Giuliani admits telling Capitol rioters to engage in ‘trial by combat’ but insists it was ‘hyperbole’

Former New York City mayor is facing lawsuit alleging he helped incite 6 January insurrection

Graig Graziosi
Tuesday 18 May 2021 22:35
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Lawyers representing former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani – who also worked as Donald Trump's personal attorney – are arguing that he did not literally call for "trial by combat" on the day of the Capitol riot, despite using those exact words.

The attorneys made the argument in response to Congressman Eric Swalwell's lawsuit aimed at holding Mr Giuliani, Mr Trump, and other high profile Republicans accountable for inciting the insurrection on 6 January.

In a court filing on Monday, the former mayor wrote that his words were meant to be "hyperbolic," and placed the blame for the violent riot at the feet of pro-Trump extremist groups with which he had no involvement.

"Plaintiff would have the Court believe that what the FBI has been unable to do — tie Defendants to a vast conspiracy to mastermind the attack on the Capitol — Plaintiff will accomplish through this litigation. This is simply too far-fetched and outlandish to pass the plausibility standard of the law," Mr Giuliani's court filing said.

Mr Giuliani was one of the most vocal boosters of Mr Trump's “Big Lie” that the 2020 election was rife with voter fraud, and helped spread unfounded conspiracy theories that voting technology, like Dominion Voting Systems' software, had been manufactured specifically to steal the election for Joe Biden.

Ahead of the Capitol insurrection, Mr Giuliani repeated those conspiracy theories and made the comments that would later make him a target for Mr Swalwell's lawsuit.

"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," he said hours before the riot. "So, let's have trial by combat."

Shortly after making the comments Mr Giuliani said he was referencing Game of Thrones – which he referred to as a documentary despite it featuring magic and dragons – and a scene in which a character invokes trial by combat to settle a dispute.

Mr Swalwell's lawsuit cites a civil rights law that was intended to be used to stop the Ku Klux Klan from intimidating elected officials.

The lawsuit also claims that Mr Trump, his son Donald Trump Jr, Mr Giuliani and Congressman Mo Brooks broke anti-terrorism laws as well as the laws of Washington DC by inciting the riot and aiding and abetting the rioters. It also claims they caused emotional distress to members of Congress.

Mr Swalwell's lawsuit is far from Mr Giuliani's only legal woe; he is facing ramifications from multiple divorces, a $1.3bn defamation lawsuit from Dominion Voting Systems, a lawsuit from Congressman Bennie Thompson alleging he conspired with the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, and a federal investigation into whether or not he pressured Ukrainian government officials into spying on the Biden family in exchange for US military aid.

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