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Trump Gets Good News After Judge Rules in Fani Willis Disqualification Case

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OPINION: This article may contain commentary which reflects the author's opinion.


A Georgia judge has decided that Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis must either fire special prosecutor Nathan Wade or withdraw from the case against former President Donald Trump.

Following the presentation of evidence by the attorneys representing the co-defendants in the far-reaching 2020 election interference case, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee rendered the decision.

Willis hired Nathan Wade to assist in the prosecution of the case, but four co-defendants claimed that she had an “improper” relationship with Wade.

The co-defendants claimed that Wade’s hiring by Willis was financially advantageous for him because, at the time of Wade’s hiring in 2021, they were already dating and would go on vacation together.

Before Willis’s employment, Wade and Willis denied being in a romantic relationship. The pair said they would divide the expenses of their joint travels, with Willis paying Wade back in cash for her portion of the trips.

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MSNBC ran a breaking news segment on the ruling, with Lisa Rubin breaking down how bad this is for Willis and her team:

We have a decision from Judge Scott McAfee of the Fulton County Superior Court. In a 23-page decision this morning, he finds that there is not an actual conflict of interest that was proven by the defendants here, but he also finds that there is significant appearance of impropriety that infects the entire current structure of the prosecution team.

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Therefore, he gives Fani Willis a choice. She can either choose to remove herself and her entire office from the prosecution of this case, or she can determine that Nathan Wade, the special assistant district attorney, who has been helming the leadership of this case, can himself be removed from the case, which would allow her and the remainder of the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office to go forward. Mika, that’s a victory for Fani Willis here.

But that having been said, despite the fact that she has been given an easy choice here, notwithstanding that, there is plenty here for the Trump folks to exploit. In particular, he finds that there was a failure to be as completely honest with the tribunal as these folks should have been. The quote that is really sticking in my mind right now is when he talks about the testimony of Nathan Wade and Fani Willis.

He basically says that, ‘They did not put concerns raised by the defendants to rest, that while the defendants did not prove that there was an actual conflict of interest and meet their burden of proof, an odor of mendacity remains.’ That’s a direct quote from page 16 of this opinion. And he says he’s not an under obligation — again, I’m quoting to you — ‘to ferret out every instance of potential dishonesty from each witness or defendants that were presented in open court, but reasonable questions about whether the district attorney and her hand-selected lead special assistant district attorney testified untruthfully about the timing of their relationship, further underpinned the finding of an appearance of impropriety and the need to make proportional efforts to cure it.

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At the end of his decision, Mika, he’s essentially saying, look, disqualification isn’t necessary here, were there is a less drastic and sufficiently remedial solution available. That’s when he gives Fani Willis the choice. You can either remove yourself and your office, or you can say, as one of our colleagues said to me informally today, ‘Boy, bye, you’re gone, Nathan Wade. We will continue to prosecute this case.’

I just want to zoom out for a second, Mika, and also make one other point to you and our viewers.

Notwithstanding the fact that Fani Willis gets to remain on this case, the Trump team and the co-defendants really succeeded here in one other key respect.

You know that the modus operandi of the Trump legal world is ‘delay, delay, delay.’ This motion was made by Ashley Merchant, who’s the lawyer for Mike Roman, he was the director of operations for Election Day for the Trump campaign. She made that motion on January 8th, 2024. We are now at March 15th.

It took us more than two months to complete all of the briefing and evidentiary hearings and closing arguments and now the decision on this. In the meantime, nothing else on this case moved forward.

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