Flanked by two attorneys at a desk in a small conference room, Rudy Giuliani sat through a federal bankruptcy court hearing that often felt more like a free-wheeling, wide-ranging interview about his financial affairs than a court’s probe to determine how, exactly, he can dig himself out.
The hearing near Manhattan’s Wall Street on Wednesday was steps away from Cipriani, the venue where the former New York City mayor and one-time attorney for Donald Trump joined the former president and loyalists in December to launch his 2024 campaign.
Less than two months later, Mr Giuliani was on the fifth floor of a bankruptcy court down the street, where he testified for the first time about his strained financial state after filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the wake of a nearly $150m defamation judgment for his election lies.
The hearing combed through dozens of pages of financial statements, including potential impacts from pending lawsuits for defamation and other allegations that could deal more financial blows to the former mayor, whose income includes a “marginally profitable” career as a podcaster and radio personality.
“Hopefully it will be more profitable,” he said.
He told the court that Mr Trump’s presidential campaign and the Republican National Committee owed him roughly $2m for his spurious legal efforts to overturn election results in the aftermath of the 2020 presidential election.
The 79-year-old outlined what he described was an unwritten agreement to support the former president for free, as well as his suspension from practising law and the long list of lawsuits against him that has followed.
The statements came in the middle of a revealing three-hour hearing, which offered one of the most comprehensive looks yet into the state of Mr Giuliani’s finances.
He claimed that he did not pay any home insurance on either of his properties in New York and Florida, did not know that he had any trademarks (he does), spends $726 a month on dry cleaning, pays $800 a month for a storage unit in The Bronx full of nothing of any great value, and does not have a driver’s licence. His drivers are his spokesperson or other livestream co-hosts (who also work for him), or he pays thousands of dollars a year on Uber to get around. Mr Giuliani owes nearly $10,000 for overdrafting his chequing account, which he attributed to a bounced cheque.
The former mayor is strapped for cash and ineligible to draw a pension for his eight-year term. He fell behind in his taxes in 2021 because he “didn’t have enough cash” and made an agreement with the Internal Revenue Service to sell his Manhattan apartment. He risked wiping out his IRA to cover nearly $1m in income taxes from 2021 to 2022, and instead agreed to sell off his Manhattan co-cop that has been on the market for weeks.
“Then of course the bankruptcy intervened,” he said.
But Mr Giuliani, asked at the top of the hearing to explain in his own words why he filed for bankruptcy, pointed to December’s jury verdict that puts him on the hook for tens of millions of dollars.
Jurors in a federal court case in Washington DC determined he owes $148m to a mother-daughter pair of election workers who were subjected to a wave of death threats and abuse after he repeatedly falsely accused them of manipulating the results of the 2020 election.
“I wouldn’t be bankrupt, up until that,” he said.
He claimed he was suspended from practicing law “for no reason,” after disciplinary boards in New York City and Washington determined he spread demonstrably false statements about the 2020 election while fighting results.
Mr Giuliani, who was mayor of New York City from 1994 to 2001, worked for the firms Bracewell and Greenberg Taurig before launching his own law office, in which he was the only attorney. He said Greenberg “asked” him to leave the firm in 2018 following what he described as “major pressure” from the firm’s clients after he joined then-President Trump’s legal team.
He said he offered his “informal” support to Mr Trump on a “pro bono” basis as a “campaign volunteer” among a handful of top legal advisers.
“My major mission was to be with him on almost all of his trips, and sort of act as a funnel for all the information that was coming in,” he said.
According to Mr Giuliani, Mr Trump asked him to “take over” his campaign legal staff in November 2020, as Trump-allied attorneys launched a failed effort to reverse election outcomes in states he lost. “At that point, he had a tremendous number of complaints that there had been fraud in the election,” he said. “He asked me to lead that effort.”
He said his expenses were paid, but he “never got a salary.”
“Once I took over, it was my understanding that I would be paid by the campaign for my legal work and my expenses to be paid,” he said. “When we submitted the invoice for payment, they just paid the expenses. Not all but most. they never paid the legal fees.”
Asked whether he believes he has a possible claim against Mr Trump, he said: “It is my understanding that I would have a complaint, certainly against the campaign and RNC, not against Trump.”
He said he never calculated how much he believes he is owed, but it’s likely $2m.
After he joined Mr Trump’s team, his income dropped enormously, from his “$5-$6m” salary at Greenberg to “probably a million or two” with his own practice,” he said. He had to give up his clients after his law license was suspended. “That was a major financial hit,” he said.
The defamation verdict is among a growing list of legal obligations, including criminal charges in Georgia for his efforts to reverse Mr Trump’s election loss. He also is an unindicted co-conspirator in a federal criminal case surroudning Mr Trump’s attempts to overturn his loss.
He is also being sued by voting technology companies Dominion Voting Systems and Smartmatic for defamation. A former Dominion executive has separately sued Mr Giuliani.
President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden also has sued Mr Giuliani, who described the complaint in court on Wednesday as “all sorts of crazy stuff.”
He also dismissed a lawsuit from Noelle Dunphy alleging sexual harassment as a “completely scandalous frivolous lawsuit that should be dismissed.”
Mr Giuliani has filed several lawsuits of his own, including a defamation complaint against President Biden for using the phrase “Russian pawn” to describe Mr Trump’s former attorney during a presidential debate in 2020, a statement that Mr Giuliani previously claimed has cost him “millions and millions of dollars” from lost clients and consulting business.
His legal battles are supported by two defence funds, including a political action committee run by his son Andrew Giuliani. That fund raised roughly $700,000 at a Trump-hosted fundraiser at his club Bedminster club in New Jersey.
A separate fund run by another Giuliani ally is set up to receive funds from smaller donors, typically in $10 and $20 increments, according to his attorneys. Right-wing network Newsmax also hosted a fundraiser for that fund, they said.
Andrea Schwartz from the Office of the US Trustee, who presided over the hearing, repeatedly reminded Mr Giuliani that all of those attorneys across several jurisdictions must be approved by the court.
“The only reason we’re here today is because mayor Rudy Giuliani has the courage to speak up and take on the permanent Washington political class, and he refuses to be unfairly censored or bullied into silence,” according to a statement from his political adviser Ted Goodman, who attended the hearing and handed out printed copies to the handful of reporters watching the hearing in an adjoining room.
“The American people are waking up to the abhorrent weaponization of our justice system for partisan political gain, and the fact that we are here today is just another example of this great injustice,” he added.
As he left the courthouse on Wednesday, Mr Giuliani said he gave the court “all the information” he could provide and has “nothing to hide”.
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