The New York State Bar Association (NYSBA) is considering removing Rudy Giuliani as a member, after the president’s lawyer called for “trial by combat” ahead of the pro-Trump attack on the U.S. Capitol last Wednesday.
The association announced an investigation into Giuliani’s conduct on Monday, in response to the violent attack incited by U.S. President Donald Trump and his allies on Jan. 6 in Washington, D.C.
“The president did not act alone,” The NYSBA said in a statement on Monday. It added that Giuliani helped rile up the protesters with baseless claims of voter fraud — claims that have already been thoroughly discredited in dozens of court battles since Nov. 3.
“If we’re wrong, we will be made fools of, but if we’re right a lot of them will go to jail,” Giuliani told the crowd on Wednesday, while touting those wrong claims. “Let’s have trial by combat.”
The NYSBA added that it’s received hundreds of complaints about Giuliani in recent months, as the former New York City mayor has repeatedly touted the president’s conspiracy theories in court and at press conferences.
“In each and every instance, these actions were appropriately dismissed by the courts in which they were brought,” the NYSBA pointed out.
The NYSBA also cited its bylaws, which state that “no person who advocates the overthrow of the government of the United States, or of any state, territory or possession thereof, or of any political subdivision therein, by force or other illegal means, shall be a member of the Association.”
The NYSBA can’t revoke Giuliani’s licence to practice law, but booting him out of the association would be a harsh rebuke, according to spokesperson Susan DeSantis.
“We believe the last time we removed a member who hadn’t been disbarred was 1904,” DeSantis told NBC News.
“We have had our current bylaws that set up the process for removing a member since the 1970s, and we have never used them to remove an attorney who hadn’t already been disbarred.”
The association says it will provide Giuliani with due process, including the chance to defend his actions.
“We cannot stand idly by and allow those intent on rending the fabric of our democracy to go unchecked,” the NYSBA said in its statement.
State Sen. Brad Hoylman, a Manhattan Democrat and chair of New York’s Senate Judiciary committee, has separately recommended Giuliani be stripped of his law licence.
Hoylman cited Giuliani’s role in the “violent insurrectionist attack on the United States Capitol” on Monday, in a letter to the grievance committee of the First Department Appellate Division in New York’s Supreme Court.
He added that the attack on the Capitol “was the foreseeable culmination of increasingly outrageous lies and disinformation being peddled by Mr. Giuliani and many of his associates.”
Giuliani hadn’t argued a case in court for over two decades before he agreed to fight Trump’s election loss in early November. He kicked off that campaign with a bizarre press conference in the parking lot of Four Seasons Total Landscaping, next to an adult bookstore in Philadelphia, Pa., on Nov. 7. Giuliani introduced his baseless claims of voter fraud at that conference, just as the election was finally called for Joe Biden.
Later in November, Giuliani repeated his unfounded claims of voter fraud at a lengthy press conference alongside what he called an “elite strike force” of lawyers. Giuliani appeared to sweat through his hair dye while offering movie impressions and no evidence to back his claims.
He then ceded the floor to Sidney Powell, a lawyer and QAnon supporter who laid out her theory that Communists, Hillary Clinton, Venezuela and the ghost of Hugo Chavez had conspired to rob Trump of re-election.
Giuliani’s team later cut ties with Powell, who continued to fight a rogue battle against the election results anyway.
Giuliani suffered defeat after defeat in court, and faced several stinging rebukes from judges who tossed out his cases.
“Charges of unfairness are serious. But calling an election unfair does not make it so,” a panel of three judges said in one decision. “Charges require specific allegations and then proof. We have neither here.”
Another judge said that a Giuliani case was “like Frankenstein’s Monster … haphazardly stitched together.”
Giuliani also tried to plead his case to Republican lawmakers in several states, in a failed attempt to get them to overturn the will of the voters. In Michigan, for example, he brought in a witness who had already been discredited in court, setting up a combative exchange between the woman and a GOP lawmaker that quickly went viral.
Biden won the popular vote by 7 million and defeated Trump in the Electoral College by a greater margin than the president’s victory in 2016. No evidence of systemic voter fraud has been found, despite Trump’s false claims to the contrary.
Democrats launched the process of impeaching Trump for a second time on Monday, citing his role in inciting the riot.
Giuliani was tied up in Trump’s efforts to pressure Ukraine into investigating Biden’s rival in late 2019, which led to the call that saw Trump impeached the first time. Trump was later acquitted in the Republican-controlled Senate, following a trial with no witnesses.
Giuliani addressed the complaints against him on his Monday afternoon 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.”
Biden won the election and will be sworn in as president on Jan. 20.