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Trump attorneys accuse Fani Willis of injecting ‘racial animus’ in Georgia case

Trump attorneys accuse Fani Willis of injecting ‘racial animus’ in Georgia case

Attorneys for Donald Trump joined a legal effort from one of his co-defendants in the Georgia election interference case to disqualify Fulton District Attorney Fani Willis from prosecuting them.

A complaint filed by Mr Trump’s defence attorneys on Thursday accuses Ms Willis of injecting “racial animus” in the case and violating her prosecutorial responsibilities, pointing to allegations that she hired an outside prosecutor with whom she was romantically involved.

The motion from Mr Trump’s lawyers Steve Sadow and Jennifer Little follows allegations from co-defendant Mike Roman, who alleged in a court filing that Ms Willis appointed Nathan Wade as lead prosecutor in the case while engaging in a romantic relationship with him.

In a speech before a congregation at Big Bethel AME Church in Atlanta this month, Ms Willis suggested attacks against her since taking the case were motivated by racism – both Ms Willis and Mr Wade are Black – and noted that other private attorneys hired by her office, who are white, have not faced similar scrutiny or inflammatory attacks. She did not mention any of the defendants by name.

According to Mr Trump’s lawyers, her remarks on 14 January “constitute a glaring, flagrant, and calculated effort to foment racial bias into this case by publicly denouncing the defendants for somehow daring to question her decision to hire a Black man (without also mentioning that she is alleged to have had a workplace affair with the same man) to be a special prosecutor.”

“These assertions by the DA engender a great likelihood of substantial prejudice towards the defendants in the eyes of the public in general, and prospective jurors in Fulton County in particular,” they wrote.

Mr Trump’s lawyers accused Ms Willis of trying to “foment racial animus and prejudice against the defendants in order to divert and deflect attention away from her alleged improprieties.”

Her “provocative and inflammatory extrajudicial racial comments … reinforce and amplify the ‘appearance of impropriety’ in her judgment and prosecutorial conduct,” they wrote.

In her remarks earlier this month, she defended her hiring of three special prosecutors in the case, as is her “right to do,” and noted that she “paid them all the same hourly rate.”

“They only attack one,” she said. “I hired one white woman, a good personal friend and a great lawyer, a superstar, I tell you. I hired one white man – brilliant – my friend and a great lawyer. And I hired one Black man, another superstar.”

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee has scheduled an evidentiary hearing for 15 February to discuss the allegations, with potential testimony from Ms Willis and Ms Wade.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis (AP)
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis (AP)

Mr Trump is charged alongside more than a dozen co-defendants – including former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows and former attorney Rudy Giuliani – as part of an alleged “criminal enterprise” to overturn the state’s 2020 presidential election results, from using a so-called “fake elector” scheme to falsely assert his victory in the state and pressuring election workers and state officials, to seizing vote information from machines in another county in the state.

Four of his original co-defendants in the Fulton County case – including Trump-allied attorneys Kenneth Chesebro, Jenna Ellis and Sidney Powell – reached plea deals with prosecutors.

Mr Roman is accused of coordinating a fake elector scheme to fraudulently certify Mr Trump’s victory in the state after the 2020 presidential election.

He is charged under the state’s RICO Act alongside Mr Trump and others and faces a count of conspiracy to impersonate a public officer; two counts of conspiracy to commit first-degree forgery; two counts of conspiracy to commit false statements and writings; and conspiracy to commit filing false documents. He has pleaded not guilty.

Mr Roman, Mr Trump and other co-defendants have pleaded not guilty.