Trump files appeal notice to disqualify Fani Willis from Georgia case 

National News

By Jack Phillips 
Contributing Writer 

Former President Donald Trump on Thursday notified a Georgia court that he will appeal a judge’s decision in March that allowed Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis to remain on a sprawling election-related case against him. 

In court papers filed with the Fulton County Superior Court, the former president said he will appeal Judge Scott McAfee’s ruling that stipulated Willis could remain in the case if her former special prosecutor steps down, which he did. That ruling was issued after Trump co-defendant Michael Roman January accused Willis and former special prosecutor Nathan Wade of being in a clandestine relationship that the two later confirmed. 

“Further, the clerk is directed to specifically include the pretrial hearing transcripts and exhibits, admitted or made part of the record, from the court proceedings” that were held on Willis’ disqualification, the former president’s attorneys wrote on Thursday. 

Earlier this month, the Georgia Court of Appeals ruled that Trump and other co-defendants can appeal McAfee’s earlier ruling. 

McAfee ultimately ruled that Trump, Roman, and other co-defendants “failed to meet their burden” in proving that the Willis-Wade relationship amounted to a “conflict of interest” or that Willis financially benefitted from it. His order noted that an “odor of mendacity” persists and that their office romance created a “significant appearance of impropriety.” 

After he said that either Willis or Wade would need to step down, Wade tendered his resignation in a letter submitted hours later. 

Several of the Trump co-defendants, meanwhile, have filed notices that they would appeal McAfee’s decision. They include Roman and Georgia Republican Party chief David Shafer. 

The appeals to the Georgia Appeals Court are likely to delay the Willis case, although Willis previously said in a public statement that the case will be moving forward after she survived the earlier disqualification effort. 

In his March order, McAfee said he planned to continue to address other pretrial motions “regardless of whether the petition is granted … and even if any subsequent appeal is expedited by the appellate court.” But the former president and the others could ask the Court of Appeals to stay the case while the appeal is pending. 

“As the case moves forward, reasonable members of the public could easily be left to wonder whether the financial exchanges have continued resulting in some form of benefit to the district attorney, or even whether the romantic relationship has resumed,” the judge wrote. 

He added: “Put differently, an outsider could reasonably think that the district attorney is not exercising her independent professional judgment totally free of any compromising influences. As long as Wade remains on the case, this unnecessary perception will persist.” 

Trump and 18 others were indicted in August, accused of participating in a wide-ranging scheme to illegally try to overturn the 2020 presidential election results in Georgia. He and most of the other defendants have pleaded not guilty. 

All of the defendants were charged with violating Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations, or RICO, law, an expansive anti-racketeering statute. Four of the defendants agreed to plead guilty last year. 

Trump and other defendants had argued in their appeal application that the judge was wrong not to remove Willis, writing that “providing DA Willis with the option to simply remove Wade confounds logic and is contrary to Georgia law.” 

In court testimony earlier this year, Willis and Wade acknowledged the relationship but said they didn’t begin dating until the spring of 2022, after Wade was hired in November 2021, and their romance ended last summer. They also testified that they split travel costs roughly evenly, with the district attorney often paying expenses or reimbursing Wade in cash. However, neither provided any evidence that she paid him back using cash. 

Earlier this month, Wade gave an interview with ABC News in an exclusive and claimed that their relationship was normal and “American as apple pie.” 

When he was asked about whether he regretted it, he responded, “I regret that that private matter became the focal point of this very important prosecution,” adding, “This is a very important case.” 

The Fulton County District Attorney’s office had not responded to a request for comment as of the publication of this story. 

Meanwhile, during a recent police event in Fulton County, Willis said that she received threats and disputed claims that “I’m making up all these threats,” which she described as “ridiculous.” 

No trial date in the case has been set. Legal analysts have said that it appears unlikely that any of the remaining Trump cases — other than his current, ongoing trial in Manhattan — will reach the trial phase before the November election. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.  

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