Will Fani Willis Be Removed From Trump Election Case? Judge To Hear Arguments

ATLANTA (AP) — Should District Attorney Fani Willis be removed from the Georgia election interference case against former President Donald Trump because of her personal relationship with a special prosecutor?

Lawyers were set to battle over the question during a hearing in Atlanta on Thursday.

Willis, the DA for Georgia’s Fulton County, hired outside lawyer Nathan Wade to help investigate whether Trump and his allies committed any crimes while trying to overturn his 2020 election loss in the state. Wade has led the team prosecuting the case since an indictment was returned in August.

Willis’ removal would be a stunning development in the most sprawling of the four criminal cases against Trump. An additional delay would likely lessen the chance that a trial would be held before the November election, when he is expected to be the Republican nominee for president. At a separate hearing in New York on Thursday, a judge is expected to confirm whether Trump’s hush-money criminal case will go to trial next month, as scheduled.

Willis, the DA for Georgia's Fulton County, hired outside lawyer Nathan Wade to help investigate whether Trump and his allies committed any crimes while trying to overturn his 2020 election loss in the state. Wade has led the team prosecuting the case since an indictment was returned in August.
Willis, the DA for Georgia’s Fulton County, hired outside lawyer Nathan Wade to help investigate whether Trump and his allies committed any crimes while trying to overturn his 2020 election loss in the state. Wade has led the team prosecuting the case since an indictment was returned in August.

The Georgia hearing, which will be broadcast live, has the potential to dig into uncomfortable details of Willis and Wade’s relationship.

Throughout the case, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee has made a serious effort to minimize drama in his courtroom and to keep lawyers focused on legal arguments.

He suggested during a hearing Monday that he would continue that trend, saying if there’s anything that amounts to “harassment or undue embarrassment,” he is “not going to feel inhibited from stepping in, even without an objection from counsel, to move this along and keep it focused on the issues at hand.”

Since the allegations of an inappropriate relationship surfaced last month in a motion filed by Trump co-defendant Michael Roman, the former president has used them to try to cast doubt on the legitimacy of Willis’ case. Other Republicans have cited them in calling for investigations into Willis, a Democrat who’s up for reelection this year.

Roman, a former Trump campaign staffer and onetime White House aide, alleged that Willis and Wade had been involved in an improper romantic relationship that began before Wade was hired. The motion says Willis paid Wade large sums for his work and then benefited personally when he paid for vacations for the two of them, creating a conflict of interest.

Roman, who has since been joined by Trump and several other co-defendants, is asking McAfee to toss out the indictment and to prevent Willis, Wade and their offices from continuing to be involved in the case.

Earlier this month, Willis and Wade filed a response acknowledging a “personal relationship” but said it has not resulted in any direct or indirect financial benefit to the district attorney. In a sworn statement attached to the filing, Wade said the relationship began in 2022, after he was hired as special prosecutor, and that he and Willis shared travel expenses and never lived together.

Willis argued she has no financial or personal conflict of interest that justifies removing her or her office from the case. Her filing called the allegations “salacious” and said they were designed to generate headlines.

McAfee said during a hearing Monday that Willis could be disqualified “if evidence is produced demonstrating an actual conflict or the appearance of one.”

He said the issues he wants to explore at the hearing are “whether a relationship existed, whether that relationship was romantic or nonromantic in nature, when it formed and whether it continues.” Those questions are only relevant, he said, “in combination with the question of the existence and extent of any personal benefit conveyed as a result of the relationship.”

Roman’s lawyer, Ashleigh Merchant, has subpoenaed Willis, Wade, seven other employees of the district attorney’s office and others, including Wade’s former business partner, Terrence Bradley. Merchant has said Bradley will testify that Willis and Wade’s relationship began prior to his hiring as special prosecutor.

McAfee on Monday declined Willis’ request to quash those subpoenas, but agreed to revisit that after Bradley testifies.


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