Trump, co-defendants ask to appeal judge’s decision not to remove DA Willis

Attorneys for former President Donald Trump and seven co-defendants in the Fulton election interference case are asking a Superior Court judge for permission to appeal his recent decision that has kept District Attorney Fani Willis at the helm of the prosecution.

The defendants on Monday requested that Judge Scott McAfee grant a so-called “certificate of immediate review,” which would give them permission to appeal his ruling to the Georgia Court of Appeals before a trial begins.

On Friday, McAfee ruled that while Willis did not have a disqualifying conflict of interest, as Trump and others had argued, there was an appearance of a conflict that required her to make a choice. McAfee said Willis could either recuse herself and her office from the case or cut ties with Nathan Wade, her lead prosecutor and former lover. Within hours, Wade had tendered his resignation.

The defendants on Monday said that Wade’s resignation was “insufficient to cure the appearance of impropriety the Court has determined exists.”

“In its order, the Court found that District Attorney Willis’ actions had created an appearance of impropriety and an ‘odor of mendacity’ that lingers in this case, as well as the continuing possibility that ‘an outsider could reasonably think that District Attorney Willis is not exercising her independent professional judgment totally free of any compromising influences,’” the defendants wrote, quoting McAfee.

They added, “defendants believe that the relevant case law requires dismissal of the case, or at the very least, the disqualification of the District Attorney and her entire office under the facts that exist here.”

A Willis spokesman said he cannot comment “beyond any filings with the court.”

The defendants, who include Mike Roman, the former Trump campaign official who brought the original motion to disqualify Willis and her office, argued that issuing a certificate of immediate review is “both prudent and warranted” because there is a “lack of guidance from the appellate courts on key issues.”

In particular they highlighted McAfee’s response to their argument that Willis’ comments during a recent church speech were considered forensic misconduct, a disqualifying defense. McAfee had called her remarks “legally improper” but said he felt his hands were tied due to a lack of guidance in Georgia case law.

“Whether District Attorney Willis and her office are permitted to continue representing the State of Georgia in prosecuting the Defendants in this action is of the utmost importance to this case, and ensuring the appellate courts have the opportunity to weigh in on these matters pre-trial is paramount,” the group wrote.

If McAfee grants the application, it will then be up to the Court of Appeals to decide whether it wants to hear the pretrial appeal. If it declines, lawyers for Trump and others could then ask the state Supreme Court to hear the appeal. If unsuccessful, the case goes back to McAfee and proceeds toward trial.

“The Court’s order is ripe for pretrial appellate review,” Steve Sadow, Trump’s lead Atlanta attorney, said in a written statement.

Staff writer Bill Rankin contributed to this article.