Rudy Giuliani, who served as a lawyer for former president Donald Trump, is no longer contesting as a legal matter that he made false and defamatory statements about two former Georgia election workers — but argues in a new court filing that what amounted to false claims about vote-rigging in the 2020 presidential election was constitutionally protected speech and did not damage the workers.
The filing late Tuesday in federal court in Washington is the latest twist in a lawsuit brought by Ruby Freeman and her daughter, Shaye Moss, who counted ballots in Fulton County, Ga., during the November 2020 election.
In a defamation lawsuit filed in late 2021, the pair asserted that they became the focus of unfounded conspiracy theories peddled by Giuliani and employees of the right-wing news organization One America News. Giuliani has denied the claims. OAN settled with Freeman and Moss for an undisclosed sum last year.
In Giuliani’s latest filing, the former New York mayor stipulates that he made statements that “carry meaning that is defamatory per se.” He also stipulates in the two-page statement that some of his statements were “false,” as the election workers alleged.
His lawyer, however, stressed that Giuliani was not admitting to the plaintiffs’ allegations but instead was seeking to speed up the litigation through a legal maneuver.
In the filing, Giuliani says that his stipulations do not affect his arguments that “his statements are constitutionally protected statements or opinions” and that his conduct did not cause “any damages” to the plaintiffs.
In a separate filing, Giuliani lawyer Joseph D. Sibley IV says Giuliani “does not admit to Plaintiffs’ allegations” and that his stipulation would short-circuit the need for more discovery in the case.
Sanctions were imposed on Giuliani this month for failing to search for and turn over records in a timely fashion. The order from the federal judge overseeing the case came after lawyers for Freeman and Moss accused Giuliani of failing to fulfill “basic” obligations to turn over records and refusing to detail his efforts to collect and preserve documents.
Tuesday’s filing, signed by Giuliani, says he is making the stipulations “to avoid unnecessary expenses in litigating what he believes to be unnecessary disputes.”
Ted Goodman, an adviser to the former mayor, echoed what Giuliani and Sibley stated in their filings Tuesday.
“Rudy Giuliani did not acknowledge that the statements were false but did not contest it in order to move on to the portion of the case that will permit a motion to dismiss,” Goodman said. “This is a legal issue, not a factual issue. … This stipulation is designed to get to the legal issues of the case.”
The filing Tuesday also says that the stipulations are limited to the Georgia case — an apparent move to limit legal exposure elsewhere, including in the investigation led by special counsel Jack Smith.
Michael J. Gottlieb, a lawyer for Freeman and Moss, said Wednesday that his clients were “pleased” with Giuliani’s concession.
“Giuliani’s stipulation concedes what we have always known to be true — Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss honorably performed their civic duties in the 2020 presidential election in full compliance with the law; and the allegations of election fraud he and former-President Trump made against them have been false since day one,” Gottlieb said in a statement. “While certain issues, including damages, remain to be decided by the court, our clients are pleased with this major milestone in their fight for justice, and look forward to presenting what remains of this case at trial.”
In their lawsuit, Freeman and Moss said they became “the objects of vitriol, threats, and harassment” as a result of the “malicious lies” spread by Giuliani and OAN. Their claims include that Giuliani repeatedly claimed that misleading security footage of Moss and Freeman was proof that ballots had been deliberately mishandled.
The lawsuit also contends that Giuliani pushed his claims about vote-rigging long after Georgia election officials made statements debunking them.
Giuliani’s conduct in Georgia was part of a far broader effort to overturn the 2020 election results for the benefit of Trump, who continues falsely to claim that the election was rigged. Among other consequences for Giuliani, a D.C. Court of Appeals committee that oversees attorney conduct has recommended that he be disbarred for “unparalleled” attempts to reverse the 2020 election results.
Michael Scherer contributed to this report.