Trump appeals ruling keeping Fani Willis on Georgia case

Former President Trump urged a state appeals court to review a judge’s decision allowing Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis (D) to remain on Trump’s Georgia 2020 election racketeering case.

Judge Scott McAfee earlier this month ruled Willis’s once-romantic relationship with special prosecutor Nathan Wade created an appearance of a conflict but allowed the district attorney to move ahead with her prosecution once Wade resigned.

On Friday, Trump and eight of his co-defendants filed an application with the Georgia Court of Appeals urging it to take up the case, insisting Willis has a personal stake in the case and must step aside. The move was expected after McAfee handed down a decision enabling the defense to attempt to appeal his ruling before trial.

“While the trial court factually found DA Willis’s out-of-court statements were improper and Defendants proved an apparent conflict of interest, the trial court erred as a matter of law by not requiring dismissal and DA Willis’ disqualification,” the application reads. “This legal error requires the Court’s immediate review.”

The court’s rules gives the district attorney’s office 10 days to respond to the application.

Willis charged Trump and more than a dozen of his allies last summer with racketeering and other charges over accusations they entered an unlawful conspiracy to overturn President Biden’s 2020 victory in Georgia. Trump pleaded not guilty, as he did to his three other criminal indictments.

No trial date has been set in the Georgia case as Trump seeks to delay it beyond the 2024 election, but the revelation of the romance between Willis and Wade created a weeks-long detour where both took the witness stand to deny wrongdoing at a series of hearings.

The prosecutors testified that they began dating in early 2022, but defense attorneys contend the relationship began years earlier — before Willis hired Wade to prosecute Trump.

Former President Trump speaks to the media.
Former President Trump speaks to the media.

Former President Trump speaks to the media on March 25, 2024, in New York City. (Spencer Platt, Getty Images)

Two witnesses testified that the pair’s romance started after a 2019 judicial conference they both attended. Willis and Wade said they did meet at the conference but established a mentor-like relationship, not a romantic one.

McAfee only found evidence of an apparent conflict of interest following the blockbuster hearings, but Trump and his co-defendants said the judge’s factual findings make clear the romance amounts to more.

“If this law means anything, the trial court’s actual findings here establish an actual conflict,” the application reads.

The defense has also taken issue with several statements Willis has made outside the courtroom, including the implication that their motion to disqualify her and Wade was racially motivated.

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After Willis suggested during a church speech that the criticism Wade faced stemmed from being the only Black special prosecutor she hired, Trump attorney Steve Sadow accused her of attempting to “foment racial animus” against Trump and his co-defendants to take focus off her alleged affair.

More recently, Willis told CNN that the “train is coming” for Trump and his co-defendants, drawing more criticism from the defense.

“Apparently Judge McAfee’s warning to Willis in his disqualification order about talking about the case in a public forum is simply being ignored,” Sadow wrote on X, formerly Twitter. “Does that surprise anyone??”

In a statement, Sadow urged the Georgia Court of Appeals to grant Trump and his co-defendants’ application after making their case to 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.”

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