Trump demands Fani Willis’ disqualification over ‘misconduct’ in opening brief to appeals court

Trump demands Fani Willis’ disqualification over ‘misconduct’ in opening brief to appeals court

Lawyers for former President Trump have filed the opening brief in their appeal of a court order in hopes of disqualifying District Attorney Fani Willis from the sweeping electioneering case against him in Georgia. 

“The brief persuasively argues that the trial court should have dismissed the case and disqualified DA Willis for her forensic misconduct and the appearance of impropriety between her and former Special Assistant DA Wade, who was her lover and taxpayer-funded financial benefactor,” Steve Sadow, lead attorney for Trump, said in a statement. 

“We are optimistic that the Court will favorably decide the appeal in our favor.”

The Georgia Court of Appeals agreed to hear arguments on Oct. 4 in the appeal by Trump and his co-defendants to have embattled Willis disqualified from the case due to an “improper” affair with former special prosecutor Nathan Wade.


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

“Should a prosecutor be disqualified for intentionally and repeatedly violating ethical and professional canons to prejudice defendants for personal or political gain? Yes,” the brief argues.  

“Is disqualification necessary when a prosecutor testifies falsely, conceals misconduct, and creates ‘an odor of mendacity’ that results in a ‘significant appearance of impropriety?’ Undoubtedly so. If this prosecutor deflects attention from her misconduct by claiming on national television that the defendants are dishonest racists for bringing the truthful accusations to light, could anyone have confidence in the impartiality of the prosecutor’s actions? Absolutely not,” it states.

The appeals court paused activity in the case against Trump, all but eliminating any opportunity for Willis to try the former president before the election in November. 


Willis filed a motion to dismiss that appeal earlier this month, saying the lower 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 Fulton Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee’s March ruling allowing Willis to stay on the case.

Trump’s lawyer called the motion a “last ditch effort to stop any appellate review of [her] misconduct.”

Trump was indicted in August along with 18 co-defendants out of the yearslong criminal investigation led by Willis and state prosecutors in Georgia into his alleged efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election in the state.

The charges include violating the Georgia RICO (Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations) Act; solicitation of violation of oath by a public officer; conspiracy to commit impersonating a public officer; conspiracy to commit forgery in the first degree; conspiracy to commit false statements and writings; conspiracy to commit filing false documents; conspiracy to commit forgery in the first degree; and filing false documents.

Since then, Willis has struggled to avoid roadblocks in her efforts to try Trump, the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, before the election.

McAfee in March dismissed six of the charges and said the state failed to allege sufficient detail for six counts of “solicitation of violation of oath by public officer.” 

Fani Willis

District Attorney Fani Willis 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. (Alex Slitz-Pool/Getty Images)

In February, Michael Roman, a GOP operative and co-defendant in the case, dropped bombshell accusations that Willis had an “improper” affair with Wade, whom she hired to help prosecute the case in November 2021. 

Other co-defendants made similar allegations, and said she financially benefited from her relationship with him by taking lavish vacations together. 

Both Wade and Willis denied they were in a romantic relationship prior to his hiring and said the couple would split the costs of their shared travels; Willis said she reimbursed Wade for her share of the trips in cash.

After evidentiary hearings held in February, Judge McAfee ordered that Wade had to be removed in order to keep Willis from disqualification in the Trump election interference case.

“[T]he established record now highlights a significant appearance of impropriety that infects the current structure of the prosecution team – an appearance that must be removed through the State’s selection of one of two options,” he wrote, adding that Willis and her whole office can choose to step aside, or Wade can withdraw from the case.

Wade subsequently resigned from his post as special prosecutor.

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.” 

He also said “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.”

“[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.


Nathan Wade

Nathan Wade arrives before Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis speaks after winning the Democratic primary on May 21, 2024, in Buckhead, Georgia. (AP)

“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.


When the defense in March submitted a joint motion for a Certificate of Immediate Review, McAfee said 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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