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Judge Says D.A. Fani Willis Can Remain On Donald Trump’s Georgia Case But Special Prosecutor Must Step Down

UPDATED: Fani Willis, the Fulton County, GA district attorney who brought criminal charges against Donald Trump and a host of other defendants over their efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election, can remain on the case, a judge ruled today.

But Judge Scott McAfee wrote in his decision that the special prosecutor with whom Willis had a romantic relationship, Nathan Wade, should step aside.

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Wade did just that later today, submitting his letter of resignation. He said that he was stepping aside “in the interest of democracy, in dedication to the American public, and to move forward with this case as quickly as possible.”

Although McAfee concluded that there was not sufficient evidence to show that Willis and Wade’s relationship created a conflict of interest, he wrote that the “District Attorney’s prosecution is encumbered by an appearance of impropriety.”

“The Court therefore concludes that the prosecution of this case cannot proceed until the State selects one of two options,” McAfee wrote. “The District Attorney may choose to step aside, along with the whole of her office, and refer the prosecution to the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council for reassignment. … Alternatively, [special prosecutor] Wade can withdraw, allowing the District Attorney, the Defendants, and the public to move forward without his presence or remuneration distracting from and potentially compromising the merits of this case.”

The question of whether Willis could remain has sidelined the criminal case against Trump and other defendants, who face charges including racketeering in their efforts to reverse the state’s results in favor of Joe Biden.

Because Georgia allows cameras into courtroom proceedings, the hearings on whether Willis should be disqualified played out like an afternoon soap opera, as cable news networks carried them live. Willis and Wade each testified about the intimate details of their relationship, as defendants’ attorneys argued that it created a conflict of interest. They claimed that Willis obtained a personal stake in the the case by financially benefiting from her romantic relationship with Wade, who she hired to lead the prosecution team.

Willis and Wade, however, testified that she had reimbursed him for the cost of trips they took together, even though the reimbursement was in cash.

“Simply put, the Defendants have not presented sufficient evidence indicating that the expenses were not ‘roughly divided evenly,’ or that the District Attorney was, or currently remains, ‘greatly and pecuniarily interested’ in this prosecution,” McAfee wrote.

Earlier thsi week, McAfee tossed out a half-dozen counts in the indictment, including three involving Trump. The dismissed charges had to do with solicitation of violation of oath by a public officer. The charges against Trump were tied to his efforts to convince Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” 11,780 votes in the aftermath of the election.

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