Georgia Judge McAfee says he'll announce decision on whether to disqualify DA Willis from Trump criminal case in about two weeks

 March 2, 2024

Closing arguments were delivered by the defense lawyers and prosecution team in a Friday hearing to determine whether or not Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis and Special Prosecutor Nathan Wade should be disqualified from the criminal racketeering case they are leading against former President Donald Trump and more than a dozen of his associates.

Presiding Judge Scott McAfee declared at the end of the hearing that he would render a final decision on the matter in about two weeks, NBC News reported.

Willis and Wade stand accused of improperly benefiting financially from the case and of conflicts of interest over a previously undisclosed romantic relationship between the pair that defense lawyers asserted has tainted the case with an overt appearance of impropriety.

Decision to come in about two weeks

USA Today reported that, following the hours-long hearing on Friday, Judge McAfee indicated that he would need to spend some time looking over various factual disputes and legal issues before deciding whether or not to disqualify DA Willis and Wade from the case.

"There are several legal issues to sort through, several factual determinations that I have to make and those aren’t ones I can make at this moment," McAfee said. "So, I will be taking the time to make sure that I give this case the full consideration it’s due. I hope to have an answer for everyone within the next two weeks."

If Willis were to be disqualified from the case, per NBC News, so too would her entire office, at which point a new district attorney and team of prosecutors would need to be brought in to take over the sprawling case that accuses former President Trump and others of engaging in a racketeering conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election results in Georgia.

Though it seems unlikely that the underlying criminal charges would also be dismissed along with a disqualification of Willis and Wade, given the complexity of the case, that new prosecutorial team would almost need to go back to the beginning and start over from scratch, if not obtain new indictments from a grand jury, if the case was deemed sufficiently tainted.

Attorneys battled before the judge for nearly three hours

USA Today covered the Friday hearing and noted that the various defense attorneys went first in making their closing arguments for why DA Willis and Wade ought to be disqualified and removed from the case.

That included reiterating their arguments that Willis and Wade had lied about when their romantic relationship began, which they alleged occurred prior to Wade being hired in late 2021, and that Willis improperly benefited financially from Wade using the taxpayer funds he was paid to finance multiple vacations around and outside of the U.S.

All of that and more created an "appearance of impropriety" and "conflicts of interest," lesser examples of which had resulted in other attorneys being disqualified from other cases in the state.

A state prosecutor, meanwhile, attacked the defense attorneys repeatedly and denounced the accusations as being "absurd" and "desperate," and further argued that the supposed evidence was based on "lies" from the attorneys and the witnesses who were called in to testify.

Willis' "stunningly reckless" behavior and "poor judgment" result in "really close call" for judge

While it obviously remains unclear at this point whether Judge McAfee will decide to disqualify DA Willis and Wade, Newsweek reported that a pair of legal analysts, neither of whom would be considered friendly to former President Trump, suggested that disqualification was certainly a possibility if only to avoid the overt appearance of impropriety on the part of the prosecutors.

CBS News legal analyst Rikki Klieman suggested that Willis' behavior, in terms of her now-admitted relationship with Wade, was "stunningly reckless," even if not necessarily illegal, while former federal prosecutor Elie Honig told CNN that Willis displayed "poor judgment" and the judge would have to make a "really close call" on whether or not she should remain on the case.

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