Giuliani does not deny that he made false statements about election workers in Georgia

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Rudy Giuliani, who served as a lawyer for former President Donald Trump, is no longer denying on legal grounds that he made false and defamatory statements about two former Georgia election officials — but is arguing in a new lawsuit that they were false claims The election fraud in the 2020 presidential election was constitutionally protected speech and did not harm employees.

The lawsuit, filed 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, Georgia, during the November 2020 election.

On June 21, Georgia poll worker Shaye Moss recalled her struggle after being targeted by President Donald Trump and his lawyer Rudy Giuliani. (Video: The Washington Post)

In a defamation lawsuit filed in late 2021, the couple alleged that they had become the focus of unfounded conspiracy theories spread by Giuliani and employees of the right-wing news organization One America News. Giuliani has denied the claims. OAN agreed to an undisclosed sum with Freeman and Moss last year.

In Giuliani's latest filing, the former New York mayor states that he made statements that “have an inherently defamatory meaning.” He also noted in the two-page statement that some of his statements were “false,” as election officials claimed.

However, his lawyer emphasized that Giuliani was not admitting to the plaintiffs' allegations, but rather was trying to speed up the process through a legal maneuver.

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In the filing, Giuliani says his terms have no bearing on his arguments, that “his statements are constitutionally protected statements or opinions” and that his conduct caused “no harm” to the plaintiffs.

In a separate filing, Giuliani attorney Joseph D. Sibley IV says Giuliani “does not admit plaintiffs' allegations” and that his ruling would ignore the need for further discovery in the case.

Sanctions were imposed on Giuliani this month for failing to search for and release documents in a timely manner. The order from the federal judge overseeing the case came after lawyers for Freeman and Moss accused Giuliani of failing to meet “basic” obligations to release records and refusing to provide details about his efforts to collect documents and to keep, to name.

The Tuesday filing signed by Giuliani said he was making the provisions “to avoid unnecessary costs in waging what he believes are unnecessary disputes.”

Ted Goodman, an adviser to the former mayor, repeated Giuliani and Sibley's statements in their filings Tuesday.

“Rudy Giuliani did not acknowledge that the statements were false, but did not dispute them in order to proceed to the portion of the case that allows for a motion to dismiss,” Goodman said. “This is a legal matter, not a factual matter. … This provision is intended to clarify the legal issues in the case.”

The filing Tuesday also said the provisions were limited to the Georgia case — an apparent attempt to limit the legal burden elsewhere, including in the investigation led by special counsel Jack Smith.

Michael J. Gottlieb, an attorney for Freeman and Moss, said Wednesday that his clients were “pleased” with Giuliani's concession.

“Giuliani's determination confirms what we have always known to be true: Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss discharged their civic duties in the 2020 presidential election honorably and in full accordance with the law; and the election fraud allegations he and former President Trump made against them were false from day one,” Gottlieb said in a statement. “While certain issues, including damages, remain to be determined by the court, our clients are pleased with this important milestone in their fight for justice and look forward to presenting the remainder of this case in court.”

In their lawsuit, Freeman and Moss said they became “objects of malice, threats and harassment” because of the “malicious lies” spread by Giuliani and OAN. Among their claims, Giuliani repeatedly claimed that misleading security footage of Moss and Freeman was evidence that ballots were intentionally mishandled.

The lawsuit also alleges that Giuliani made his claims of election manipulation long after Georgia election officials issued statements debunking them.

Giuliani's behavior in Georgia was part of a much broader effort to overturn the 2020 election results in favor of Trump, who continues to falsely claim the election was rigged. Among other consequences for Giuliani, a D.C. appeals court panel that monitors the conduct of lawyers has recommended that he be expelled for “unprecedented” attempts to overturn the 2020 election results.

Anthony Michael Kreis, a constitutional law professor at Georgia State University College of Law, said the language in Giuliani's filing was “confusing.”

“You admit that the information is not true. But [they] “I completely reject the idea that he is actually a liar, at least for now,” Kreis said. “They are trying to maintain the question of guilt while at the same time admitting untruth. It is strange. I think it’s partly a PR tactic.”

It was unclear, he added, whether this filing would have legal significance in other investigations related to the 2020 election, such as one led by Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis in the effort to overturn Trump's defeat in Georgia and another under the supervision of special counsel Jack Smith in Trump's efforts to overturn the election results.

Giuliani's nudes “may be an important tool or part of the narrative that Fani Willis or Jack Smith might present,” Kreis said. “I think it's very difficult to say exactly how this provision will play out in the longer term, but it is exponentially more restrictive than not. And if you are a defendant, whether in a civil or criminal case, it is not good to restrict yourself more.”

Michael Scherer contributed to this report.