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Trump Joins Motion to Disqualify Prosecutor in Georgia Election Case | World News – Times of India


ATLANTA: Lawyers for former President Donald Trump on Thursday joined an effort to disqualify Fani Willis from leading the election interference case against Trump in Georgia, on the grounds that she created a conflict of interest by hiring her romantic partner to help prosecute the case.
Trump’s lawyers also raised a new argument for ousting Willis, the Fulton County district attorney: that she violated state bar rules when she claimed in a recent speech that racism was behind the effort to remove her.
The relationship claim surfaced Jan. 8 in a filing from Michael Roman, one of Trump’s co-defendants in the Georgia case. Six days later, Willis, who is Black, gave a speech at a church in Atlanta in which she suggested that her critics were “playing the race card” by criticizing her hiring of the special prosecutor, Nathan Wade, who is also Black.
Willis has neither confirmed nor denied a relationship with Wade, though she has been ordered to provide a written response to Roman’s motion by next week.
The filing Thursday from Trump’s lawyers called Willis’ comments “a glaring, flagrant and calculated effort to foment racial bias into this case by publicly denouncing the defendants for somehow daring to question her decision to hire a Black man.”
Willis’ statement, the lawyers wrote, violated a section of the state bar’s rules of conduct for Georgia prosecutors that instructs them to “refrain from making extrajudicial comments that have a substantial likelihood of heightening public condemnation of the accused.”
The statement could prejudice “prospective jurors in Fulton County,” the lawyers wrote in their filing.
(Trump has in the past accused Willis of being a “racist” prosecutor and has said the same of other Black prosecutors trying cases against him.)
The lawyers asked the judge overseeing the Georgia case, Scott McAfee of Fulton County Superior Court, to dismiss the indictment and disqualify Willis. Any special prosecutors hired for the case should also be disqualified, they said, as well as Willis’ entire office.
Anthony Michael Kreis, a law professor at Georgia State University, said that the Trump lawyers’ new argument was unlikely to succeed, given the “vague” language that Willis used in her speech, which did not mention the defendants. “It’s a motion for the court of public opinion, not Judge McAfee,” he said.
Thursday’s filing is the latest effort to capitalize on the accusations in Roman’s motion seeking to disqualify Willis. In that Jan. 8 motion, Roman argued that Wade was unqualified for the job and claimed that he used some of his salary from the district attorney’s office to take Willis on vacations.
The motion also argues that both Wade and Willis “have acquired a personal interest and stake in Mr. Roman’s conviction, thus depriving Mr. Roman of his right to a fundamentally fair trial.”
Last week, a divorce lawyer for Wade’s estranged wife produced credit card transactions showing that Wade bought airline tickets for himself and Willis in the last two years for trips to Miami and San Francisco.
The conflict-of-interest accusations have cast a shadow over the Georgia case, though they do not change its underlying facts. Last August, a grand jury brought racketeering indictments against Trump and 18 others over their roles in a plot to overturn the state’s 2020 election results.
Four of the defendants have already pleaded guilty. Georgia is now one of a half-dozen swing states that either have charged or are investigating fake electors who were deployed in an attempt to keep Trump in power.
Several potential problems have emerged for Willis in the wake of the accusations. The most immediate is that McAfee will have to rule on Roman’s motion to disqualify her. The judge has scheduled a hearing for Feb. 15. Roman’s motion also seeks to dismiss the seven charges against him, including a racketeering charge.
While disqualification might seem like an extreme measure, there is already precedent within the Trump case itself. In July 2022, McAfee’s predecessor, Robert C.I. McBurney, disqualified Willis and her entire office from developing a criminal case against Burt Jones, now Georgia’s lieutenant governor, because Willis had headlined a fundraiser for a political opponent of Jones.
Other threats to Willis loom. Republican lawmakers have created a commission to oversee, and potentially discipline, district attorneys in Georgia. That commission is expected to be up and running later this year and is almost certain to investigate Willis’ conduct.
Separately, Fulton County is looking into whether Willis ran afoul of an ordinance prohibiting county officials from receiving anything of value from people doing business with the county. In a letter to Willis last week, a county commissioner demanded documents in an effort to determine whether county funds paid to Wade “were converted to your personal gain in the form of subsidized travel or other gifts.”
Legal experts disagree on whether a relationship between the two prosecutors would be sufficient grounds for McAfee to throw them off the case.
But a number of them believe that the motion is already a win for Trump and the other defendants, noting that future jurors in the election case are very likely hearing about the allegations. That could potentially influence their thinking about the prosecution.
“This is certainly a huge political boon for the defense, and it’s certainly going to be used as a cudgel against the entire prosecutorial enterprise and investigative process,” Kreis said.
Watch Former US President Donald Trump’s lawyers join motion to disqualify prosecutor Fani Willis in Georgia election case




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