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Georgia court puts pause on Fani Willis’ sweeping election case against Trump

In a major setback to the Fulton County District Attorney, the Georgia Court of Appeals on Wednesday put a pause on any proceedings related to the 2020 election interference case against former President Trump and co-defendants until it hears the case to disqualify Fani Willis in October.

The appeals court has tentatively scheduled a hearing date of Oct. 4 for the appeal by Trump and his co-defendants to have embattled Willis disqualified from the case due to an “improper” affair with former special prosecutor Nathan Wade. 

The appeals court action all but solidifies that Willis’ sweeping racketeering case against the 45th president will not go to trial before the 2024 election in November. 

“The Georgia Court of Appeals has properly stayed all proceedings against President Trump in the trial court pending its decision on our interlocutory appeal which argues the case should be dismissed and Fulton County DA Willis should be disqualified for her misconduct,” Steve Sadow, lead defense counsel for Trump, said in a statement.

Trump was indicted in August along with 18 co-defendants out of the yearslong criminal investigation led by Willis and state prosecutors in Georgia into his alleged efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election in the state.


Fulton County GA District Attorney Fani Willis in green standing in front of books and Former President Donald Trump in suit looking serious

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis and former President Trump. (The Washington Post-David Walter Banks | Eva Marie Uzcategui/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

The charges include violating the Georgia RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) Act; Solicitation of Violation of Oath by a Public Officer; Conspiracy to Commit Impersonating a Public Officer; Conspiracy to Commit Forgery in the First Degree; Conspiracy to Commit False Statements and Writings; Conspiracy to Commit Filing False Documents; Conspiracy to Commit Forgery in the First Degree; and Filing False Documents.

But since then, Willis has hit nothing but roadblocks in her efforts to try Trump, the presumptive GOP nominee, before the election.

Fulton Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee in March dismissed six of the charges and said that the state failed to allege sufficient detail for six counts of “solicitation of violation of oath by public officer.” 


Fani Willis

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis looks on during a hearing in the case of the State of Georgia v. Donald John Trump at the Fulton County Courthouse in Atlanta on March 1. (Alex Slitz-Pool/Getty Images)

In February, Michael Roman, a GOP operative and co-defendant in the case, dropped bombshell accusations that Willis had an “improper” affair with Wade, whom she hired to help prosecute the case in November 2021. 

Other co-defendants made similar allegations, and that she had financially benefited from her relationship with him by taking lavish vacations together. 

Both Wade and Willis denied they were in a romantic relationship prior to his hiring and that the couple would split the costs of their shared travels; Willis said she reimbursed Wade for her share of the trips in cash.

After evidentiary hearings held in February, Judge McAfee ordered that Wade had to be removed in order to keep Willis from disqualification in the Trump election interference case in Georgia. 

“[T]he established record now highlights a significant appearance of impropriety that infects the current structure of the prosecution team — an appearance that must be removed through the State’s selection of one of two options,” he wrote, adding that Willis and her whole office can choose to step aside, or Wade can withdraw from the case.

Wade subsequently resigned from his post as special prosecutor.

In his March order, McAfee said while Willis’ “reimbursement practice” was “unusual and the lack of any documentary corroboration understandably concerning,” he ultimately decided that the defendants did not present “sufficient evidence” that expenses weren’t “roughly divided evenly.” 

He also said that “the evidence demonstrated that the financial gain flowing from her relationship with Wade was not a motivating factor on the part of the District Attorney to indict and prosecute this case.”


Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis arrives to speak after winning the Democratic primary in Buckhead, Georgia, on May 21. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

“[T]he Court finds that the record made at the evidentiary hearing established that the District Attorney’s prosecution is encumbered by an appearance of impropriety,” McAfee wrote in his order.

“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.”

“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,” he said.


When the defense in March submitted a joint motion for a Certificate of Immediate Review, McAfee said that his Order on the Defendants’ Motions to Dismiss and Disqualify the Fulton County District Attorney issued March 15 “is of such importance to the case that immediate review should be had” and allowed the defendants to ask the Georgia appeals court for an opportunity to appeal, which the court granted last month.

Willis is also under investigation by two separate committees in the Georgia legislature, who say they are concerned about her alleged misuse of federal funds. Republican lawmakers in both chambers of the U.S. Congress have opened similar probes.

Meanwhile, Willis is up for re-election in November. Last month, she handily defeated her Democratic challenger in the state’s primary, setting her up to face a GOP challenger in the general election.

In a speech to a crowd of boisterous supporters on election night, the Democratic district attorney said that no one is above or “beneath” the law, in an apparent nod to her prosecution in the Trump trial.

“It’s a message that is p—ing folks off, but there is no one above the law in this country nor is there anyone beneath it,” Willis said.

Fox News’ Brooke Singman and Sarah Rumph-Whitten contributed to this report.

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