Judge in Trump election case moves forward with misconduct hearing, saying DA’s disqualification ‘possible’ if evidence warrants

Judge overseeing the former president Donald Trump’s Georgia case of election interference says it is “possible that” allegations made against Fulton County district attorney Fani Willis could “result in her disqualification”, if there was evidence that she had benefited financially from the case. The hearing will take place as scheduled on Thursday.

Fulton County Judge Scott McAfee said this during an hearing on Monday, to determine if Willis, Nathan Wade and other witnesses will be required to testify in a hearing scheduled by the judge to hear arguments.

Wills, Wade and a few employees of the DA’s office have been summoned by Trump co-defendant Michael Roman to testify on Thursday. Last month, Roman filed a motion to dismiss the charges of election fraud against him, and to disqualify Willis because she allegedly had a “personal, romantic relationship” with Wade, her top prosecutor in the election case. This allegedly led to financial gain for them both.

Willis’s subsequent court filing admitted the relationship, but denied any conflict of interest. Roman accused the DA in the court filing of misrepresenting aspects of the relationship including the date it began.

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In Monday’s hearing, Judge McAfee stated that it was clear disqualification could occur if there is evidence demonstrating a conflict of interest or an appearance thereof. The state has acknowledged that there was a relationship. What remains to be proved is whether or not there was a financial benefit and the extent of it. Because I believe it is possible that the facts claimed by the defendant may result in disqualification I think a evidentiary hearing should occur to establish the record regarding those core allegations.”

“I believe the main issues are whether there was a romantic relationship, or if it was non-romantic, when it began, and if it continues.” The judge explained that this is only relevant in conjunction with the question as to whether or not there was any benefit received by the couple from their relationship.

Willis and Wade sought to cancel the hearing on Thursday and to have their subpoenas for testimony revoked. After hearing arguments on Monday, however, the judge seemed inclined to allow testimony from some witnesses that were subpoenaed and possibly Willis. He said the defense had been able to establish a good faith basis of relevance for their testimony.

McAfee stated that he did not see how the subpoenas could be used to impose quashal.

The judge deferred the decision until the hearing on Thursday.

Judge McAfee stated, “I cannot make a decision without hearing live testimony and cross-examination.” “With each of these witnesses I would defer my ruling until further into the hearing.”

The judge stated that “we’re not going to call Ms. Willis the first witness and we have a few hurdles we need overcome before we get there.”

Anna Cross, Fulton County’s prosecutor, urged the court to dismiss the subpoenas in her arguments. Cross acknowledged that the state had not interviewed potential witnesses but said that “what they would say would not in any manner support the wild speculations that were included in this motion.”

Cross stated that all costs incurred by Wade and Willis when they traveled together were equally split, and did not represent a conflict of interest as alleged by the defense.

This is a serious matter. Cross added that “the defense is bringing gossip to you… and the Court should not condone this practice.”

Roman’s attorney reacted by telling the judge the witnesses had information “relevant” to his allegations.

Attorney Ashleigh Merchant stated that Willis, Wade and a former Wade associate have “most relevant” and “most pertinent” information. A former Wade business partner has information that Willis’s and Wade’s relationship “predated”, Wade being hired to work on the case. This would be in contradiction with the DA’s filing.

Merchant stated that Terrence Bradley, the associate who Merchant hired, “has firsthand knowledge” of this relationship dating back to before Wade was hired.

Cross replied that Merchant would “be shocked” if he could prove this, and she does not “believe that it’s true.”

Cross stated that “the evidence would show that the timeline being presented is either wrong… or simply manufactured.”

Willis’ office had asked in an earlier filing for the judge not to issue subpoenas against her, Wade, employees of the DA’s Office, and Wade’s associate. She called the action “harassment” and “disruption.” The judge was also asked to cancel the upcoming evidence hearing.

Willis has claimed that there is “no basis in fact” which “could justify” requiring her and some of her employees to be witnesses in the case. She accused Roman of “an effort to conduct discovery (rather late) in an attempt to support reckless allegations.”

The filing stated that “Harassment of this kind should not be tolerated.”

Wade filed a motion to quash a court order for his bank records. A former employee of the DA’s Office is also trying to quash a court order issued to her.

Trump has also joined the campaign to disqualify Willis, and dismiss his charges. He accused the DA of breaking her office’s ethical obligations by making statements at a local church after the allegations.

Trump, Roman and 17 other defendants pleaded not guilt in August in an sweeping racketeering case for alleged attempts to overturn results of the presidential election of 2020 in Georgia.

In exchange for testifying against other defendants, four defendants took plea bargains.