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ATLANTA — A group of attorneys and ethics experts has filed a motion defending Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis as former President Donald Trump urges the court to remove her from his Georgia election interference case.

In the court filing, 17 signatories argued that the allegations Willis benefitted financially from a personal relationship with special prosecutor Nathan Wade do not constitute grounds for removal.

“We have no independent knowledge whether there was a personal relationship at the time of hiring or whether overall spending in the personal relationship was roughly evenly balanced,” read the motion in defense of Willis. “But even if all Defendants’ allegations are true, they do not mandate disqualification here. Indeed, they do not even come close.”

“Paying for gifts for a romantic partner out of one’s income is normal in the context of a marriage or other romantic relationship,” the filing said. “Neither the relationship, nor the alleged financial benefit to DA Willis justifies disqualification under Georgia law.”

A spokesperson from the DA’s office said that neither Willis nor her office requested the motion, and they found out about it only when it was filed.

The signatories include Sarah Saldaña, former director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement during the Obama administration; Brad Wendel, a law professor at Cornell University; and Abbe Smith, a law professor at Georgetown University.

The effort to remove Willis was first made by Trump co-defendant Michael Roman in January, and later adopted by the former president and co-defendant Michael Cheeley.

In a court filing last week, Willis acknowledged having a personal relationship with Wade, while her office said that the defendants have not established “an actual conflict of interest, nor have they shown that, in the handling of the case, District Attorney Willis or Special Prosecutor Wade have acted out of any personal or financial motivation.” Wade has acknowledged a personal relationship with Willis in an affidavit, though he said they did not have a personal relationship when he was hired to work on the case.

The motion filed this week in defense of Willis also urged the court to consider that “disqualification imposes significant costs,” and that “in all but the most egregious cases, prosecutors are trusted to fulfill their duties despite competing personal interests.”

In joining the motion to dismiss, Trump’s legal team also alleged Willis “wrongfully inserted racial animus” into the case during a recent Martin Luther King Jr. Day speech, which Trump’s lawyers argued potentially tainted the jury pool.

The filing from attorneys and ethics experts countered that “DA Willis’s comments, not directed at a particular defendant, and not commenting on the guilt of any defendant (or indeed, the merits of the case at all) cannot warrant disqualification.”

Blayne Alexander reported from Atlanta. Megan Lebowitz reported from Washington.



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