Judge says "it's possible" DA Fani Willis could be disqualified from Trump RICO case

Fani Willis Dennis Byron-Pool/Getty Images
Fani Willis Dennis Byron-Pool/Getty Images
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The judge overseeing former President Donald Trump's election interference case in Georgia indicated Monday that Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis could face disqualification after she and a prosecutor on her team admitted earlier this month they were romantically involved. The pair's acknowledgment came in response to a co-defendant in the racketeering case accusing Willis of financially benefitting from an alleged "improper relationship" with special prosecutor Nathan Wade, allegations both have denied.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee ruled that he would hold an evidentiary hearing Thursday to investigate the co-defendant's claims and consider his request to have Willis, Wade and her office nixed from the case. “It’s clear that disqualification can occur if evidence is produced demonstrating an actual conflict or the appearance of one,” McAfee said, according to HuffPost. “I think it’s possible that the facts alleged by the defendant could result in disqualification. I think an evidentiary hearing must occur to establish the record on those core allegations.”

The judge's precise language appears to show his cautious approach to the matter, attorney John Acevedo, a visiting professor with Emory University, told Atlanta local news organization, 11Alive News. "The key phrase from Judge McAfee was 'the appearance of conflict of interest,'" Acevedo said. "And that's clearly what's on Judge McAfee's mind here; it's the appearance of impropriety, even where there may not be any."

McAfee also declined to address subpoenas for witness testimony from Willis, Wade and other prosecutors in her office in Thursday's hearing, but said he intended to maintain focus and act during the proceedings to shield Willis and Wade from "undue embarrassment." The judge added, "The issues at point here are whether a relationship existed, whether that relationship was romantic or non-romantic in nature, when it formed and whether it continues. And that’s only relevant because it’s in combination with the question of the existence and extent of any benefit conveyed as a result of their relationship.”