Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has no plans to recuse herself in her office’s election interference case against former President Donald Trump amid allegations she had a “clandestine” relationship with one of the lead prosecutors, CNN reported—rebuffing calls from Trump and his allies for her to step aside.
Willis, who has not publicly responded to the allegations, plans to argue that she has not breached any laws that would require her to step aside in the case, CNN reported, citing sources familiar with her thinking.
Willis has faced intense backlash since one of Trump’s co-defendants in the Georgia election interference case, Mike Rowan, alleged in a January court filing she hired a lead prosecutor in the case, Nathan Wade, after the two had a “clandestine” relationship, his attorneys wrote, accusing Willis of violating ethical standards and creating an “impermissible conflict of interest.”
Rowan’s attorneys did not provide direct evidence on Willis’s alleged relationship with Wade, instead citing unnamed sources, though credit card statements revealed in Wade’s divorce proceedings show he paid for flights for her to Miami and San Francisco—which Wade’s wife argued can only be explained by a “romantic relationship.”
Some legal experts have expressed doubts there is legal standing to force Willis or Wade off the case, but others have suggested one or both should voluntarily remove themselves as the allegations threaten to taint the case in the eyes of jurors and raise ethical questions.
“I’d tell her to get out of the case. I really think in this type of case with these allegations, this case is bigger than any one prosecutor,” CNN legal analyst and former Georgia US Attorney Michael Moore told the network. “And I think probably to preserve the case to show what’s most important to her is the facts of the Trump case as opposed to her political career if you will at this moment.”
If Willis were to recuse herself, it could potentially delay the case and push the trial beyond the November general election, as a statewide council of prosecutors would need to reassign the case. Willis has proposed an Aug. 5 trial date in the case, which charges Trump and 18 co-defendants with racketeering and other felonies related to their alleged efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election results in Georgia. Willis has not publicly responded to the allegations, outside of a statement she made before a church congregation on Jan. 14 defending Wade’s qualifications and questioning whether her adversaries were “playing the race card.” Willis was subpoenaed to testify in the divorce case before it was settled on Tuesday. Contesting the subpoena request, she accused Wade’s wife, Jocelyn Wade, of “obstructing and interfering” with the prosecution against Trump in an effort to harm her reputation.
Friday is Willis’ deadline to respond to the allegations. She could also be called to testify in a Feb. 15 hearing, where both sides will present evidence. The GOP-led Georgia state legislature also voted last week to form a special committee to investigate Willis.