The damages trial is the latest form of accountability for those who aided Trump’s bid to subvert the 2020 election. While criminal proceedings against Trump, Giuliani and others have inched along, efforts to punish the perpetrators in other ways — from civil lawsuits to disbarment proceedings — have moved more briskly. For example, Giuliani’s law license was suspended last year after D.C. bar authorities concluded he violated professional ethics in his efforts to throw out millions of Pennsylvania votes. A decision on whether to make that sanction permanent is still pending.
Freeman and Moss are key figures in two criminal cases against Trump — his federal conspiracy case in Washington, D.C., and his racketeering case in Georgia. Prosecutors in both cases have described how Trump amplified Giuliani’s lies about the women, including in a now-infamous phone call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on Jan. 2, 2021.
Giuliani is identified as “co-conspirator 1” in the federal case, which is playing out in the very same courthouse where he awaits punishment in the election workers’ civil trial. And Giuliani — along with several other Trump allies accused of seeking to harass and intimidate the workers — faces criminal charges with Trump in the Georgia case.
Freeman and Moss, who were featured witnesses at a House Jan. 6 select committee hearing last year, have described a torrent of death threats and attacks that have followed them for the past three years, at times forcing them to leave their homes to remain safe. And Trump has renewed his attacks on Freeman, a fact that federal prosecutors noted in a Dec. 4 court filing describing their intent to introduce evidence of Trump’s more recent conduct in his criminal trial that is scheduled to begin March 4.
Howell, the Obama-appointed judge who will preside over Giuliani’s trial this week, has had a front-row view of many of the legal proceedings stemming from Trump’s bid to disrupt the transfer of power. Until March, she was the district’s chief judge and handled all grand jury matters related to the former president’s federal criminal case. Her rulings included several denying Trump’s effort to assert executive privilege and prevent the testimony of key former aides, like White House counsel Pat Cipollone and chief of staff Mark Meadows. She also authorized special counsel Jack Smith to obtain data from Trump’s Twitter feed, and agreed with prosecutors that Trump’s rhetoric has posed a danger to participants and witnesses in the case.
Key evidence in the case against Giuliani is expected from several close associates who sat for depositions, including former New York City police chief Bernie Kerik and Giuliani himself, who may be called as a live witness. Freeman and Moss have also signaled plans to call an expert who can quantify the reach of Giuliani’s statements and the degree of harm they claim he has caused.
Howell ruled that Giuliani was liable for defamation after finding that he had repeatedly shirked his responsibility to preserve and turn over evidence in the case. She has issued a series of pointed rulings contending that Giuliani had defied her orders. And she has at times demanded his presence in the courtroom for pretrial matters, a rarity in civil proceedings. Last week, Howell upbraided Giuliani’s attorney Joe Sibley for failing to inform Giuliani that she had expected his attendance at the final pretrial conference.
Giuliani has taken more aggressive swings at Howell in recent statements.
“The judges’ biases and prejudices are well known and have been demonstrated throughout this case and many others — where the process is the punishment,” said Giuliani’s political adviser and spokesman, Ted Goodman, in a statement last week. “In the fullness of time, this will be looked at as a dark chapter in America’s justice system as this whole process is doing great, irreparable harm.”
In addition to his criminal charges, disbarment proceedings and the lawsuit brought by Freeman and Moss, Giuliani has been sued by various other individuals — including President Joe Biden’s son Hunter — who claim he spread false allegations about them in 2020. He has described extreme financial strain to cover his legal bills but has recently touted high-dollar fundraisers to support his defense in these cases. Trump’s PAC earlier this year helped cover a $300,000 bill from a vendor that was helping Giuliani assemble evidence in the Freeman-Moss lawsuit.
Howell intends to impanel an eight-member jury, and lawyers for Freeman and Moss expect to take three days to present their case.