The Rise And Fall of Fani Willis' Case Against Former President Trump

The Rise And Fall of Fani Willis’ Case Against Former President Trump

The anticipation is over, there’s finally a ruling in the motion to dismiss Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis from the Georgia election interference case against former President Donald Trump and his co-defendants. On Friday, a Georgia Judge ruled that Willis could remain on the case — but there’s a catch.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee ruled that Willis’ relationship with special prosecutor Nathan Wade had the “appearance of impropriety.” McAfee left Willis with two options: either Willis or Wade needs to go — meaning Wade will likely be the one to go.

Former San Francisco Prosecutor Paul Henderson says overall the ruling isn’t a significant mark against her. “From my perspective, it’s a vindication of her that she was not removed, which is exactly what they were seeking,” he said. “Appearance of impropriety, is not as significant as a ruling as impropriety. So I don’t think that it is a big slam or a big mark against her.”

Henderson notes that this outcome didn’t come completely out of left field. In fact, he and other experts told The Root last month that they predicted that Willis would not be removed from the case.

“They could not prove when the relationship began, they could not prove that there was a presumptive monetary exchange that benefitted Fani,” said Henderson. “And to me, these were the things that were the smoking guns… that just never materialized, and they couldn’t prove either bias or benefit.”

Henderson, who is Black, says that the media was too quick to assume that she was going down over this relationship. “I always thought that the conversations were too heavily made with a presumption of guilt about her and the proceedings and what the likely outcome was,” he says, “in part because it was Trump, but in part because of race and gender.”

The former San Francisco prosecutor says the likely outcome of this ruling is that Wade steps aside. “She’s not stepping aside, nor should she,” he said. “She is more important in her role in prosecuting the case than he is.”

Attorneys for the defendants in the case also weighed-in on the ruling. “While we believe the court should have disqualified Willis’ office entirely, this opinion is a vindication that everything put forth by the defense was true, accurate and relevant to the issues surrounding our clients right to a fair trial,” wrote Ashleigh Merchant, the attorney for defendant Michael Roman, who filed the original motion to disqualify Willis, in a statement obtained by Fox News. “The judge clearly agreed with the defense that the actions of Willis are a result of her poor judgment and that there is a risk to the future of this case if she doesn’t quickly work to cure her conflict.”

Ambassador Norman Eisen (ret.), a senior fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institute and an expert in law, ethics, and anti-corruption, had a different reaction to the ruling.

“Judge McAfee has continued his run of Solomonic decisions by declining to force Fulton County DA Fani Willis off the case. There simply are no grounds to do that under GA law or the evidence presented,” wrote Eisen in a statement. “But at the same time, he’s recognized that her relationship with Special Counsel Nathan Wade is an ongoing distraction and that Wade must go, or Willis and her whole office are removed. Mr. Wade has an outstanding record as an attorney, including a series of successes in this case before the controversy emerged.”

Both Eisen and Henderson agree that the real meat of this case is about Trump. “[The ruling] is an opportunity for her to prove her case and validate her instincts by continuing the case,” said Henderson. “And that brings up the ultimate issue that the media keeps avoiding. Did he do it? Did he commit the crime?” Is he guilty? And will he be held accountable?”