March 19, 2024

Fani Willis

“[The] special prosecutor who had a romantic relationship with Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis formally withdrew Friday from the Georgia election interference case against Donald Trump… [Nathan] Wade’s resignation came hours after Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee said he had to be removed or Willis must step aside from the case. McAfee did not find that Willis’ relationship with Wade amounted to a conflict of interest but said the allegations created an ‘appearance of impropriety’ that infected the prosecution team.” AP News

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From the Left

The left generally agrees with the decision.

“McAfee’s ultimate rejection of the motion [to remove Willis] is unassailable because there never was a plausible claim of a financial conflict of interest in Willis’ relationship with Wade, and nothing short of that could justify disqualifying the district attorney…

“Whatever Wade spent on Willis — for flowers, fancy meals or even airfare — it was not just baseless but also silly to suggest that such benefits drove the district attorney’s management of the case. And that’s all the judge needed to know to reject the defendants’ far-fetched argument.”

Harry Litman, Los Angeles Times

“Trump partisans will howl, but the evidence of the Willis-Wade affair did not rise to the level of requiring the disqualification of Willis and her entire office, or the consequent reassignment and potential shelving of the case against Trump and numerous co-defendants. That said, McAfee’s findings were nothing short of humiliating for Willis, for whom he once worked. This episode leaves her reputation in tatters…

“McAfee, just 34 and new to the bench, is going to come in for criticism by both sides… I was impressed by his even-keeled demeanor amid courtroom shenanigans, such as Willis’s volcanic interchange with defense lawyer Ashleigh Merchant, but also frustrated by his seeming willingness to let the evidentiary hearings stretch on. Friday’s opinion calls it straight down the middle. Willis will stay, but it is hard to imagine a more devastating win.”

Ruth Marcus, Washington Post

“Having a romantic relationship with another prosecutor on your team is not in and of itself an ethical lapse. But keeping it quiet from anyone and everyone while continuing to pay that employee in a case with the highest possible stakes for our democracy against a notoriously combative defendant is a disastrous lapse…

“What’s more, Willis’ response to the revelations possibly made it worse, using a church speech to claim victimhood and say that the charges were racially motivated when they were in fact standard, and then using court testimony to cast aspersions on opposing counsel and act as though she thought she were the judge in the case. It’s still unclear whether she and Wade fully and truthfully testified in those appearances… This was the exact right outcome.”

Jeremy Stahl, Slate

“Appearances matter when it comes to members of our government, and perhaps even more so when it comes to criminal prosecutors… McAfee’s ruling is a strong rebuke of Willis, of the lack of judgment she exercised in this instance and of her conduct. And that’s only appropriate. She fell short of acting in a way that acknowledges the enormous responsibility that she has been entrusted with. And McAfee was right to tell her so.”

Jessica Levinson, MSNBC

From the Right

The right is disappointed that Willis was not removed from the case.

The right is disappointed that Willis was not removed from the case.

“McAfee calls the relationship ‘a tremendous lapse in judgment’ and Willis' courtroom behavior ‘unprofessional,’ before leaving it up to her whether she wants to keep the case…

“That's even more risible considering Willis' speech at a church in which she accused the defense attorneys of racism for hiring her boyfriend. McAfee claims that Willis' constant accusation of racism aimed broadly at the defense is ‘legally improper,’ but still chooses to do literally nothing about it…

“The problem with splitting the baby is that the baby dies. That seems to be what happened here in McAfee's attempt to be Solomonic. If he wanted Fani Willis to remain in charge of the case, he needed to exonerate her from all of these issues. Instead, he admitted what everyone could see on live television, and then refused to act on it.”

Ed Morrissey, Hot Air

“[McAfee] makes a valid point when he notes that this evidence does not establish a strong basis for claiming that the case was brought or pursued due to this relationship or possible financial gain. Indeed, the purpose of this case was not personal but political. While the indictments [against Trump and others] contain some valid criminal charges, they are largely minor offenses like unlawful access to voting areas. The overall racketeering claim used to ensnarl Trump is forced and weak…

“The defense removed the lead special prosecutor while leaving Willis carrying more baggage than Amtrak. It does not, however, serve the interests of justice. Willis will now prosecute defendants for false statements as her own questionable testimony is likely to be investigated by the state and the bar. She could still be effectively removed or disqualified. That prospect does not appear to give Willis pause.​​”

Jonathan Turley, New York Post

“Her case against Trump is a classic resistance operation, with the same DNA as almost all the investigations and indictments running through the Russia hoax to the J6 case. The common thread is the stretching of investigative and prosecutorial powers to — or beyond — the breaking point on the assumption that, whatever the facts, rules, or law, Trump is guilty or, at the very least, deserves whatever he gets…

Being arrayed against Trump means never having to say you’re sorry, whether it’s James Comey, Adam Schiff, James Clapper, or the 51 former intelligence officials who signed a letter claiming that the contents of Hunter Biden’s laptop were the result of a Russian disinformation operation. No one ever admits that they were wrong or that they took things a little too far. No, the standards don’t apply to the people who insist they are applying the standards.”

Rich Lowry, National Review

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