Key Fannie Willis trial could end Georgia case against Trump

Donald J. The three-year Georgia investigation into election interference by Trump and his allies faces a major hurdle in a hearing Thursday, when a judge begins weighing whether the attorney general and his office should be disqualified from the case.

The trial will examine the romantic relationship between two prominent prosecutors — Fulton County District Attorney Fannie D. Willis and his appointee to prosecute the case, Nathan J. Wade. The defense argues that their relationship created an unacceptable conflict of interest.

Mrs. Willis, Mr. Wade and others are slated to testify at the trial, which includes half a dozen lawyers and others who work for the district attorney's office and Mr. Wade's former divorce attorney included. Ms. Willis's office has indicated that prosecutors may call her father, who lives with her in Atlanta, as a witness.

Mr. Trump and 18 other defendants were indicted last August on fraud and other charges in connection with a conspiracy to tamper with the results of presidential elections in several swing states. Four of the accused have already pleaded guilty.

Revelations about the affair between Ms. Willis and Mr. Wade emerged in a legal filing last month from former Trump campaign official Michael Roman, one of the defendants in the Georgia election case.

Mr. The argument presented by attorneys on behalf of Roman and the other defendants hinges on the assertion of a financial conflict. Mr. Wade has been paid more than $650,000 since being hired in 2021, during which time he spent the money on vacations he took with Ms. Willis.

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District Attorney's Office Mr. The money paid to Wade was used by Mrs. to prolong the case. Defense attorneys argue that Willis was motivated and that the situation violated several laws and the Georgia Bar's rules of professional conduct.

Ms. Willis, who admitted to the affair in a filing last week, said it was Mr. Wade said it started after he was hired and had nothing to do with the case or his ability to lead it. Expenses for personal travel of the couple to himself and Mr. He said it was “split roughly evenly” between him and Wade, so the trip didn't represent a financial conflict.

“The defense didn't bring you the facts,” Anna Gross, an attorney with the district attorney's legal team, said at Monday's hearing. “Security doesn't bring you the law. Security brings you rumours, and the government cannot, nor should the courts, condone that practice.

However, the presiding judge, Scott McAfee of Fulton County Superior Court, believed there was sufficient cause to hold an evidentiary hearing to examine the circumstances. He refused to quash subpoenas to compel witness testimony.

“It is clear that disqualification can occur if evidence is presented demonstrating an actual conflict or the appearance of one,” the judge said at a hearing Monday afternoon.

He added, “As I think the facts alleged by the defendant lead to disqualification, I think an evidentiary hearing should be conducted to establish a record of those substantive allegations.”

The stakes are substantial. Even if the circumstances do not change any of the basic facts of the case, the disqualification will put the case in limbo.

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There is already precedent for what constitutes disqualification. In July 2022, a judge disqualified Ms. Willis and her office from filing a criminal case against Burt Jones, who is now Georgia's lieutenant governor, because M.

The substitute counsel was not named. However, an important difference is that Mr. Trump and his co-defendants have already been indicted by a grand jury; Mr. The Jones case did not reach that point.

The evidentiary hearing is expected to last at least until Friday; Even the lawyers involved are not clear whether it will take much longer to complete.

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