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Local News

Obama-era ethics czar says Fulton prosecutor should quit Georgia 2020 election interference case

Credit: Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder

Stanley Dunlap, Georgia Recorder
January 28, 2024

A new Georgia State Senate special committee plans to investigate whether Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis had an improper affair with a special prosecutor she hired to lead the sweeping criminal racketeering case filed against Donald Trump and 18 of the former president’s allies.

The committee tasked with investigating the lead prosecutor for Georgia’s most populated county was established Friday mostly along a party line vote on Republican Sen. Greg Dolezal’s Senate Resolution 465.

The panel that will consist of six Republicans and three Democratic senators will have the ability to subpoena witnesses to testify as it examines whether Willis misappropriated taxpayers dollars after hiring special prosecutor Nathan Wade in November 2021 to lead the election interference probe.

Democratic lawmakers on Friday called the committee a political stunt aimed at undermining Willis, an elected Democrat, for targeting Trump and his supporters on allegations that they illegally orchestrated a plot to overturn Georgia’s 2020 presidential election results.

“You’re talking about partisan politics,” Macon Democratic Sen. David Lucas said during Friday’s Senate floor debate.

The new committee is the latest twist surrounding the historic case since an attorney for Michael Roman, a former Trump campaign official and one of Trump’s Fulton co-defendants, accused Willis and Wade of having an improper romantic relationship.

Earlier this month, Wade’s estranged wife filed in Cobb County divorce court credit card statements showing two roundtrip flights to San Francisco and Miami had been purchased for Wade and Willis.

Dolezal, a Cumming legislator, described his resolution as a way of determining if the allegations against Willis are legitimate and whether she is impartial while leading a team of prosecutors.

Despite the committee’s subpoena power, it will not be able to sanction Willis. 

“This resolution will empower the Senate to address the multitude of questions raised by Georgians regarding the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office,” Dolezal said last week prior to the adoption of the resolution. “I am eager to see its adoption, which will emphasize the importance of transparency, accountability and integrity within our judicial system,” he added.

The special investigatory panel represents another battle line between Georgia Republicans and Democrats in an election year when there is expected to be another showdown between Trump and President Joe Biden. This year’s election season includes all 236 seats in the state Legislature up for grabs. 

Lt. Gov. Burt Jones, a Butts County Republican and longtime supporter of Trump, has a contentious relationship with Willis. She sought to indict Jones for serving on a false alternate slate of electors who cast votes for Trump in the 2020 election. However she was barred from charging Jones after a judge found she had a conflict of interest because she raised money for his opponent during the 2022 campaign for lieutenant governor. 

Sen. Shawn Still was among the 19 people indicted in August in the election interference case for having served on the alternate electoral college slate.

Norm Eisen, former ethics czar under the Obama Administration, said that based on what is publicly known there is no legal basis under Georgia law for Willis or Wade to be disqualified.

Eisen noted the significance of holding Trump and his co-defendants accountable for their actions surrounding the 2020 election.

“However the right thing to do is for Mr. Wade to voluntarily bring his time on this case to an end – an act of wisdom on top of the strong record of court successes he’s helped create,” Eisen said last week. “He has taken this case far and has built a foundation for conviction that others can now take forward. Mr. Wade has done an outstanding job building the case, under the direction and active guidance of DA Willis.”

Republican legislators have also targeted Willis with the creation of a statewide prosecutors oversight commission that can investigate complaints filed against Willis regarding her decision to pursue racketeering charges against Trump.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee has scheduled a Feb. 15 hearing to discuss the allegations that a romantic relationship constitutes prosecutorial misconduct that should prevent Willis from overseeing the election case in the future.

During a church service in Atlanta on Jan. 14, Willis strongly defended Wade’s professional reputation. 

A former prosecutor, Wade has served as a Cobb County municipal judge for a decade and is a partner with an Atlanta firm that specializes in cases involving personal injury claims, family and domestic law, contract litigation and criminal defense.

Fulton County taxpayers have been billed more than $650,000 by Wade’s firm since November 2021.

Georgia Recorder is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Georgia Recorder maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John McCosh for questions: Follow Georgia Recorder on Facebook and Twitter.

This article is republished from Georgia Recorder under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.