Judge to proceed with hearing to consider motion to disqualify Fani Willis from Trump Georgia election case

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee says he’ll move forward with an evidentiary hearing Thursday to consider a Trump co-defendant’s motion to disqualify Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis and her office from prosecuting the 2020 election interference case in Georgia and to drop all the charges against him.

Michael Roman, a former Republican National Committee staffer, alleged that Willis had an improper relationship with special prosecutor Nathan Wade, paid him more than $650,000 for his work for the D.A.’s office and then benefited financially from the relationship when Wade allegedly took her on cruises and trips. 

Judge Scott McAfee, who is presiding over the Trump election interference case, declined to quash subpoenas for Willis, Wade and other witnesses to testify on Thursday, but it is unclear if they will be made to testify. McAfee said he would defer that ruling until he gets “deeper into the hearing” on Thursday.

Judge McAfee said that the evidentiary hearing must occur because it’s “possible that the facts alleged … could result in disqualification” and “an evidentiary hearing must occur to establish the record on those core allegations.” 

He listed the issues as follows: Whether a relationship existed, whether it was romantic, when it formed, whether it continues and any personal benefit conveyed as a result of the relationship.

But he also said that some of the arguments made by Roman’s attorney are not relevant, like Wade’s alleged lack of experience in handling racketeering cases like the Trump case.

“As long as a lawyer has a heartbeat and a bar card,” that lawyer’s appointment is within the D.A.’s discretion, McAfee said.

Nor has he found violations of Fulton County case law code, which would be relevant to a motion to disqualify a prosecutor for a pending criminal case. 

Anna Cross, an attorney for the Fulton County D.A., sought to quash motions for witness testimony including Willis and Wade, arguing the defense was “not bringing you law,” that it “is bringing you gossip,” and the court shouldn’t condone it. She said that the D.A.’s office in its brief last week argued there’s no basis for dismissing the indictment. And she said that among all the witnesses subpoenaed, there is no one with relevant information. 

In August, a grand jury in Fulton County indicted Trump and more than a dozen of his associates for election fraud, racketeering and other charges related to alleged efforts to overturn the 2020 election. So far, four out of the 19 charged have pleaded guilty, including three lawyers involved in the effort to thwart the election in Georgia. Trump and the rest of the defendants have pleaded not guilty.

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