Giuliani Sweats Disbarment as Lawyers Who Lied for Trump Finally Face Consequences

“He claimed massive election fraud but had no evidence of it.”

Former Mayor Rudy Giuliani at a Nov. 18 2020 press conference at Republican National Committee headquarters.Rod Lamkey/Zuma

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Two and a half years after January 6, lawyers who helped former president Donald Trump use lies about election fraud to try to retain power are finally starting to face sanctions for their actions.

On Friday, a legal ethics committee recommended that Rudy Giuliani, who helped Trump’s legal efforts following election day in 2020, be disbarred in Washington. “He claimed massive election fraud but had no evidence of it,” the three-member panel said in a 38-page ruling. “By prosecuting that destructive case Mr. Giuliani, a sworn officer of the Court, forfeited his right to practice law.”

The three-member panel noted that Giuliani had a record of public service during his stints as mayor of New York and as a US Attorney. But “the misconduct here sadly transcends all his past accomplishments,” they said. “It was unparalleled in its destructive purpose and effect. He sought to disrupt a presidential election and persists in his refusal to acknowledge the wrong he has done.”

The DC case focused on Giuliani’s role in the legal effort to contest Trump’s defeat in Pennsylvania during the 2020 presidential election. “His hyperbolic claims of election fraud and the core thesis of the Pennsylvania litigation were utterly false, and recklessly so,” the panel said.

The recommendation that Giuliani lose his license must still be okayed by DC’s Board on Professional Responsibility and by Court of Appeals. One of Giuliani’s lawyers said he will file “a vigorous appeal.” Ted Goodman, a Giuliani spokesman, called the DC Bar Association’s leaders “an arm of the permanent regime in Washington,” adding: “This is also part of an effort to deny President Trump effective counsel by persecuting Rudy Giuliani—objectively one of the most effective prosecutors in American history. I call on rank-and-file members of the DC Bar Association to speak out against this great injustice.”

Giuliani also faces potential disbarment in New York, where his law license is already suspended.

The recommendation against Giuliani comes on the heels of disbarment proceedings in California against John Eastman, a former law school dean who helped form Trump’s plan for Vice President Mike Pence to falsely claim power to throw out Joe Biden’s electoral votes. Those hearings have been postponed until late August.

Another lawyer facing discipline is Jeffrey Clark, former Justice Department assistant attorney general. Clark drafted a letter that urged governments in states Biden won narrowly to reconsider their election results, falsely claiming that potential fraud might have affected the outcomes. A federal judge last month allowed disbarment proceedings against Clark in DC to proceed by rejecting Clark’s effort to change the venue.

Giuliani, Eastman, and Clark also could face criminal charges. Special Counsel Jack Smith is investigating Giuliani and Eastman’s role in the so-called “fake electors” ploy involving phony claims by pro-Trump officials in seven battleground states that they were legitimate state electors.

Other former Trump attorneys are facing various penalties. Sidney Powell, the self-styled “Kraken” lawyer who filed baseless lawsuits around the country after she and Giuliani outlined a bizarre voter-fraud conspiracy theory at an infamous, dripping hair-dye marred press conference in November 2020, lost out in a federal appeals court ruling in June. The court mostly upheld a lower court’s imposition of sanctions on Powell and colleagues for filing frivolous lawsuits in an effort to overturn Trump’s defeat in Michigan. Powell and five other lawyers must pay $152,000 in sanctions.

Powell has dodged disbarment. In February, a judge in Texas, where she is based, dismissed a petition by the state bar disciplinary commission that could have cost the attorney her license. The judge said the commission had not proved Powell violated the Texas’ attorney code of conduct. 

Jenna Ellis, a former Trump lawyer who worked with Powell and Giuliani, was censured by Colorado legal officials in May after admitting that she made false statements about the 2020 election on television and Twitter. Ellis’ admission was an agreement that helped her avoid further sanctions, potentially including disbarment. 

Others are taking a different approach. Another Trump attorney, Lin Wood, who helped lead efforts to challenge Trump’s loss in Georgia, announced Wednesday, amid state bar disciplinary proceedings against him there, that he was retiring from practicing law, a step that will spare him from being stripped of his law license.

“Sorry to disappoint my enemies who wanted so badly to see me discredited and disbarred!!!” Wood wrote on Telegram.

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