Judge's decision awaits in Fani Willis disqualification case as closing arguments wrap up

 March 1, 2024

Fani Willis will soon learn her fate after the judge heard closing arguments in her disqualification hearing on Friday. 

Willis brought charges against Donald Trump and more than a dozen others over the 2020 election, but her ambitious plan appears to have all but unraveled after days of embarrassing courtroom drama.

Judge Scott McAfee will decide if Willis should be removed from the case over an affair with prosecutor Nathan Wade.

Fani Willis case winds down

The judge has noted that the appearance of impropriety is enough to merit disqualification. That's a bar that many would say has been met, easily.

Willis and Wade have already confirmed their affair, for one. The only points of contention are whether it started before or after Wade was hired, and whether Wade was reimbursed for their lavish trips together.

In an explosive day of testimony, Willis and Wade insisted they began their dalliance after Wade was hired, and that they shared expenses equally. They explained the lack of financial documentation by claiming Willis paid her lover back in cash.

Willis startled the judge with furious, tangential testimony about her life, including her choice in alcohol, that grabbed headlines around the world.

The case took another dramatic twist this week when the court heard from Wade's former divorce lawyer, Terrence Bradley.

A reluctant witness, Bradley was unable to recall any details about Willis' relationship with Wade on the stand, despite telling defense lawyer Ashleigh Merchant over text that the affair "absolutely" began before Wade was hired.

Bradley said "dang" out loud when confronted with his own texts.

Judge urged to disqualify

According to phone records obtained by the defense, Wade visited Willis' condo 35 times before they said their relationship began. They exchanged thousands of texts and phone calls in 2021, before Wade was hired.

“I don’t even think love-struck teenagers communicate that much,” defense lawyer Richard Rice said during closing arguments Friday.

Another Trump defense lawyer said Willis "chose to play the race card and the God card," a reference to a speech she gave at an Atlanta church dismissing her critics as racists.

Trump defense lawyer John Merchant warned the judge that even the appearance of corruption would put the justice system at risk.

"If this court allows this kind of behavior to go on ... the entire public confidence in the system will be shot,” Merchant told McAfee. “And the integrity of the system will be undermined."

Prosecutors, on the other hand, insisted there wasn't an "actual conflict" of interest.

Even if McAfee steps back from disqualifying Willis, the credibility of the case has likely been irreparably damaged.

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Thomas Jefferson
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