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Judge in Trump election case says it's 'possible' D.A. Fani Willis could be disqualified over misconduct allegations

Fulton County, Georgia, Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee made the remark while denying Willis' request to cancel a hearing involving misconduct allegations against her.
Judge Scott McAfee
Judge Scott McAfee during a motions hearing for former President Donald Trump's election interference case at the Lewis R. Slaton Courthouse in Atlanta on Jan. 12.Elijah Nouvelage / Pool via Getty Images file

ATLANTA — The Georgia judge presiding over the election interference case against former President Donald Trump gave the green light Monday for a hearing this week involving misconduct allegations against Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis and said her disqualification from the case is "possible."

Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee made the remarks at a hearing where he denied Willis' bid to toss out a subpoena for her testimony at the hearing Thursday, at least for now.

"Disqualification can occur if evidence is produced demonstrating an actual conflict or the appearance of one," he said. One of Trump's co-defendants in the election case, Michael Roman, alleged that Willis and prosecutor Nathan Wade had “a personal relationship” that was "improper."

"That is no longer a matter of complete speculation," McAfee said. "The state has admitted a relationship existed, and so what remains to be proven is the existence and extent of any financial benefit, if there even was one.

"Because 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,” he added.

Roman has alleged Willis was engaged in an “improper, clandestine personal relationship” with Wade, the lawyer she appointed as a special counsel in the case, and that the pair “have enriched themselves off this case.” Roman's filings pointed to plane tickets Wade paid for for trips he took with Willis.

Willis acknowledged in a Feb. 2 court filing that she had been in a personal relationship with Wade but said his appointment "never involved direct or indirect financial benefit” to her. In an affidavit, Wade said that the relationship began after he was appointed special counsel in 2022 and that they would split their travel costs.

In a filing last week, Roman said he has a witness who "will refute" those claims — Terrence Bradley, Wade's former divorce lawyer.

“Bradley has non-privileged, personal knowledge that the romantic relationship between Wade and Willis began prior to Willis being sworn as the district attorney for Fulton County, Georgia in January 2021,” the filing said.

Anna Cross, a lawyer for the DA's office, said that the accusation is not true and that there was no need to proceed with the hearing because Willis and Wade have already addressed the claims in their court filing.

“The defense is not bringing you facts. The defense is not bringing you law. The defense is bringing you gossip,” Cross said.

Roman's lawyer, Ashleigh Merchant, has also subpoenaed other members of the DA's office who Bradley said were aware of the relationship, which Cross also denied.

McAfee said that the hearing would proceed as scheduled Thursday with Bradley testifying and that he would decide after his testimony whether Willis and others would need to testify. Cross said that among the witnesses the DA's office plans to call is Willis' father, who will testify remotely.

The judge said he set aside both Thursday and Friday for the hearing.

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