(Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
If Rudy Giuliani is trying to prove to the DC Bar that he wasn’t lying to a federal judge about rampant electoral fraud in the 2020 election, citing Dinesh D’Souza’s thoroughly debunked film 2000 Mules is a weird way to do it. On the other hand, this is the same lawyer who gave a press conference from a landscaper’s parking lot and leaked hair dye all over the podium as he promised to overturn President Joe Biden’s victory, so … perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised.
In June of 2021, the Supreme Court of New York suspended the former mayor’s license to practice law citing “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[.]” Shortly thereafter, the DC Court of Appeals suspended his license pursuant to the New York order. But last month the DC Bar looked to make his status as a non-practicing lawyer permanent, filing its own ethics charges relating to Giuliani’s conduct during the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election.
The complaint, which was signed Hamilton P. Fox, III, Disciplinary Counsel for the DC Bar, centers around the Trump campaign’s batshit lawsuit seeking to get 1.5 million mail-in ballots tossed out in Pennsylvania. That’s the suit where Giuliani distinguished himself by referring to “normal scrutiny” and ranted at length about a supposed nationwide campaign of fraud while offering no proof other than a photograph of a woman holding binoculars behind a plexiglass Covid barrier as the votes were being counted in Philadelphia.
As US District Judge Matthew Brann wrote in his dismissal, “this Court has been presented with strained legal arguments without merit and speculative accusations, unpled in the operative complaint and unsupported by evidence.”
The DC Bar alleges that Giuliani violated the Pennsylvania Rules of Professional Conduct by bringing a proceeding “without a non-frivolous basis in law and fact,” and that he “engaged in conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.” But Giuliani has an answer for that, and it is to insist that the election really was stolen, pointing to Dinesh D’Souza’s ridiculous 2000 Mules movie as proof.
D’Souza pled guilty in 2014 to violating campaign finance law after memorializing a straw donor scheme in writing, (lol forever), after which he transitioned from being a fringe conservative to a rightwing troll. His antics eventually earned him a pardon from Donald Trump and a screening of his latest fakakta fantasy film at Mar-a-Lago. In short, D’Souza and his goons bought cell phone location data, tracked numbers which showed up in the vicinity of ballot drop boxes more than once, and screeched that those people were “mules” delivering fake and/or stolen ballots for Biden.
The premise is comically mendacious since geolocation data isn’t particularly precise, the boxes were located in churches, schools, and municipal buildings, and the fact that the same device was present near multiple ballot boxes proves nothing. The film was immediately debunked as nonsense, so it’s entirely on-brand that Rudy claims it proves his Pennsylvania complaint was entirely non-frivolous.
But those of us who were actually paying attention to that insane case — it me! — will note that Giuliani’s claims in 2020 had nothing to do with supposed “mules” delivering fraudulent ballots to drop boxes. To the extent that his theory of a stolen election was remotely coherent, it appeared to involve evil Democratic poll workers either bringing in batches of fraudulent ballots or counting ballots for Biden multiple times. His argument before Judge Brann was that Republican observers in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh had been forced to stand too far away to catch Democratic poll workers bringing in batches of fraudulent ballots and/or running votes for Biden through multiple times, and thus all the votes must be tossed out.
Giuliani also points to a recent Pennsylvania Supreme Court holding that Pennsylvania’s no-excuse absentee ballot law violated the state’s constitution. He appears to think that this bolsters his fraud claims from 2020, despite the fact that (a) Giuliani made those claims in federal court, (b) his Due Process and Equal Protection claims had nothing to do with the state constitution, (c) the constitutionality of the state law had nothing to do with fraud, and (d) it would still be an absolutely insane remedy to throw out 1.5 million ballots legally cast by qualified voters.
It remains to be seen what level of scrutiny the DC Court of Appeals Board of Professional Responsibility will apply to Giuliani’s case. If it’s the “normal kind,” though, he’s probably screwed.
In the Matter of Rudolph W. Giuliani [Disciplinary Docket]
Liz Dye lives in Baltimore where she writes about law and politics.