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Team Trump Case for Disqualifying Fani Willis Is Collapsing

by California Digital News


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Fani Willis and Nathan Wade.
Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Like a soufflé collapsing when it’s overbaked, the effort by Donald Trump’s Atlanta legal team to get Fulton County district attorney Fani Willis and her lead prosecutor, Nathan Wade, disqualified from his racketeering case has lost a lot of altitude and could soon get tossed in the trash altogether. The run-up to the trial of Trump and his confederates was sidetracked in January when Ashleigh Merchant, the attorney for minor Trump crony Michael Roman, made a motion to have Willis and Wade dismissed from the case for allegedly sharing the spoils of Wade’s fees as part of a romantic relationship, which ostensibly explained why Wade was hired despite questionable credentials.

The judge supervising the racketeering case, Scott McAfee, has been conducting a lengthy series of hearings over the motion to disqualify the two top prosecutors. The hearings have featured fiery testimony from Willis claiming Trump’s attorneys are trying to put her, rather than Trump and his friends, on trial. But soon the proceedings got frozen in a lengthy dispute between the two sides over whether testimony from Wade’s former law partner (and attorney in his highly contentious divorce) about the Willis-Wade relationship was precluded by attorney-client privilege. After a private hearing with this attorney, Terrence Bradley, on February 25, Judge McAfee allowed him to be questioned about text messages he had sent to Merchant alleging a long-standing relationship between Willis and Wade, which had helped precipitate this entire dispute. Bradley promptly denied he knew anything about when the two prosecutors began their affair, and dismissed what he had told Merchant in text messages as “speculation.”

McAfee has promised a ruling on the disqualification motion by the end of this week, but about all Team Trump has in reserve are cell-phone records allegedly showing Wade in the vicinity of Willis’s home on many occasions prior to his hiring as lead prosecutor. They’ve already lost access to potentially juicy intel from Wade’s estranged wife when the couple agreed on a divorce settlement last month.

All in all, as the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s Patricia Murphy notes, all Willis’s tormenters really have left is innuendo:

The underlying accusation in all of this is that Wade and Willis lied about the length of their relationship, the same relationship, mind you, that defense attorneys have failed to show is either a conflict of interest for the prosecution or a source of financial enrichment for either Willis or Wade.

The real question now is why any of this is relevant? And more than that, why are defense attorneys, including those for Trump, spending so much time trying to discredit Willis and her team and so little time trying to prove their clients’ innocence of the charges against them?

Even assuming McAfee rejects the disqualification motion, the whole saga has helped Team Trump by delaying the pretrial proceedings and also by damaging Willis’s reputation. Even if she didn’t do anything legally or ethically wrong in hiring Wade or entering into a relationship with him, there remain questions about Wade’s qualifications to serve as lead prosecutor in the most important criminal case held in Atlanta in decades. And her very public dismissal of questions about her handling of the case as motivated by sexism and racism won’t mollify her critics, not all of whom are Trump backers.

In the end, the best way for Fani Willis and Nathan Wade to quell the doubts that have been raised about them is simple: Prosecute the case and win. After the scandalfest we’ve witnessed since the disqualification motion was filed, they may now have the opportunity to do just that.

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