The saga of Fani Willis and romantic relationship in Trump fraud case isn’t over

“I think it's very endemic of this country's absolute obsessions with Black women's reproductive parts, our sexuality ..." said Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett.

ATLANTA, GA - MARCH 01: Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis looks on during a hearing in the case of the State of Georgia v. Donald John Trump at the Fulton County Courthouse on March 1, 2024, in Atlanta, Georgia. The hearing is to determine whether Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis should be removed from the case because of a relationship with Nathan Wade, special prosecutor she hired in the election interference case against former President Donald Trump. (Photo by Alex Slitz-Pool/Getty Images)

After a Georgia Superior Court judge ruled that Fani Willis could continue as lead prosecutor in Donald Trump’s criminal election fraud case, the saga to remove the Fulton County district attorney isn’t quite over. 

On Monday, defense attorneys representing Trump and eight co-defendants requested Judge Scott McAfee to allow an appeal of his ruling that Willis can remain as the top prosecutor in the racketeering case. 

For two months, defense attorneys tried to remove Willis after it was revealed that she and Nathan Wade, the special prosecutor she hired to lead the case, were involved in a romantic relationship. After a series of hearings to determine whether Willis financially benefited from Wade’s hire, Judge McAfee ultimately ruled that Willis could remain on the case as long as Wade stepped down.

“It’s an unforced error on the part of the prosecution. But those happen, and people still win the game at the end,” said U.S. Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett, D-V.I. The former Trump impeachment manager told theGrio, “Let’s move on, and let’s play ball.”  

Plaskett said she thinks the public is unnecessarily “making a lot out of this” and is playing to “exactly what the Trump defense wants to happen.” She continued: “Rather than taking away from the fact that he and his co-conspirators attempted to change the results of an election in Georgia.”

Plaskett noted that, as a former prosecutor, she understands how colleagues can get romantically involved. 

“I know the kind of hours that prosecutors put in. There isn’t a lot of time for interaction with outside individuals,” she explained. “This is a workplace where a lot of people — and both of these were single individuals — end up dating one another because who else are they going to date? They don’t have anywhere else to go because they’re so consumed with their own work.”

As an observation of the public scrutiny of Willis and what she does in her bedroom, the congresswoman added, “I think it’s very endemic of this country’s absolute obsessions with Black women’s reproductive parts, our sexuality and what happens with our vaj***ay’s.”

Legal and political experts tell theGrio the latest move by the defense to continue their efforts to remove Willis is an attempt to delay a credible case led by a Black female prosecutor.

Anthony Coley, a TV legal analyst and former Department of Justice official, said the defendants would do “anything to try to keep the case from moving forward.”

“Based on the extensive evidentiary record and the thoroughness of Judge McAfee’s ruling, this matter really should be over,” he told theGrio. “It’s time to move on to the real issue — the defendants’ efforts to steal an election, which has nothing to do with Fani Willis and Nathan Wade’s personal relationship.”

Trump and 14 of his allies are accused of conspiracy to commit election fraud and conspiracy to defraud the state, among dozens of other charges, in an alleged attempt to change the results of the 2020 presidential election in the Peach State. 

Juanita Tolliver, a political strategist, noted that the latest motion from the Trump team clearly shows that they “picked up on just how strongly the judge admonished District Attorney Willis.” 

In his ruling allowing her to continue prosecuting the case as long as she or Wade stepped aside, Judge McAfee said both prosecutors made “bad choices” and had a “tremendous lapse in judgment.”

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Trump’s legal team, said Tolliver, is “pouncing on Judge McAfee’s own descriptions of Willis’ actions, including ‘legally improper’ comments from January when she spoke at a church, and her and Wade’s relationship as giving the ‘appearance of impropriety,’ for their latest legal maneuvering.”

Tolliver said the defense teams have two goals in their attempt to appeal Judge McAfee’s ruling:  “To continue to distract from the fact that Trump is the one who is on trial” and “create yet another potential delay in Trump’s court proceedings as he attempts to run out the clock before the November election.”

While the judge has not yet set a trial date, Willis’ office requested that the trial start in early August. However, given the number of defendants in the racketeering criminal case, Congresswoman Plaskett said, “This is not anything that the American people should think is going to happen over the summer and an answer come before an election.”

Despite political interests in seeing Trump tried before Election Day on Nov. 5, she said the slow-moving pace of the court system is par for the course.

“We need to allow the process and what the Constitution has allowed defendants to have as their right to a vigorous and fair trial,” Plaskett told theGrio. “At the end of the day, after a jury is picked, he will be tried by a jury of his peers of other Americans who will listen to the evidence and his and the other co-defendants’ cases, and a decision will be made.

“It can’t be any faster for him than it is for everybody else,” she continued. “Unfortunately, when you have good attorneys or attorneys that know the process, they are, if you are outside of jail, going to potentially use every tool that’s available to them to support their clients.”

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Gerren Keith Gaynor

Gerren Keith Gaynor is a White House Correspondent and the Managing Editor of Politics at theGrio. He is based in Washington, D.C.