March 4, 2024

Political junkies might be in for quite a treat on Thursday. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has found herself embroiled in quite a scandal that could deal significant damage to her politically motivated effort to prosecute former President Donald Trump.

On Monday, reports confirmed that a Georgia state judge will hold a hearing this Thursday to look at allegations that Willis engaged in an improper romantic relationship with one of the prosecutors she hired to prosecute the former president.

A Georgia state judge on Monday confirmed that he will hold an evidentiary hearing on Thursday over allegations that embattled District Attorney Fani Willis engaged in an “improper” affair.

Willis was accused of having an “improper” affair with special prosecutor Nathan Wade, whom she hired to help prosecute former President Donald Trump in a sweeping racketeering case related to the 2020 election. Those allegations were first made by Trump co-defendant Michael Roman, who is arguing that Willis’ alleged conduct should disqualify her and her team from the case.

Willis, who admitted to a personal relationship with Wade but denied any conflict of interest, asked the court to cancel the evidentiary hearing slated for later this week.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee said in a hearing Monday considering those motions, “in studying the law that’s been filed up to this point, I think it’s clear that disqualification can occur if evidence is produced demonstrating an actual conflict or the appearance of one. And the filing submitted on this issue so far have presented a conflict in the evidence that can’t be resolved as a matter of law.”

That last part is key. Fulton County is bracing for a significant hearing that could reshape the trajectory of the election interference case against Trump. Needless to say, the development has ignited a volcano of speculation coming from members of the chattering class. The possibility that Willis could be disqualified from the case has raised more than a few eyebrows.

Willis has characterized the scrutiny over the affair as being motivated by racism and political concerns. She even accused the wife of her lover of collaborating with Trump’s team to discredit her.

Earlier this month, Willis finally confessed to having an affair with Nathan Wade, who is currently leading the effort to prosecute Trump and his co-defendants.

That is the first official admission from Willis (and Wade), and it came as part of a 176-page filing that argued the affair did not prejudice the case.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis (D) admitted she had a personal relationship with an outside prosecutor she appointed to manage the election interference case against former president Donald Trump and his allies but denied claims that the relationship had tainted the proceedings.

In a 176-page court filing on Friday, Willis called the claims against her “meritless” and “salacious.” She asked a judge to reject motions from Trump and other co-defendants that seek to disqualify her and her office from the case and to do so without a hearing. Willis denied claims of misconduct and said there was no evidence that the relationship between her and special prosecutor Nathan Wade had prejudiced the case.

Willis’s response came more than three weeks after Mike Roman, one of Trump’s remaining 14 co-defendants in the criminal case and a former high-ranking campaign aide during the 2020 election, alleged in a court filing that Willis was engaged in a “personal, romantic relationship” with Wade, whose firm has been paid more than $653,000 by the district attorney’s office since he was tapped as an outside prosecutor on the case in November 2021.

The judge overseeing Willis’ prosecution has already ordered a mid-February hearing to see all the evidence of possible misconduct. Records from Wade’s divorce and witness testimony are expected to be presented. Whether any of that moves the judge to find Willis unfit to continue is a big unknown. I would assume it’s more likely another prosecutor will take her place if she’s disqualified.

If Willis is disqualified, it could delay the case against Trump, but it is not likely to derail it. If another prosecutor steps in, this person would simply pick up where the previous one left off.

Still, this could have tremendous blowback for Willis’ career and also public perception of the overall case against the former president, which many view as political. The upcoming hearing is much more than just a legal formality; it could be a pivotal moment that influences the dynamics of the case.