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Calls intensify to censure Rudy Giuliani for his work as Donald Trump’s lawyer

  • NEW YORK TIMES / 2020
                                Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, listens as Trump speaks during a news briefing in the White House in Washington.

    NEW YORK TIMES / 2020

    Rudy Giuliani, President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, listens as Trump speaks during a news briefing in the White House in Washington.

Dozens of prominent lawyers have signed a formal complaint seeking the suspension of Rudy Giuliani’s law license — the latest and loudest in a series of calls to censure him for his actions as former President Donald Trump’s personal attorney.

The lawyers said Giuliani had trampled ethical boundaries as he helped Trump pursue false claims of election fraud, then gave an incendiary speech repeating those claims just before the riot at the Capitol on Jan. 6.

A draft of the complaint to the Supreme Court of New York’s attorney grievance committee accuses Giuliani of knowingly making false claims about the election and urges an investigation into “conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit or misrepresentation in or out of court.”

Calls to discipline Giuliani have mounted in the weeks since the riot and are intensifying even now, after Trump has left office. The latest complaint, signed by a bipartisan who’s-who of legal luminaries from New York and beyond, represents perhaps the most serious condemnation of Giuliani’s conduct to date.

The list included former acting U.S. Attorney General Stuart Gerson; former U.S. District Judges H. Lee Sarokin and Fern Smith; and two former state attorneys general, Scott Harshbarger of Massachusetts and Grant Woods of Arizona. Also signing the complaint were prosecutors who worked in the same U.S. attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York that Giuliani led during the 1980s, including Christine Chung.

Chung, a steering committee member of Lawyers Defending American Democracy, the organization that filed the complaint, said that the group had reviewed the work that Giuliani did on Trump’s behalf and that it amounted to “a purposeful campaign to go to the American people with a lie about a stolen election.”

“This is a man that once led the highest prosecuting offices in this nation, and he knows what fraud is and what it’s not,” said Chung, who did not work for the U.S. attorney’s office during Giuliani’s tenure. “For a lawyer to be attacking the rule of law is disallowed, and it’s dangerous.”

Chung said that she expected “thousands” of people from the legal community to sign the complaint.

The complaint, which calls to suspend Giuliani’s license to practice law during an investigation into his conduct, is one of several that have been filed with the grievance board. It comes a week after New York state Sen. Brad Hoylman, chair of the judiciary committee, called for the state court system to begin the formal process of stripping Giuliani of his license to practice law.

Giuliani, who did not immediately respond to a request for comment, discussed the complaints about his conduct last week on his radio show.

“I was a prosecutor all my life; I’m not stupid,” he said. “I don’t want to get in trouble. And I have a high sense of ethics, personally. I hate it when people attack my integrity.”

In the weeks since the riot Giuliani also doubled down on his claims of election fraud and argued on conservative talk radio and social media that the crowds who charged the Capitol were left-wing radicals involved in a plot to discredit him and Trump.

The slew of calls for disciplinary action underscore how much Giuliani’s reputation has changed from his years as a federal prosecutor known for taking on organized crime and his two terms as the mayor of New York City, during which he championed law enforcement and emphasized cleaning up the streets.

At Trump’s rally Jan. 6, not long before a violent mob stormed the Capitol, Giuliani called for a “trial by combat” to address its discredited claims of voter fraud.

“I’m willing to stake my reputation, the president is willing to stake his reputation, on the fact that we’re going to find criminality there,” Giuliani said.

The complaint accuses Giuliani of sticking to his false accusations of widespread voter fraud as recently as Jan. 16, sacrificing his reputation in the process.

“Other lawyers observed ethical obligations by stepping back from representing Mr. Trump and his campaign,” the complaint reads. “Mr. Giuliani not only lent his stature and status as a lawyer to the venture but shows no inclination to stop lying.”

Earlier this week a person close to Trump said that Giuliani would not participate in Trump’s defense during his second impeachment trial in the Senate.

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