WASHINGTON – Rudy Giuliani, once a federal prosecutor in New York, has been temporarily barred from practicing law in the state for making "false and misleading statements" as he pushed the untrue narrative that widespread voter fraud stole the presidency from his client, former President Donald Trump.
"We conclude that there is uncontroverted evidence that respondent communicated demonstrably false and misleading statements to courts, lawmakers and the public at large in his capacity as lawyer for former President Donald J. Trump and the Trump campaign in connection with Trump's failed effort at reelection in 2020," according to a scathing 33-page decision issued Thursday by the New York Supreme Court's appellate division.
The court said Giuliani's misconduct deepened partisan divisions in the country and inflamed tensions that led to the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, when Trump supporters stormed the building to disrupt a joint congressional session to count state-certified Electoral College votes.
"The seriousness of respondent's uncontroverted misconduct cannot be overstated," the court said. "This country is being torn apart by continued attacks on the legitimacy of the 2020 election and of our current president, Joseph R. Biden."
Giuliani, former mayor of New York and a longtime fixture in New York City politics, has been at the forefront of Trump's failed effort to reverse the results of the election he lost. Giuliani is part of a coterie of attorneys who sought to invalidate results in battleground states that voted for President Joe Biden. Many of the claims relied on conspiracy theories and have been proved false by state and federal courts and election security officials.
Neither Giuliani nor his lawyer immediately responded to requests for comment from USA TODAY. His license will be suspended pending further proceedings before the state's Attorney Grievance Committee, which investigates, reviews and prosecutes complaints of attorney misconduct. The court said Giuliani could face "permanent sanctions" after the proceedings.
In a statement to the New York Times, Giuliani's attorneys, John Leventhal and Barry Kamins, said the suspension is "unprecedented."
"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," the attorneys said.
Trump defended Giuliani, calling him a "great American Patriot" and repeating claims that the last election was fraudulent. The former president also attacked the state where he used to live and said Giuliani was being targeted by the "Radical Left."
Giuliani, who was admitted to the New York bar in 1969, argued that the disciplinary committee's investigation violated his free speech rights. The court rejected this, saying attorneys are prohibited from knowingly making false claims while representing their clients.
The committee pointed at various public statements Giuliani made in which he cast doubt on the reliability of the election results. These false claims, made during news conferences, state legislative hearings, radio interviews, podcasts, television and court appearances, amount to misconduct, the coursaid.
Much of the misconduct centered on statements Giuliani made to cast doubt on election results in Pennsylvania, Georgia and Arizona, which Biden won. In several instances, Giuliani claimed he did not knowingly make the false statements and he relied on information he got from other people – a defense the court rejected.
Giuliani falsely claimed Pennsylvania sent out about 1.8 million absentee ballots before the election, but more than 2.5 million ballots were counted, suggesting that about 766,000 ballots were fraudulent. But in fact, state records showed that more than 3 million absentee votes were mailed out in the state before the election and 2.5 million were counted.
Giuliani blamed an unnamed staffer who "inadvertently" got the information from the state website that incorrectly tallied the numbers. The court, however, said there's no proof of this.
"There is no affidavit from this supposed team member who is not identified by name or otherwise, nor is there any copy of the web page that purportedly listed the allegedly incorrect data," according to the decision.
The court also said Giuliani repeatedly mischaracterized the nature of a lawsuit filed by the Trump campaign in federal court in Pennsylvania. The lawsuit concerned mail-in ballot practices, but it did not raise voter fraud claims. But during a hearing in November, Giuliani said the lawsuit concerned "widespread, nationwide voter fraud" even though his client had withdrawn any fraud-related claim.
"Respondent's mischaracterization of the case was not simply a passing mistake or inadvertent reference," the decision said. "Fraud was the crown of his personal argument before the court that day."
Giuliani argued there was no misconduct because he did admit during the hearing that there were no fraud claims.
"This defense rings hollow," the court said, saying it is "indisputable" that Giuliani was fully aware his client was no longer claiming voter fraud, even as he told the court otherwise.
Giuliani also claimed that thousands of dead people voted in Philadelphia, claiming that number to be more than 8,000 and even as many as 30,000. During a press conference at Four Seasons Total Landscaping and again at a meeting of a Republican state committee in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, Giuliani claimed that boxer Joe Frazier kept voting in the state long after he was dead.
The court said this claim is "unequivocally" false, citing public records showing that Frazier had not been eligible to vote in the state since Feb. 8, 2012, three months before he died.
Giuliani claimed he relied on information he read from a blog, but the article never claimed Frazier voted in 2020, the court said, adding that Giuliani has yet to provide evidence that thousands of other dead people voted in the state.
In Georgia, the court said Giuliani made "extensive and wide-ranging claims" that Dominion Voting System Inc.'s machines manipulated ballots, while ignoring a hand audit that confirmed Biden's win. Dominion has filed a defamation lawsuit against Giuliani.
Giuliani also said that about 65,000 or 66,000 underage voters, more than 2,500 felons and 800 dead people voted in the state. All claims have been debunked by investigations by the Georgia Secretary of State, which found no underage voters, only 74 potential felony voters, and two votes that may have been improperly cast in the name of dead voters.
In a statement Thursday, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said the decision to suspend Giuliani underscores the legitimacy of the election in Georgia.
"The judges recognize that the baseless conspiracy theories Giuliani repeated were not true and punished him for spreading lies, particularly about Georgia's election," Raffensperger said.
In Arizona, Giuliani claimed that as many as 5 million "illegal aliens" voted, even though there was no data supporting the assertion. In various interviews, the numbers fluctuated, from 32,000 illegal votes, to 40,000 or 50,000 to 250,000.
"On their face, these numerical claims are so wildly divergent and irreconcilable, that they all cannot be true at the same time," the court said. "Some of the wild divergences were even stated by respondent in the very same sentence."
The court said Giuliani's pattern of misconduct poses an "imminent threat to the public" and rejected the former mayor's assertion that he will restrain himself from making more false claims in public.
When false statements are made by an attorney, the court said, "it also erodes the public's confidence in the integrity of attorneys admitted to our bar and damages the profession's role as a crucial source of reliable information."
Contributing: Kevin Johnson
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Rudy Giuliani's work for Donald Trump leads to his N.Y. law suspension