Home » Fani Willis can stay on Donald Trump’s election interference case, judge rules

Fani Willis can stay on Donald Trump’s election interference case, judge rules

by John Jefferson
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Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis will be allowed to continue to criminally prosecute Donald Trump and more than a dozen co-defendants who are accused of mounting a “criminal enterprise” to unlawfully overturn Georgia’s election results in 2020.

The judge overseeing that case has rejected efforts from Mr Trump and his allies to disqualify the district attorney following allegations of misconduct with a prosecutor she hired to lead the case.

In his 23-page decision on Friday, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee wrote the defendants “failed to meet their burden” in proving a “conflict of interest” that would require her removal, but he noted that any appearance of “impropriety” could necessitate Ms Willis or prosecutor Nathan Wade from withdrawing for the case to move forward.

Ms Willis may “choose to step aside, along with the whole of her office,” or Mr Wade can withdraw, which would allow the parties in the case “and the public” to “move forward without his presence or remuneration distracting from” the proceedings, according to Judge McAfee’s order.

“As long as Wade res on the case, this unnecessary perception will persist,” he wrote.

Attorneys for Mr Trump and his co-defendants accused Ms Willis of financially benefiting from the case against the former president by hiring a lead prosecutor with whom she was romantically involved.

Mr Wade and Ms Willis have acknowledged their prior relationship, but they have repeatedly testified that they started dating after he was hired, split their expenses, and that the relationship ended last summer before an indictment.

Lawyers representing the district attorney argued that the case rested on the attempts from Mr Trump and his allies to publicly “impugn” and smear the prosecutor as political payback, and that the testimony and documents presented to the court showed “no evidence that the district attorney has financially benefited at all.”

The allegations against Ms Willis relied on salacious rumours, gossip and innuendo designed to “embarrass and harass” the her, all while indefinitely decaying the criminal case against Mr Trump and his allies, lawyers for Ms Willis argued.

In three days of hearings over two weeks, Judge McAfee heard intimate details of Ms Willis’s personal life – including testimony from the district attorney herself, as well as from Mr Wade and her father – while “star” witnesses for the defence failed to wring out damning details about them.

“You’re confused,” Ms Willis told defence attorney Ashleigh Merchant, who brought forward allegations against Ms Willis and Mr Wade on behalf of her client Mike Roman, a Trump campaign aide in Georgia.

“You think I’m on trial. These people are on trial for trying to steal an election in 2020,” she said. “I’m not on trial. No matter how hard you try to put me on trial.”

The judge’s decision comes after he dismissed several charges against Mr Trump and five of his co-defendants that stemmed from their alleged pressure campaign to solicit state officials to violate their oaths of office and subvert Georgia’s election results to overturn his 2020 presidential election loss.

Judge McAfee, however, did not toss out the central racketeering charge facing all the defendants, nor did he dismiss the “overt acts” that support their alleged scheme to pressure Georgia lawmakers and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.

Ms Willis can re-open an indictment against them. She also can appeal the judge’s decision.

The former president and more than a dozen co-defendants are accused of mounting a statewide effort to reverse his election loss, including a so-called “fake elector” scheme to falsely assert his victory in a state he lost to Joe Biden, seizing voting machines, intimidating election workers, and pushing the state’s top elections official to “find” votes he would need to win.

Four of Mr Trump’s original co-defendants in the Fulton County case – including attorneys Kenneth Chesebro, Jenna Ellis and Sidney Powell – pleaded guilty last year after reaching plea deals with prosecutors.

This is a developing story

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