Georgia Senate Votes to Investigate Fulton County DA Fani Willis
Georgia Senate Votes to Investigate Fulton County DA Fani Willis

By Tom Ozimek

The Georgia State Senate has approved legislation that paves the way for an investigation into Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, who faces misconduct allegations related to an election interference case she brought against former President Donald Trump.

In a floor vote on Jan. 26, the state Senate voted 30-19 to approve SR465. This resolution creates the Senate Special Committee on Investigations that will explore allegations of misconduct on the part of Ms. Willis, who is leading the prosecution against President Trump and 14 co-defendants.

President Trump has alleged that Ms. Willis’ case—brought under Georgia laws to fight organized crime—is a politically-driven prosecution meant to thwart his 2024 presidential comeback bid.

Ms. Willis has been accused of having an “improper” romantic relationship with special prosecutor Nathan Wade and of benefiting from it financially.

Mr. Wade, who has been asked to provide evidence as part of a House Judiciary Committee inquiry into Ms. Willis’ conduct, is playing a leading role in the election interference case against the former president.

The new Georgia Senate committee will be tasked with carrying out legislative investigations, possessing authority such as administering oaths and summoning individuals to testify under oath.

Despite having wide-ranging powers to carry out the investigation, the panel will not have the ability to impose sanctions on Ms. Willis.

Ms. Willis’ office did not respond to a request for comment by press time.

In prior remarks regarding the scandal, however, she suggested racism was the motivation behind the scrutiny.

The Investigation

The legislation was introduced on Jan. 22 by Sen. Greg Dolezal, a Republican who serves as chairman of Georgia’s Senate Committee on Transportation and Chief Deputy Whip.

Mr. Dolezal said in a statement he was motivated to put forward the bill due to “a wave of concerning reports and court filings” regarding Ms. Willis.

“The multitude of accusations surrounding Ms. Willis, spanning from allegations of prosecutorial misconduct to questions about the use of public funds and accusations of an unprofessional relationship, underscores the urgency for a thorough and impartial examination,” he said in a statement.

“We owe it to the public to ensure transparency, accountability and the preservation of the integrity of our justice system,” he added.

The alleged misconduct includes ongoing expenditure of “significant public funds for the purpose of hiring a special assistant district attorney with whom District Attorney Willis had, and may yet have an ongoing romantic relationship,” the Senate resolution reads.

If such a relationship were proven to exist, it would amount to a “clear conflict of interest and a fraud upon the taxpayers of Fulton County and the State of Georgia,” potentially leading to Ms. Willis’ recusal, delays in the trial against President Trump, the appointment of a special prosecutor, and disciplinary actions, per the resolution.

If the allegations against Ms. Willis were proven true, it could tarnish her reputation and that of her office and erode public trust in fair justice administration, according to the resolution. It could also raise doubts about the validity of charges against President Trump and over a dozen co-defendants.

The investigation could also reveal inadequacies in existing Georgia state laws regarding the selection, hiring, and compensation of special assistant district attorneys.

The Allegations

An attorney representing Michael Roman, one of the co-defendants in the case, filed a motion on Jan. 8 to dismiss the case based on alleged misconduct on the part of Fulton County prosecutors.

In the 100-plus page filing, Ashleigh Merchant, the attorney, accused Ms. Willis of being in an “improper, clandestine personal relationship” with Mr. Wade and of “profiting significantly” from the relationship at the expense of taxpayers.

Ms. Merchant also accused Ms. Willis of using funds meant for clearing a pandemic-era backlog of cases in Fulton County to pay Mr. Wade a large sum of money.

Documents show Mr. Wade has been paid at a rate of $250 per hour for his involvement in the case, or around $650,000 in total.

Prosecutors have not yet filed a response to Ms. Merchant’s motion, although they said they would.

The Fulton County Audit Committee has asked Ms. Willis to address the allegations in Ms. Merchant’s filing.

Bob Ellis, the Fulton County Commissioner, called on Ms. Willis in a Jan. 21 letter to provide explanations, including regarding special prosecutor payment and expensing by Feb. 2.

Also, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee indicated during a Jan. 12 motions hearing that a hearing on Ms. Merchant’s motion would be scheduled after the court has received a response from Ms. Willis’ office, with the earliest likely being in mid-February.

Ms. Merchant’s filing argued that Ms. Willis’s’ alleged misconduct was grounds for the dismissal of charges against Mr. Roman and the dismissal of Ms. Willis and her team.

President Trump has also made similar demands, saying that both Ms. Willis and the case have been “totally compromised” and the case against him should be dismissed.

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