Exclusive: Trump allies launch effort to recall Fulton County DA Fani Willis

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Donald Trump’s allies in Georgia are mounting a campaign to recall Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis over her investigation into the then president’s attempts to overturn the results of the 2020 election and are seeking to recruit high-dollar donors to fund it, according to sources familiar with the effort.

The organizers of the campaign concede that the obstacles to a successful recall in Georgia are high, making the chances of getting a recall vote on the ballot before Willis makes her decision on whether to indict Trump and his associates remote at best.

But a source involved in the effort told Yahoo News that the aim is to use the recall campaign as a way to politically damage the Democratic district attorney, portraying her as a partisan actor who is ignoring soaring crime rates in Atlanta in order to target high-profile Republicans. A side benefit of that game plan, another source familiar with the campaign said, is to potentially influence a jury pool down the road should a case against Trump go to trial.

“The purpose is to politicize it,” said one high-ranking Georgia Republican involved in the recall effort, who asked not to be publicly identified discussing a politically sensitive matter. “The message here is, ‘OK, you [Willis] want to play this [political] game, we’ll make this about politics.’”

That source, who is helping to raise money for the effort, said Trump and his associates at his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida are “aware” of the recall campaign and that among those actively involved in the effort are David Shafer, the Georgia Republican Party chairman, and Brad Carver, a prominent GOP lawyer in the state. Both men are among the 16 so-called fake electors in Georgia who recently received target letters from Willis informing them they were facing potential indictments in her probe.

Former President Donald Trump holds a microphone as he speaks.
Former President Donald Trump speaks to the crowd at the Bedminster Invitational LIV Golf tournament in Bedminster, N.J., on July 30. (Seth Wenig/AP) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Among the donors who the organizers are talking to about potentially funding the recall campaign is Bernard Marcus, the co-founder of Home Depot and a strong Trump backer, who is widely regarded as the wealthiest man in the state. Marcus could not be reached for comment. Shafer and Carver did not respond to messages seeking comment for this article.

The recall campaign burst into public view this week when Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., retweeted a recall message from Bill White, a pro-Trump activist from Buckhead, the wealthy, predominantly white section of Atlanta. “The Fulton County DA is using Fulton County taxpayer’s money for her personal political witch hunt against Pres Trump, but will NOT prosecute crime plaguing Atlanta! Atlanta has WORSE crime than Chicago! RECALL!!!” wrote Greene.

Asked for comment, Willis’s communications director said, “The district attorney is investigating and prosecuting crime in Fulton County without fear or favor, as she promised the voters when she ran for the office in 2020. People have the right to express their opinions on the job she’s doing, and she’s happy to discuss with the voters why it is important that everyone be treated equally before the law.”

The recall effort comes at a critical stage in Willis’s fast-moving investigation. She is currently fighting legal battles over appearances by Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., Rep. Jody Hice, R-Ga., and GOP lawmakers who were part of the alternate elector scheme — all of whom have been subpoenaed by Willis but have lodged legal objections to their testimony. In addition, Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s lead election lawyer, has been subpoenaed to testify before a special grand jury next week. Assuming he shows up, Giuliani is expected to object to answering key questions on the grounds of attorney-client privilege, potentially resulting in a separate, closed-door hearing before a state judge.

But even as her investigation picks up speed, and appears to be moving far more quickly than the U.S. Justice Department’s own investigation, Willis has also faced setbacks. In a ruling last week, Fulton County Chief Judge Robert McBurney disqualified her and her office from questioning one subpoenaed witness, Republican state Sen. Burt Jones, who is the GOP candidate for lieutenant governor, because Willis had previously co-sponsored a primary fundraiser for Charlie Bailey, now the Democratic candidate for lieutenant governor. “This scenario creates a plain — and actual and untenable — conflict,” McBurney wrote.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis stands among tall stacks of cardboard boxes.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis. (John Bazemore, File/AP) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

In seeking a recall campaign against Willis, the Trump allies are borrowing a page from the playbook of activists who have sought recall campaigns against progressive prosecutors in San Francisco, Los Angeles and Philadelphia. (The recall effort against San Francisco DA Chesa Boudin recently succeeded.) But any Georgia campaign faces exceedingly high barriers under the state’s recall law. Recalls are permitted only for specified offenses including acts of malfeasance or misconduct in office, violations of an officeholder’s oath, failure to perform duties “prescribed by law” and willfully misusing public funds or property. In addition, the law requires recall proponents to gather signatures equal to 30% of the registered voters in the jurisdiction where the officeholder sits. In 2020, there were 806,451 registered voters in Fulton County. That means that recall organizers would have to collect more than 240,000 signatures to get a recall of Willis on the ballot.

Chris Huttman, a Democratic political consultant who did polling for Willis’s campaign for DA in 2020, noted that Trump got 137,247 votes (or 17% of the total) in Fulton County that year. “That means that even if every single Trump voter in Fulton County signed the petition [for recall], they would still have to go out and find another 100,000 signatures.”

Ironically, and in stark contrast to the progressive prosecutors in other cities that have faced recalls, Willis was endorsed by the police union in her race against incumbent DA Paul Howard and campaigned on a platform of more aggressively prosecuting violent crime.