Judge clears way for Trump to appeal ruling keeping Fani Willis on Georgia 2020 election case

FILE - Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis looks on during a hearing on the Georgia election interference case, Friday, March, 1, 2024, in Atlanta. A progressive Democrat and a Republican who briefly worked in Donald Trump's administration entered the Fulton County district attorney's race Friday, March 8, 2024, as the current officeholder, Willis, awaits a judge's decision on whether she will be removed from the Georgia election interference case against the former president. (AP Photo/Alex Slitz, Pool, File)

ATLANTA — The judge overseeing the Georgia 2020 election interference case cleared the way Wednesday for Donald Trump and other defendants to appeal a ruling allowing Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis to remain on the prosecution.

Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee’s ruling means defense attorneys can ask the Georgia Court of Appeals to review the judge’s decision not to disqualify Willis or dismiss the indictment over her romantic relationship with special prosecutor Nathan Wade. It will be up to the appeals court to decide whether to hear the matter.


The judge said he would continue working to get the case ready for trial by addressing other matters in the meantime.

But while Willis had made clear her determination to turn the page from weeks of embarrassing headlines, the judge’s decision to green-light the appeal allows defense attorneys to keep at the forefront allegations of impropriety that threaten to damage the public’s perception of the prosecution.

McAfee last week said Willis can remain on the most sprawling of four criminal cases against the former president as long as Wade resigns, which Wade did on Friday.

Willis’ romantic relationship with Wade has roiled the case for weeks, overshadowing the allegations charging Trump and 18 others with trying to illegally overturn his narrow loss to Democrat Joe Biden in 2020 in Georgia in a desperate bid to remain in power. Among the acts listed in the indictment was a Jan. 2, 2021, phone call in which Trump urged fellow Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to help him “find” the 11,780 votes needed to beat Biden.

While the judge did not find Willis’ relationship with Wade created a conflict of interest that should force her off the case, he said an “appearance of impropriety” infected the prosecution team. The judge rebuked Willis for her “tremendous” lapse in judgment and questioned the truthfulness of Wade’s and her testimony about the timing of their relationship.

Attorneys for Trump and the other defendants said in court papers on Monday that Wade’s resignation was not enough to correct the appearance of impropriety the judge found. Defense lawyers say a failure to remove Willis could imperil any convictions.

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