Ruling Expected Friday on Effort to Disqualify Trump Prosecutors in Georgia

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A judge is expected to rule on Friday on the effort by former President Donald J. Trump and his co-defendants in the Georgia election interference case to disqualify Fani T. Willis, the prosecutor overseeing it.

The disqualification effort began more than two months ago, when a defense lawyer said in a court filing that Ms. Willis, the Fulton County district attorney, had engaged in a romantic relationship with Nathan J. Wade, the lawyer she hired to run the case.

Defense lawyers claimed that the relationship between the prosecutors presented an untenable conflict of interest, because Mr. Wade was paid more than $650,000 in public funds while he was at least partly paying for cruises and other vacations he took with Ms. Willis.

Ms. Willis acknowledged the relationship several weeks after the defense filing, and later testified that the relationship ended last summer. She and her team have sharply rebutted the idea that a conflict ever existed.

Speculation and court hearings around the relationship have since eclipsed the election case itself, which charges the former president and 14 of his allies with plotting to overturn Mr. Trump’s defeat in Georgia in the 2020 election.

The judge overseeing the case, Scott McAfee of Fulton County Superior Court, said on March 1 that he would rule on the disqualification question within two weeks.

The stakes are considerable. If Ms. Willis were taken off the case, it would lose an experienced and determined prosecutor who has pursued it for more than three years. Her entire office would also be removed, which would leave the case in limbo during a potentially lengthy effort to find a new prosecutor capable of taking on the large, complex case.

Judge McAfee did not tip his hand during weeks of contentious hearings. But he has kept an even keel throughout, and sought to briskly work through legal disputes and find middle ground.

Developments this week suggested that the judge was continuing to move the broader case along. On Wednesday, he quashed six charges, including one related to a call that Mr. Trump made to pressure Georgia’s secretary of state in early January 2021. But the judge left intact the rest of the racketeering indictment against Mr. Trump and his 14 co-defendants, which initially included 41 counts.

Whatever the outcome of the judge’s ruling, Ms. Willis will not emerge unscathed. She was forced to defend herself in extraordinary testimony on the witness stand, during hearings that reversed the normal roles of prosecutors and defense lawyers and had them accusing each other of lying.

Should the case reach trial, the views of a jury could be colored by the weeks of revelations about the prosecutors’ romance. And the Republican-led Georgia legislature is already taking steps to review what took place.

But the immediate future of the case will not be clear until the judge rules on the disqualification matter.

“There are several legal issues to sort through, several factual determinations that I have to make,” Judge McAfee said at a hearing on March 1, laying out his timetable for reaching a decision. “Those aren’t ones I can make at this moment, and so I will be taking the time to make sure that I give this case the full consideration it’s due.”


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