Trump files notice of appeal to disqualify DA Fani Willis from Georgia case

Former President Trump on Thursday filed a notice of appeal to the Georgia Court of Appeals formalizing his bid to overturn a court decision and disqualify Georgia prosecutor Fani Willis from the case against him. 

Last week, the appeals court said it would hear the case raised by Trump and several co-defendants that Willis should be disqualified because she had an “improper” affair with special counsel Nathan Wade, whom she hired. 

Mark Meadows, Rudy Giuliani, Cathy Latham and Michael Roman all filed their notices of appeal Monday in the case, joining former Georgia GOP head David Shafer in kicking off the briefing processes before the court. 

President Trump’s lawyers filed the 45th president’s notice of appeal Thursday. The Fulton County Superior Court Clerk now has to prepare the official record in the case and send it to the Court of Appeals. 

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The earliest the Court of Appeals could hear this appeal would be August, and the latest would be spring 2025. 

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee ruled in March that Wade had to be removed to keep Willis from disqualification in the sweeping racketeering case against Trump.

Trump and several co-defendants alleged Willis and Wade were romantically involved prior to his hiring and that she financially benefited from the relationship. Willis and Wade denied those allegations.

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Judge McAfee allowed the defense to appeal his ruling, and the appeals court announced last week it will hear the defense’s case to have Willis disqualified.

“President Trump looks forward to presenting interlocutory arguments to the Georgia Court of Appeals as to why the case should be dismissed and Fulton County DA Willis should be disqualified for her misconduct in this unjustified, unwarranted political persecution,” Trump lawyer Steve Sadow said in a statement.

McAfee’s ruling in March said the defendants “failed to meet their burden of proving that the District Attorney acquired an actual conflict of interest in this case through her personal relationship and recurring travels with her lead prosecutor.

“However, the established record now highlights a significant appearance of impropriety that infects the current structure of the prosecution team — an appearance that must be removed through the State’s selection of one of two options,” he wrote, adding Willis and her office could choose to step aside or Wade could withdraw from the case.

Wade subsequently resigned from his post as special prosecutor.

The co-defendants had alleged Willis benefited financially by hiring Wade because they were in a relationship when he was hired in 2021 and would vacation together. 

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Both Wade and Willis denied they were in a romantic relationship prior to his hiring and that the couple would split the costs of their shared travels. Willis said she reimbursed Wade for her share of the trips in cash.

In his March order, McAfee said while Willis’ “reimbursement practice” was “unusual and the lack of any documentary corroboration understandably concerning,” he ultimately decided the defendants did not present “sufficient evidence” that expenses weren’t “roughly divided evenly.” 

He also said “the evidence demonstrated that the financial gain flowing from her relationship with Wade was not a motivating factor on the part of the District Attorney to indict and prosecute this case.”

In February, Judge McAfee held a two-day evidence hearing, when the defense, led by attorney Ashley Merchant, set out to expose a money trail that would mean Willis has a conflict of interest in the case against Trump and should be disqualified.

“[T]he Court finds that the record made at the evidentiary hearing established that the District Attorney’s prosecution is encumbered by an appearance of impropriety,” McAfee wrote in his order.

“As the case moves forward, reasonable members of the public could easily be left to wonder whether the financial exchanges have continued resulting in some form of benefit to the District Attorney, or even whether the romantic relationship has resumed.

“Put differently, an outsider could reasonably think that the District Attorney is not exercising her independent professional judgment totally free of any compromising influences. As long as Wade remains on the case, this unnecessary perception will persist.”

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When the defense in March submitted a joint motion for a certificate of immediate review, McAfee said his order on the defendants’ motions to dismiss and disqualify the Fulton County district attorney issued March 15 “is of such importance to the case that immediate review should be had” and allowed the defendants to ask the Georgia appeals court for an opportunity to appeal, which the court granted Wednesday.

Fox News’ Clauda Kelly-Bazan contributed to this report.