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Rudy Giuliani Under Threat of Disbarment After D.C. Bar Committee Finds His Failed 2020 Election Suit in Pa. Broke Ethics Rules

Rudy Giuliani - Four Seasons

Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani speaks at a news conference in the parking lot of a landscaping company on Nov. 7, 2020, in Philadelphia. (Photo by BRYAN R. SMITH/AFP via Getty Images)

Former New York City mayor and Donald Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani’s law license is on the line after the D.C. Board of Professional Responsibility found on Thursday that the federal lawsuit that he filed seeking to overturn the 2020 election results in Pennsylvania violated ethics rules.

The preliminary finding means that the Board found there is clear and convincing evidence that Giuliani may have violated the rules in at least one aspect of the matter before them. That decision is not final or binding.

Disciplinary counsel Hamilton Fox argued that the only adequate penalty for his “misconduct” is disbarment, urging the committee to send a message that Giuliani conduct “cannot be tolerated.”

“That certainly in the future, you have any lawyer that engages in this kind of misconduct, harming the country, as this has done, has at least got to realize that his or her law license is at risk,” Fox said, adding that he cannot “think of another case that approaches this in terms of the seriousness of the misconduct.”

Long before his current legal woes, Giuliani served as the U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, where his office was known for a crackdown on organized crime. The former mayor’s counsel and allies cited his work as a prosecutor and his leadership following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks in mitigation.

Fox argued that his reputation changed dramatically since that time.

“There is no question that his conduct of the events of 9/11 was admirable, more than admirable,” Fox said. “But as you said, that was more than 20 years. And I don’t know whether something’s happened to Mr. Giuliani in the interim.”

During his testimony, Giuliani claimed to have been “persecuted for three or four years, including false charges brought against me by the federal government.” He had been referring to an investigation that exploded into the public sphere with the FBI’s raid on his properties, under suspicion of improper foreign lobbying. Federal prosecutors ultimately decided not to pursue charges.

Giuliani’s lawyer John Leventhal echoed his client’s messaging, arguing that any punishment should be light if the committee finds against his client.

“Politics should not play any part, we hope, we trust in this committee’s final recommendation,” Leventhal said.

Fox bristled at that line of argument.

“The notion that this is politics and that we should ignore what’s going on in this country, to me, blinks reality,” Fox countered. “The basic problem with what Mr. Giuliani did is the notion that politics means anything goes.”

When disciplinary proceedings began, Fox said that Giuliani “weaponized” his bar license to “deny millions of people the right to vote.” That “frivolous” lawsuit, the disciplinary counsel said, represented an attack on U.S. democracy.

“No, lawsuits asking courts to deprive voters of the right to vote,” Fox said. “That’s not common politics in this country”

Giuliani was remorseless until the end, using his final remarks to continue to peddle his 2020 election conspiracy theories.

“Mr. Chairman, I would like to personally object to Mr. Fox’s attack on me as having tried to undermine American democracy, when there’s not a single fact in the record for that argument,” Giuliani said. “He has raised no such argument to give us a chance to rebut it during this case. It is a typical or unethical cheap attack not supported by anything in the record, far more so than anything I alleged that you are questioning.”

The former mayor claimed he had a “good faith belief” that the election “might very well have been stolen,” citing discredited affidavits and the movie 2,000 Mules, whose theories of mass voter fraud in Georgia elicited uproarious laughter from former Attorney General Bill Barr.

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Law&Crime's managing editor Adam Klasfeld has spent more than a decade on the legal beat. Previously a reporter for Courthouse News, he has appeared as a guest on NewsNation, NBC, MSNBC, CBS's "Inside Edition," BBC, NPR, PBS, Sky News, and other networks. His reporting on the trial of Ghislaine Maxwell was featured on the Starz and Channel 4 documentary "Who Is Ghislaine Maxwell?" He is the host of Law&Crime podcast "Objections: with Adam Klasfeld."