Fulton County DA Fani Willis must step aside or remove special prosecutor in Trump case, judge says


ATLANTA (AP) — The judge in the Georgia election interference case against Donald Trump and others said Friday that Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis must step aside from Trump case or remove the special prosecutor with whom she had a romantic relationship before case can proceed.

Willis and special prosecutor Nathan Wade testified at a hearing last month that they had engaged in a romantic relationship, but they rejected the idea that Willis improperly benefited from it as lawyers for Trump and some of his co-defendants alleged.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee said he found the “allegations and evidence legally insufficient to support a finding of an actual conflict of interest.” However, he found there remains an “appearance of impropriety.”

“Even if the romantic relationship began after SADA Wade’s initial contract in November 2021, the District Attorney chose to continue supervising and paying Wade while maintaining such a relationship. She further allowed the regular and loose exchange of money between them without any exact or verifiable measure of reconciliation,” the judge wrote.

An attorney for co-defendant Michael Roman asked McAfee to dismiss the indictment and prevent Willis and Wade and their offices from continuing to prosecute the case. The attorney, Ashleigh Merchant, alleged that Willis paid Wade large sums for his work and then improperly benefited from the prosecution of the case when Wade used his earnings to pay for vacations for the two of them.

Willis had insisted that the relationship created no financial or personal conflict of interest that justified removing her office from the case. She and Wade both testified that their relationship began in the spring of 2022 and ended in the summer of 2023. They both said that Willis either paid for things herself or used cash to reimburse Wade for travel expenses.

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