Judge: Fani Willis disqualification from Trump case ‘possible,’ hearing ‘must occur’

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, who is leading the election interference prosecution against former President Donald Trump in Georgia, could be disqualified from the case, according to a judge.

Judge Scott McAfee said during a hearing on Monday that he made that determination after his initial review of allegations that Willis had a conflict of interest in the case. The revelations first surfaced in a court motion filed last month by one of Trump’s co-defendants, Mike Roman.

The hearing was intended to examine requests from Willis that McAfee quash a future hearing on the substance of the allegations, as well as quash subpoenas Roman issued to her and eight others.

“Because 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 said.

Roman had alleged through his attorney that Willis was involved in a romantic relationship with one of the three special prosecutors she had hired to help with the Trump case. Willis has been paying the prosecutors, who are private sector lawyers, high-dollar hourly rates to work on the case. Roman alleged that Willis was financially benefiting from her personal relationship with one of them, Nathan Wade, by vacationing with him, dining with him, and otherwise spending time with him.

The hearing to assess disqualification is scheduled for Thursday, and while that appeared certain to occur based on McAfee’s remarks on Monday, the status of the subpoenas of various witnesses for the hearing remained open more than an hour into the hearing.

McAfee said the hearing would be necessary to establish whether a relationship between Willis and Wade exists, whether it has been romantic in nature, when it formed, and if it will continue.

The judge said those questions must be reviewed in the context of whether Willis has personally benefited as a result of the relationship with Wade, which could present an insurmountable conflict of interest for her.

Willis has admitted to having a “personal relationship” with Wade but has argued it has had no impact on the case.

McAfee also warned that he planned to narrow the scope of the hearing to exclude discussions about Wade’s experience level. Roman’s attorney had argued that Wade, a longtime defense attorney, was severely limited in prosecutorial experience compared to others in the case, a detail Roman said showed Willis was wrongly using public funds to hire and pay him.

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Anna Cross, a prosecutor who appeared on behalf of Willis on Monday, argued that Roman’s allegations were not based in fact.

“The defense is not bringing you facts. The defense is not bringing you law,” Cross said. “The defense is bringing you gossip, and the state cannot — and the court should not — condone that practice.”

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