Judge Says It’s ‘Possible’ DA Fani Willis Could Be Disqualified From Trump Case In Georgia

Judge Scott McAfee will hold a hearing Thursday on allegations of misconduct. The former president is reportedly planning to attend.
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A judge in Georgia said Monday it’s “possible” Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis could be disqualified from the state’s election interference case against former President Donald Trump.

Scott McAfee, a judge on the Fulton County Superior Court, said he would hold an evidentiary hearing Thursday to investigate claims about a romantic relationship between Willis and the top prosecutor on the case, Nathan Wade. Trump and 18 others were indicted last August in a sweeping racketeering case centered on efforts to overturn Georgia’s 2020 presidential election results.

One of those co-defendants, former Trump campaign official Mike Roman, brought forward the claims against Willis in a filing in January. Roman’s attorneys claimed Willis and Wade had engaged in an “improper, clandestine personal relationship” that had tainted the case, calling for them to be disqualified and the charges against Trump dismissed.

Willis and Wade initially resisted addressing the matter but acknowledged the relationship earlier this month. The district attorney, however, rejected assertions that the personal relationship had influenced the case and suggested attacks against her were motivated by her race.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis speaks alongside special prosecutor Nathan Wade at an Aug. 14, 2023, news conference at the Fulton County Government Center in Atlanta.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis speaks alongside special prosecutor Nathan Wade at an Aug. 14, 2023, news conference at the Fulton County Government Center in Atlanta.
John Bazemore/Associated Press

Still, McAfee said he would hear arguments on the matter, which could only undercut public faith in the investigation into an alleged conspiracy to overturn the 2020 presidential vote that involved Trump and the 18 co-defendants who were indicted last August.

“It’s clear that disqualification can occur if evidence is produced demonstrating an actual conflict or the appearance of one,” McAfee said at a proceeding. “I think it’s possible that the facts alleged by the defendant could result in disqualification. I think an evidentiary hearing must occur to establish the record on those core allegations.”

McAfee declined to quash subpoenas for several witnesses to testify on Thursday. But the judge added that he would move to keep the hearing “focused” and would act to protect Willis and Wade from “undue embarrassment.”

“The issues at point here are whether a relationship existed, whether that relationship was romantic or non-romantic in nature, when it formed and whether it continues,” McAfee said Monday. “And that’s only relevant because it’s in combination with the question of the existence and extent of any benefit conveyed as a result of their relationship.”

The Washington Post reported that Trump plans to attend the hearing in Atlanta in what would be his first court appearance linked to the case since the indictment. Any appearance would likely be used politically for and against Trump as he seeks the Republican presidential nomination.

Four of the defendants have already pleaded guilty in the Georgia case.

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