National

Ethics charges for election fraud claims take major step forward with Giuliani disciplinary hearing in DC

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani speaks during a news conference June 7, 2022, in New York. The Georgia investigation into potential criminal interference in the 2020 election is heating up. Prosecutors are trying to force allies and advisers of former President Donald Trump to come to Atlanta to testify before a special grand jury. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File)

(CNN) — The efforts to discipline attorneys who aided former President Donald Trump’s legal gambits to undermine the 2020 election take a major step forward Monday with the start of key disciplinary proceedings in Washington, DC, that will look into whether Rudy Giuliani violated attorney ethics rules.

A hearing committee for the Board on Professional Responsibility will hear testimony from witnesses — including from Giuliani himself — as it weighs whether the lawsuit the former New York City mayor brought on behalf of Trump’s 2020 campaign put him in violation of attorney ethics rules.

Giuliani is one of several attorneys who have been targeted in professional sanctions proceedings. His law license was already suspended in New York by the state bar there, which said that the former Manhattan US attorney “communicated demonstrably false and misleading statements to courts, lawmakers and the public at large” in his work for the Trump campaign.

Now the DC Bar’s disciplinary counsel has brought ethics charges against Giuliani that are focused on a November 2020 lawsuit seeking to throw out hundreds of thousands of votes in Pennsylvania.

At a hearing in the Trump campaign case, Giuliani claimed falsely that there was “widespread, nationwide voter fraud” and that Democrats had stolen the election in Pennsylvania.

DC Disciplinary Counsel Hamilton Fox alleges Giuliani violated attorney conduct rules in Pennsylvania by filing a frivolous lawsuit and by engaging in “conduct prejudicial to the administration of justice.”

Fox has framed his ethics charges as a case “about Respondent’s ethical obligation as a member of the bar to refrain from advancing claims in court that lack any legal and factual basis”

Giuliani attorneys contend that, faced with the fast pace of election-related litigation, he was relying on information provided to him by others assisting the Trump legal team and that he had reason to believe it was true.

The hearing that begins on Monday will take a trial-like form and is only the first stage of the disciplinary process. The proceedings are expected to last several days and may stretch into next week. Once they wrap up, the hearing committee will assemble a report and ultimately issue recommendations to the Board on Professional Responsibility. That board will consider a round of briefing from both sides and hear arguments, but the final arbiter of the matter will be DC’s local court of appeals.

The disciplinary counsel is expected to call Giuliani for testimony, as well as an expert witness who will analyze the lawsuit Giuliani filed for the Trump campaign.

Giuliani has signaled interest in bringing in witnesses to talk about their investigation into supposed voting “irregularities.” His initial list of potential witnesses included several prominent names in Trump world, including some who played central roles in pushing Trump’s election fraud lies, but his lawyers have since indicated that many of those witnesses won’t be testifying on advice of their own counsel.