Fani Willis files ‘last ditch effort’ to dismiss the appeal to have her disqualified from Trump’s Georgia case

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has filed a motion to dismiss the appeal by former President Trump and co-defendants in his case to have her disqualified from litigation over her romantic affair with a subordinate counsel. 

In the motion filed Wednesday, Wills argued that Fulton Superior Court found there was no sufficient evidence to support their claims that Willis has a conflict of interest, and says that there is “no basis” to appeal Judge Scott McAfee’s March ruling allowing Willis to stay on the case.

“As both this Court and the Supreme Court have repeatedly held, Georgia appellate courts will not disturb a trial court’s factual findings on disputed issues outside of certain, very rare, circumstances. When a trial court makes determinations concerning matters of credibility or evidentiary weight, reviewing courts will not disturb those determinations unless they are flatly incorrect,” the motion states.

“Appellate courts will not—indeed, may not—substitute their own appraisal of the factual record for the trial court’s. This principle has been reiterated time and again.” 

“The State respectfully submits that, with such due deference afforded to the trial court’s factual findings, there exists no basis for reversal of the order at issue,” the motion states. 


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 on March 1, 2024, in Atlanta, Georgia.  ((Photo by Alex Slitz-Pool/Getty Images))

Trump and several co-defendants alleged earlier this year Willis and special prosecutor Nathan Wade were romantically involved prior to his hiring and that she financially benefited from the relationship, allegations they both have denied.

Judge Scott McAfee’s order in March said that Wade had to be removed in order to keep Willis from disqualification in the Trump election interference case in Georgia. McAfee allowed the defense to appeal his ruling, and the appeals court announced last week that it will hear the defense’s case to still have Willis disqualified. 

The appeals court agreed to hear the case on Oct. 4 and paused all other litigation concerning Trump and those defendants until the disqualification matter is settled. 


Fani WIllis

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis speaks to the media after winning the Democratic primary on Tuesday, May 21, 2024, in Buckhead, Ga. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson) (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

“The State’s motion to dismiss the interlocutory appeal, which has already been permitted by the Court of Appeals, appears to be a last ditch effort to stop any appellate review of DA Willis’ misconduct,” Steve Sadow, lead counsel for Trump said in a statement Wednesday. 

“The State’s motion deliberately failed to mention that Judge McAfee’s ruling stated an ‘odor of mendacity remains’ from the hearing testimony by the DA and the State’s witnesses. The judge also said there were “reasonable questions” as to whether Willis and former prosecutor Wade testified untruthfully. The State has tried this gambit before with no success,” he said. 

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.

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.” 


Nathan Wade

Special prosecutor Nathan Wade sits in court during a hearing in the case of the State of Georgia v. Donald John Trump at the Fulton County Courthouse on March 1, 2024, in Atlanta, Georgia. (Alex Slitz-Pool/Getty Images)

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.”

In February, Judge McAfee held a two-day evidentiary hearing where the defense, led by attorney Ashley Merchant, set out to expose a money trail that would mean Willis has a conflict of interest in the case against Trump and should be disqualified.

“[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.


Wade subsequently resigned from the DA’s office. 

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. 

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