Rudy Giuliani, a former top federal prosecutor, New York City mayor, and attorney to a president, faces the possibility of disbarment after a New York court ruled Thursday that he made “demonstrably false and misleading statements” while fighting the results of the 2020 election on behalf of Donald Trump.
The New York state appellate court temporarily suspended Giuliani’s law license on the recommendation of a disciplinary committee after finding he had sought to mislead judges, lawmakers, and the public as he helped shepherd Trump’s legal challenge to the election results. For months, Giuliani, who served as Trump’s personal attorney, had argued without merit that the vote had been rife with fraud and that voting machines had been rigged.
In its decision, the court said Giuliani’s actions represented an “immediate threat” to the public and that he had “directly inflamed” the tensions that led to the Capitol riot in January.
“The seriousness of respondent’s uncontroverted misconduct cannot be overstated. This country is being torn apart by continued attacks on the legitimacy of the 2020 election and of our current president, Joseph R. Biden,” the decision read.
Giuliani now faces disciplinary proceedings and can fight the suspension. But the court said in its decision that he would be likely to face “permanent sanctions” after the proceedings conclude. A final outcome could be months away but could include disbarment.
Giuliani’s attorneys, John Leventhal and Barry Kamins, said in a statement that they were disappointed that the panel had acted before holding a hearing on the allegations.
“This is unprecedented as we believe that our client does not pose a present danger to the public interest,” they said. “We believe that once the issues are fully explored at a hearing, Mr. Giuliani will be reinstated as a valued member of the legal profession that he has served so well in his many capacities for so many years.”
Giuliani is also licensed to practice law in Washington, D.C., and the decision in New York could set off disciplinary proceedings there, although that is not automatic.
The suspension marked another stunning chapter in the rise and fall of Giuliani, once a legal and political star. He enjoyed near-hero status when, as New York City mayor, he led the city through the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Before that, he was a hard-charging prosecutor who was known for battling organized crime and corrupt politicians. But he is now being investigated by the US attorney’s office in Manhattan, the same office he once led, and faces the prospect of being banned from the legal profession in which he has worked for more than five decades.
The federal investigation into Giuliani centers on his dealings in Ukraine before the 2020 election, when he sought to damage President Biden’s credibility. In April, FBI agents seized Giuliani’s cellphones and computers, an extraordinary action to take against an attorney for a former president.
Prosecutors have been investigating whether Giuliani illegally lobbied the Trump administration in 2019 on behalf of Ukrainian officials and oligarchs, who were assisting Giuliani’s efforts to dig up dirt in Ukraine on Biden and his son. Giuliani has denied any wrongdoing.
The New York court’s decision is not related to that investigation but examined Giuliani’s efforts to overturn the results of the November presidential election.
From nearly the moment on Election Day when Fox News declared that Biden had won Arizona, Giuliani urged Trump to fight the outcomes in a handful of battleground states. Trump tapped Giuliani to lead his legal efforts.
Giuliani tried to center Trump’s attention on Georgia in particular.
But while Giuliani repeatedly claimed he could prove widespread fraud in the election, including proving that dead people had cast ballots, he offered no evidence supporting that contention in court. He traveled the country to press his claims with lawmakers in several battleground states.
On Jan. 6, Giuliani addressed a rally by Trump supporters near the White House before the certification of the Electoral College vote in Congress. Giuliani told the crowd he sought a “trial by combat.”
A short time later, hundreds of Trump supporters left the rally and swarmed the Capitol, breaking into the building and threatening lawmakers.
In Thursday’s decision, the New York court said that false statements like the ones made by Giuliani tarnished the reputation of the entire legal profession. Giuliani’s misconduct “directly inflamed” the tensions that led to the Capitol riot, the court said.
“One only has to look at the ongoing present public discord over the 2020 election, which erupted into violence, insurrection and death on Jan. 6, 2021, at the US Capitol, to understand the extent of the damage that can be done when the public is misled by false information about the elections,” the court wrote.
The court noted, for instance, that Giuliani repeatedly claimed tens of thousands of underage teenagers had voted illegally in Georgia. An audit by the Georgia Office of the Secretary of State found that no one under the age of 18 voted in the 2020 election.
Still, Giuliani continued to repeat the false claim as recently as April 27 on his radio show, the court said, after a disciplinary committee had already petitioned the court to suspend his law license.