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Trump Appeals Decision Allowing Fani Willis to Stay on His Case

Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Donald Trump and several of his co-defendants in the Georgia election interference case on Friday formally appealed a judge’s recent decision to allow Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis to continue prosecuting the case.

In the 51-page appeal, the defendants argue that Willis should be disqualified from the racketeering case because of her affair with former special prosecutor Nathan Wade. It asked the Georgia Court of Appeals to overturn Judge Scot McAfee’s March 15 decision allowing Willis and her office to remain on the racketeering case if Wade stepped aside.

“DA Willis has covered herself and her office in scandal and disrepute, as she has squandered her credibility and repeatedly and flagrantly violated the heightened ethical standards demanded of her position,” the appeal says. “The trial court’s decision not to disqualify DA Willis under these circumstances is a structural error, a violation of Defendants’ due process rights, and seriously denigrates the public’s confidence in the integrity of the criminal justice system.”

Fani Willis ‘Not Embarrassed’ By Affair That Sidetracked Trump Case

The appeal is the latest legal move in the months-long saga over Willis and Wade’s relationship. Wade and Willis confirmed during an evidentiary hearing last month that they had a relationship from early 2022 until last summer—but the two denied any wrongdoing. The pair also pushed back on defense claims that Willis financially benefited from her relationship with Wade, whom she hired in November 2021.

The Georgia Court of Appeals could still decline to hear the case, which would pave the way for a state Supreme Court appeal. There is currently no set trial date for the criminal case, but CNN reported last week that Willis plans to try it this summer. A DA spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“Defendants argued in the trial court that the indictment should have been dismissed and, at a minimum, DA Willis and her office should have been disqualified from prosecuting the case,” Trump’s Georgia lawyer, Steve Sadow, said in a statement to The Daily Beast. “The Georgia Court of Appeals should grant the application and accept the interlocutory appeal for consideration on the merits.”

On Saturday, Willis told CNN that she is not embarrassed by her exposed affair and maintains that this side show has not delayed her team’s ongoing case against Trump and his co-defendants. “I don’t feel like my reputation needs to be reclaimed,” Willis told CNN at an Easter egg hunt. “Let’s say it for the record, I’m not embarrassed by anything that I’ve done.”

“I guess my greatest crime is that I had a relationship with a man but that’s not something I find embarrassing in any way. I know I have not done anything that’s illegal,” she added.

McAfee said in a March 15 ruling that while Willis and Wade’s relationship had the “significant appearance of impropriety,” there was no evidence of an “actual conflict of interest” brought on by the relationship. “This finding is by no means an indication that the Court condones this tremendous lapse in judgment or the unprofessional manner of the District Attorney’s testimony during the evidentiary hearing,” the judge wrote.

The Friday appeal asked the appellate court to rule on their request ahead of trial, calling McAfee’s decision a “structural error that would not just cause a substantial error at trial” but could later affect a verdict.

“It is neither prudent nor efficient to require the courts, the parties, or taxpayers to run the significant and avoidable risk of having to go through this painful, divisive, and expensive process more than once when an existing structural error can be remedied by this Court now,” the appeal says.

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