‘Derogatory and false’: Fulton DA denies rumors circulated by Trump

Fani Willis expected to seek indictment against Trump in week ahead
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis attends an event at Atlanta Technical College in Atlanta on Thursday, August 3, 2023. (Katelyn Myrick / katelyn.myrick@ajc.com)

Credit: Katelyn Myrick/AJC

Credit: Katelyn Myrick/AJC

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis attends an event at Atlanta Technical College in Atlanta on Thursday, August 3, 2023. (Katelyn Myrick / katelyn.myrick@ajc.com)

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis on Wednesday flatly denied that she had a relationship with a former client and other rumors spread by former President Donald Trump in a new campaign ad.

In an email to her colleagues, obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Willis called the information in a television spot bankrolled by the Trump campaign “derogatory and false.” She urged her staff not to respond to any of the allegations.

“You may not comment in any way on the ad or any of the negativity that may be expressed against me, your colleagues, this office in the coming days, weeks or months,” Willis wrote in the email, sent early Wednesday. “We have no personal feelings against those we investigate or prosecute and we should not express any.”

A Willis spokesman declined to comment.

In the minute-long ad, titled “The Fraud Squad,” the narrator refers to Willis as “Biden’s newest lackey.” It says that Willis presided over a sharp rise of violent crimes in Atlanta and highlights her office being disqualified from investigating Lt. Gov. Burt Jones in her long-running election interference case due to a political conflict of interest.

But the most incendiary allegation is that Willis “got caught hiding a relationship with a gang member she was prosecuting.” It cites as evidence a Jan. 25, 2023, article in Rolling Stone.

But the ad gets several facts wrong. The Rolling Stone article is an interview with YSL Mondo, one of Willis’ former clients in 2019 when she worked as a defense attorney, and it doesn’t make reference to any sort of affair.

In the interview, Mondo is quoted saying that he had some “auntie-to-nephew, mother-to-son type of talks” with Willis. But the article notes that the two didn’t talk after his case was resolved.

After Willis was elected DA, her office opened a racketeering case against the rapper Young Thug and the alleged street gang Young Slime Life. YSL Mondo co-founded the Young Slime Life music crew with Young Thug in the early 2010s, according to Rolling Stone, and in the article commented that the Willis who defended him is not the same person who would pursue such a racketeering case.

Trump made a similar baseless relationship allegation against Willis during a Tuesday campaign rally in Windham, N.H.

“I guess they say that she was after a certain gang and she ended up having an affair with the head of the gang or a gang member,” Trump said. “And this is a person that wants to indict me.”

Since then, his comments have been amplified by several right wing activists.

The Trump campaign paid $79,000 for “The Fraud Squad” ad to run on cable news channels in metro Atlanta between Aug. 9 and 13, according to Medium Buying, which tracks political ad spending.

The spot also accuses Willis of presiding over violent crime rates that have “exploded,” and cites Atlanta murder rate numbers that are more than two years old. In fact, homicide numbers in the city are down this year after reaching a 26-year high in 2022. After increasing for three years, violent crime in Atlanta in 2022 returned to near the historic low set in 2018, according to data fromThe Atlanta Regional Commission.

Trump has long accused Willis of being a “racist” on a “witch hunt” against him for his “perfect” Jan. 2, 2021, phone call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, during which he pressured the fellow Republican to “find” him 11,780 votes and told him he could be legally exposed if he didn’t. His amped up rhetoric comes days before Willis is expected to pursue charges against Trump and many of his allies for criminally interfering in Georgia’s 2020 presidential election.

In recent days, Willis has shared some of the racist, obscene and threatening messages she and her office have received since opening her investigation.

“I am sending to you in case you are unclear on what I and my staff have come accustomed to over the last 2½ years,” Willis told Fulton County leaders in a recent email. “I guess I am sending this as a reminder that you should stay alert over the month of August and stay safe.”

Staff writer Bill Rankin contributed to this article.