Amid Donald Trump’s desperate bid to subvert the 2020 election, a top adviser, Boris Epshteyn, sent out an “urgent POTUS request” to a small group of allies.
“Need best examples of ‘election fraud’ that we’ve alleged that’s super easy to explain,” he wrote in a Dec. 7, 2020 text message. “Doesn’t necessarily have to be proven but does need to be easy to understand.”
In response, Rudy Giuliani — Trump’s lawyer who was leading the drive to amplify baseless allegations of election fraud — suggested he tell Trump about security camera footage of two Atlanta poll workers, Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, moving thousands of ballots around.
“It will live in history as the theft of a state,” Giuliani wrote.
Freeman and Moss — now in the midst of a long-running defamation lawsuit against Giuliani — say in new court filings that Giuliani failed to turn over evidence of this exchange despite multiple court orders to preserve and turn over his communications. They’re asking the judge in the case, U.S. District Court Judge Beryl Howell, to impose “severe” sanctions on Giuliani for what they say is a repeated, prolonged and calculated effort to defy their court-backed demands for evidence.
They want Howell to essentially grant them a total victory in their defamation suit — a “default judgment” in their favor — as a result of Giuliani’s handling of the evidence, as well as attorneys fees. If she doesn’t, they are also asking Howell to instead order Giuliani to provide his devices to them so they can be directly searched.
Freeman and Moss have been the target of relentless attacks since late 2020, when Giuliani — and eventually Trump — cited them, sometimes by name, as examples of election fraud. Though Georgia election officials repeatedly debunked claims that either of them mishandled ballots, Trump and Giuliani promoted video making the false claims, part of efforts to whip up a frenzy about Joe Biden’s narrow Georgia victory. Local prosecutors in Fulton County, Ga. have scrutinized Trump and Giuliani’s handling of the matter as they consider bringing charges against Trump and others for their efforts to subvert the outcome.
Moss and Freeman’s lawsuit has helped unearth snippets of new evidence that could become part of that effort — but they say little of it came from Giuliani himself. Their attorneys say they received evidence from other witnesses — like Trump ally Christina Bobb — of communications like the exchange with Epshteyn that Giuliani himself never provided. Bobb also shared an exchange indicating that Giuliani sent the same video of Moss and Freeman to Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers, who was similarly under pressure from Trump and Giuliani to help reverse the election results.
“He failed to take any steps to preserve relevant electronic evidence,” the attorneys say, describing a months-long odyssey that featured shifting explanations from Giuliani for his inability to identify and produce relevant information. He has repeatedly cited the Justice Department’s seizure of his devices — which he claims came back “wiped” — as well as difficulty accessing his iCloud account as primary reasons.
For Giuliani, it’s the latest in a string of legal setbacks, including a recommendation by a D.C. bar disciplinary panel to seek his disbarment for what they described as a grave effort to undermine American democracy.
A settlement appeared to be at hand just days earlier, when both Giuliani and the plaintiffs’ lawyers asked Howell for a week to finalize details. But Freeman and Moss now assert that Giuliani did not agree to terms negotiated by his lawyer, resulting in the collapse of the talks.
In the meantime, Freeman and Moss say other witnesses have produced missing information that Giuliani should have disclosed. Some came from the files of the Jan. 6 select committee, which showed Giuliani taking a role in approving statements and ads that referenced the Georgia video.
Still more evidence remains unavailable, the attorneys say. One witness subpoenaed by Moss and Freeman — Katherine Friess, who assisted Giuliani in efforts following the 2020 election — has simply “vanished,” they say. Efforts to serve the subpoena on her, even through “alternative” means approved by Howell, have been unsuccessful. They say they’ve still received no meaningful evidence related to Giuliani’s “communications plan,” which featured the Moss and Freeman video as key evidence Trump’s team should highlight to pressure states to reverse the election
Moss and Freeman say they’ve established that Giuliani learned of the video ahead of a Dec. 3, 2020 hearing by Georgia Republicans, raised to his attention by Georgia lawyer Ray Smith. Within days, Trump allies were publicly pushing the video as proof of fraud.
Giuliani was deeply engaged in efforts to promote the video, they say — and Trump, for years since his defeat, has continued to point to the video as evidence despite repeated investigations and widespread evidence debunking the claims.
Giuliani’s lawyer, as well as a spokesperson for Giuliani, were not immediately available for comment.