keep his answers succinct.
“Your role here is as a witness, not an advocate. … At this point, I think we need to just try to listen to the question and answer the question that’s posed,” Bernius told Giuliani.
Giuliani eventually conceded he contributed to writing the initial complaint after Fox pulled up a transcript of his deposition in a different case.
Giuliani said he witnessed voter fraud in Pennsylvania, though no such evidence has come to light in the two years since the courts dismissed the litigation. Multiple audits and reports have debunked claims of widespread fraud, including one report led by former D.C. Circuit Judge Thomas Griffith.
“Very early on, I actually personally witnessed a lot of the fraud myself as even a fact witness because I went to Pennsylvania that day and I saw many of the things that I alleged in the complaint,” Giuliani said.
The D.C. disciplinary bar office has accused Giuliani of bringing the lawsuit with “no non-frivolous basis” and engaging in conduct that is prejudicial to the administration of justice.
The disciplinary counsel subpoenaed law firms Giuliani worked with in the case and asked for documents that supported the factual basis of the complaint. Giuliani said there was additional evidence he relied on that wasn’t in his or the other lawyers’ possession.
“I know that there are things I relied on that are not there,” Giuliani said before talking about a document he said he was shown that demonstrated 17,000 people showed up in Pittsburgh on Election Day and were told they already voted. Giuliani said he was given the document half an hour before oral arguments on Nov. 17, 2020.
“[The document] also had … a large number of affidavits from them,” Giuliani said. Later in the day, Fox said there were no affidavits to support the document Giuliani referenced.
Fox said evidence that fraud was possible wasn’t enough to support the lawsuit—Giuliani needed evidence that indicated actual fraud occurred. For example, Fox said Giuliani’s reliance on the fact that ballot observers were restricted to certain areas wasn’t proof of fraud, only the potential for fraud.
Fox also pointed out that Giuliani claimed during oral arguments that there was widespread voter fraud, even though an amended version of the complaint removed that claim.
Giuliani responded to Fox that he was trying to establish to the district judge that there was a conspiracy across a handful of states to steal the election from Trump so the cases could be consolidated and eventually brought to the U.S. Supreme Court.
“My role was to show how Pennsylvania involved the same set of suspicious actions, illegal actions, whatever you want to call them,” he said. That could not have been the product of just accident. … It certainly would have made overpowering circumstantial evidence. That’s how, gosh, I prove conspiracy throughout my career.”
After Bernius again warned Giuliani to answer the questions directly, Giuliani complained he was being persecuted and called Fox’s questions “part of what created this injustice.”
“Part of the problem here for me, I believe I’ve been persecuted for three or four years, including false charges brought against me by the federal government that have now been dismissed,” Giuliani said. Last month, New York prosecutors said they don’t plan to bring charges against Giuliani over foreign lobbying with Ukrainians.
Bernius responded, “I hear your complaint, but you’ve been a trial lawyer for a long time and you understand how the process works. I think it would help if we tried to be more succinct in our answers to Mr. Fox.”
Giuliani at another point argued he was duty-bound as an attorney to put forward certain arguments.
Giuliani’s lawyer, John Leventhal, said his client was involved in the Pennsylvania lawsuit at the last minute, and argued the case after local counsel withdrew from representing the campaign. He said Giuliani was in a “time-pressured and chaotic situation” and “had to take over the Pennsylvania litigation at the eleventh hour.” He said Giuliani acted reasonably based on the information he received from the campaign and other lawyers.
“[Giuliani’s] representation must be viewed in the context of what had occurred and transpired during that time,” said Leventhal, a retired judge.
The hearing is expected to run until at least the end of the week. Afterward, the three-member hearing committee will issue a report and recommendation on whether Giuliani should face sanctions, which will be sent to the bar’s Board of Professional Responsibility.