Trump Georgia election special prosecutor quits, salvaging case after judge’s order

Trump Georgia election special prosecutor quits, salvaging case after judge’s order

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis speaks at a press conference next to prosecutor Nathan Wade after a grand jury brought back indictments against former President Donald Trump and his allies in their attempt to overturn the state’s 2020 election results, in Atlanta on Aug. 14, 2023.

Elijah Nouvelage | Reuters

Special prosecutor Nathan Wade will step down from the sprawling Georgia election interference case against former President Donald Trump and his co-defendants, salvaging the case after Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee ruled Friday that either Wade or District Attorney Fani Willis must remove themselves.

“I hereby offer my resignation, effective immediately,” Wade wrote in a letter to Willis Friday obtained by NBC News. He added that he was resigning “to move this case forward as quickly as possible.”

Wade’s announcement followed a decision from McAfee earlier in the day that represented a middle ground, following the bombshell revelation that Willis and Wade were engaged in a romantic relationship for more than a year while the case was being investigated and prosecuted. Accounts of precisely when the relationship began differed significantly.

The Friday decision and Wade’s subsequent announcement came just two days after McAfee dismissed six counts from Willis’ case — including three against Trump — ruling that the basis for those charges was insufficiently explained. Those counts had accused Trump and five other defendants of the crime of solicitation of violation of oath by a public officer. McAfee left the door open for the charges to be refiled.

One of Trump’s co-defendants first called to disqualify Willis in January from prosecuting the case against the former president and his co-defendants for allegedly trying to overturn President Joe Biden‘s victory in Georgia’s 2020 election.

Multiple other defendants, including Trump, joined the bid to dismiss the indictment and remove Willis on conflict-of-interest grounds. The defendants also called to disqualify Wade.

Fulton County Superior Judge Scott McAfee looks on during a hearing in the case of the State of Georgia v. Donald John Trump on February 12, 2024 at the Fulton County Courthouse in Atlanta, Georgia.

Alyssa Pointer-Pool | Getty Images

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“While respecting the Court’s decision, we believe that the Court did not afford appropriate significance to the prosecutorial misconduct of Willis and Wade,” Trump attorney Steve Sadow said Friday in response to the initial McAfee ruling.

“We will use all legal options available as we continue to fight to end this case, which should never have been brought in the first place,” he said.

One of those options will be to file a certificate of review, Pete Skandalakis, the head of the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia, said in a statement to NBC News. The certificate would provide the defense with a means to appeal the decision, he added.

Willis and Wade admitted to the relationship only after it was first alleged in January court filings for defendant Michael Roman. These filings claimed the D.A. and the prosecutor engaged in an “improper, clandestine personal relationship” and that they profited off the arrangement at taxpayers’ expense.

But both Willis and Wade insisted their relationship posed neither a personal nor financial conflict, and Willis has decried related claims as “fantastical theories and rank speculation.”

In a volatile hearing in mid-February, Willis tore into Ashleigh Merchant, the defense lawyer who first surfaced the relationship allegations.

On the witness stand, both Willis and Wade insisted that their relationship did not become romantic until after he joined the election interference case in November 2021.

Willis’ 98-page, 41-count indictment initially charged Trump with 13 criminal counts. Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, pleaded not guilty to the charges. A number of Trump’s co-defendants have already struck plea deals in the case.

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