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Rudy Giuliani has stopped denying he made false statements about election workers

JUANA SUMMERS, HOST:

To Georgia now and new developments in one of the many cases related to the 2020 election. One-time Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani is no longer contesting he made false statements about two Georgia election workers. This change comes in a filing in a defamation suit brought against the former New York mayor by the two election workers. It's one of several cases coming to a head this summer involving Giuliani, the former president and his allies. WABE's Sam Gringlas joins me from Atlanta to talk about all of this. Hi, Sam.

SAM GRINGLAS, BYLINE: Hey, Juana.

SUMMERS: So Sam, we'll get back to the latest developments in just a minute. But first, remind me who these two election workers are and what Giuliani was saying about them.

GRINGLAS: Juana, let's go back to December 2020. Trump and his allies were ramping up their campaign to delegitimize the election result. Giuliani, at the time, was one of Trump's lawyers who was taking a leading role in this. And he spread this video supposedly showing Fulton County election workers pulling a suitcase of ballots from under a table in Atlanta.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RUDY GIULIANI: How can they say there's no fraud? Look at that woman. Look at her taking those ballots out. Look at them scurrying around with the ballots - nobody in the room, hiding around. They look like they're passing out dope.

GRINGLAS: Investigators at the time found this claim to be false, but Giuliani and Trump continued to amplify it anyway.

SUMMERS: And I take it, Sam, the people in that video are the two election workers who are now suing Giuliani.

GRINGLAS: Yep, mother-daughter election workers, Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss - they both testified for the January 6 congressional probe last summer.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

RUBY FREEMAN: Do you know how it feels to have the president of the United States to target you? But he targeted me, Lady Ruby, a mother, a proud American citizen who's standing up to help Fulton County run an election in the middle of the pandemic.

GRINGLAS: That is Freeman, who had to flee her home for safety. Moss said she received threats so intense she had to quit her job.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

SHAYE MOSS: Telling me that I'll be in jail with my mother and saying things like, be glad it's 2020 and not 1920.

GRINGLAS: A lawyer for Moss and Freeman said today that Giuliani's statement affirms that the pair honorably performed their civic duties in the 2020 presidential election.

SUMMERS: And Sam, I mean, there's a good deal of legalese in these filings, so I'm hoping you can just cut through some of that for us. How big of a deal is this, really?

GRINGLAS: Well, let's be clear. Giuliani is not saying he knew the statements were false at the time or even expressly saying he believes that they're false now. So while this filing may undercut some of the, you know, persistent conspiracy theories about 2020, he's also still saying his speech is protected by the First Amendment. A Giuliani spokesman told me this filing is just designed to get to the legal issues of the case. Juana, that could allow Giuliani to avoid producing some evidence. A judge says he withheld, like, a text where a Trump adviser asked for examples of election fraud that, quote, "doesn't necessarily have to be proven."

SUMMERS: And, I mean, this is not even the only legal jeopardy that Rudy Giuliani is in right now, correct?

GRINGLAS: Well, we know Giuliani was told last year that he was a target of Fulton County's criminal investigation into efforts by Trump and his allies to overturn Georgia's election result. We also know that he met with Department of Justice special counsel Jack Smith's office, who's investigating the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. Giuliani says he didn't do anything illegal. Still, criminal charges are expected in both cases soon, though we don't know exactly who will be on those indictments.

SUMMERS: That's Sam Gringlas of WABE in Atlanta. Thank you, Sam.

GRINGLAS: Thanks, Juana.

(SOUNDBITE OF BADBADNOTGOOD AND GHOSTFACE KILLAH SONG, "SOUR SOUL") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Sam Gringlas is a journalist at NPR's All Things Considered. In 2020, he helped cover the presidential election with NPR's Washington Desk and has also reported for NPR's business desk covering the workforce. He's produced and reported with NPR from across the country, as well as China and Mexico, covering topics like politics, trade, the environment, immigration and breaking news. He started as an intern at All Things Considered after graduating with a public policy degree from the University of Michigan, where he was the managing news editor at The Michigan Daily. He's a native Michigander.