During the rally that preceded Wednesday's deadly attack on the Capitol by enraged Trump supporters, Rudy Giuliani, the president's personal attorney, said he was about to blow the lid off machine-facilitated election fraud in Georgia. That was not true. The next day, President Donald Trump's lawyers dropped four lawsuits alleging election irregularities and fraud in Georgia, claiming they had reached settlement agreements with state officials, who supposedly had promised to investigate Trump's outlandish charges. That was not true either.
Those two lies confirm that Giuliani never had any credible evidence to back up his reckless allegations against Dominion Voting Systems, which he claims helped Democrats rig election machines to switch "hundreds of thousands" of Trump votes to Biden votes. That widely promoted conspiracy theory, which on Friday prompted Dominion to sue former Trump campaign lawyer Sidney Powell for defamation, was at the heart of the grievances underlying Wednesday's violence. Yet Giuliani now has implicitly admitted it was all a hoax.
According to the final election results, Biden won Georgia by about 12,000 votes. Georgia reaffirmed Biden's victory after a statewide audit and two recounts, including one by hand. Those recounts, which found that paper ballots confirmed the outcome, should have laid to rest Giuliani's claim that the election was corrupted by fraud-facilitating software. Furthermore, as Georgia's Republican secretary of state, Brad Raffensperger, notes in January 6 letter debunking Trump's fraud claims, "an audit of voting machines…confirmed the software on the machine was accurate and not tampered with." But Giuliani still was not satisfied.
"If they ran such a clean election, why wouldn't they make all the machines available immediately?" Giuliani asked thousands of ardent Trump supporters at the "Save America March" on Wednesday. "If they ran such a clean election, they'd have you come in and look at the paper ballots. Who hides evidence? Criminals hide evidence, not honest people. So over the next 10 days, we get to see the machines that are crooked, the ballots that are fraudulent. And if we're wrong, we will be made fools of. But if we're right, a lot of them will go to jail."
Giuliani claimed "one of the experts that has examined these crooked Dominion machines has absolutely what he believes is conclusive proof that in the last 10 percent, 15 percent of the vote counted, the votes were deliberately changed by the same algorithm that was used in cheating President Trump and Vice President Pence." With that "conclusive proof" in hand, Giuliani was confident that the truth would come out. "So let's have trial by combat," he said. "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."
Given that Giuliani has had more than two months to back up his "easily provable" claims and has repeatedly failed to do so, you might think the ship has sailed on his reputation. But even if you are a diehard Trump supporter who was hoping the evidence would finally materialize, what happened the next day confirmed once again that there is no rabbit in that hat. Facing a state trial on Friday at which they would have had to put up or shut up, the president's lawyers abandoned four lawsuits challenging Georgia's election results. It turned out that Giuliani and his associates did not have the guts to face "trial by combat," or even combat by trial.
Trump campaign lawyer Kurt Hilbert, who participated in the January 2 phone call during which the president pressured Raffensperger to "find" the votes he needed to overturn Biden's victory, told a federal judge the campaign was dropping Trump v. Kemp, which alleged that Georgia's election was "conducted contrary to clearly established law," "due to an out of court settlement agreement." But Georgia's Republican attorney general, Christopher Carr, said there was no such agreement.
While the state officials whom the campaign sued in federal court "do not object to Trump's voluntary dismissal," Carr said, "Defendants do object to the false grounds articulated in the notice." Contrary to Hilbert's claim, he said "there is no 'settlement.'" While "Plaintiff's counsel inquired on numerous occasions about settling the disputes," Carr explained, "those inquiries were repeatedly rebuffed by Defendants on the grounds that Plaintiff's litigation efforts were frivolous and the certified results of the November 3, 2020, Election were valid."
On Thursday, Hilbert also cited "an out of court agreement" in seeking dismissal of Boland v. Raffensperger, a November 29 state lawsuit alleging that "20,312 ballots were cast by individuals who are no longer Georgia residents" and that signature verification procedures were inadequate. Carr again responded by denying that any such agreement had been reached.
Hilbert's notice of voluntary dismissal in Trump v. Raffensperger, a December 4 state lawsuit alleging that Georgia's election procedures "deviated significantly and substantially" from state law, likewise asserts "an out of court agreement" that Carr says never happened. So does Hilbert's notice in Still v. Raffensperger, a December 12 state lawsuit alleging "electronic recount anomalies" in Coffee County.
Hilbert insisted that state officials had reached an agreement with the Trump campaign, even if they did not realize it. "We are confident that we have a valid settlement agreement," he said in an email quoted by Bloomberg News. "If you have doubts, we recommend that you speak with an independent contract attorney who we believe would corroborate our interpretation."
Raffensperger offers a more plausible explanation in a press release he issued on Thursday. He notes that Trump's lawyers were scheduled to present evidence in one of their cases at a trial on Friday before Cobb County Superior Court Judge Adele Grubbs.
"Rather than presenting their evidence and witnesses to a court and to cross-examination under oath, the Trump campaign wisely decided the smartest course was to dismiss their frivolous cases," Raffensperger says. "Spreading disinformation about elections is dangerous and wrong. It was wrong when Stacey Abrams and her allies made false claims about Georgia's election processes following the 2018 election and run-up to the 2020 election, and it's wrong when the President and his allies are doing it now."
Giuliani's persistent promotion of baseless allegations regarding Dominion's role in the anti-Trump plot that supposedly deprived the president of his rightful victory not only sacrificed whatever reputation he had left. It also may expose him to serious legal risk insofar as his conspiracy mongering went beyond advocacy of his client's position in litigation. A Dominion executive already has sued Giuliani for defamation. On Friday, the company filed a $1.3 billion defamation lawsuit against Powell, an erstwhile Giuliani ally who for months has been telling the same basic story.
"As a result of the defamatory falsehoods peddled by Powell—in concert with likeminded allies and media outlets who were determined to promote a false preconceived narrative—Dominion's founder, Dominion's employees, Georgia's governor, and Georgia's secretary of state have been harassed and have received death threats, and Dominion has suffered enormous harm," says the complaint, which was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. Since Giuliani is one of those "likeminded allies," he may also be sued by Dominion. Unless Giuliani blinks again and settles out of court (for real this time), such lawsuits may finally force him to produce his "conclusive proof."