Fani Takes the Stand [Updated]

Today, in an Atlanta courtroom, a judge heard testimony on a motion by defendants to disqualify Fani Willis from her prosecution of Donald Trump and others. The hearing was live-streamed, but I didn’t watch it. From all accounts, though, the day went badly for Fani.

The issue is being framed as whether Willis had a conflict of interest in her prosecution of Trump et al. The conflict would arise, I take it, from her hiring Nathan Wade, her illicit lover, to prosecute the case (a task for which he had few apparent qualifications), paying him extravagantly, and then benefiting herself when her lover, in turn, spent some of the money on her.

One fact question is when Wade and Willis began their relationship. They have said under oath that it was only after Willis had hired Wade to prosecute Trump. However, a witness who formerly was a friend of Fani Willis and worked in her office testified today that she observed Wade and Willis kissing and otherwise acting affectionate as early as 2019. I am not sure why it matters; if overpaying her lover and then benefiting from her own largesse is the relevant conflict of interest, it could just as well arise after the inception of the prosecution, if that is actually when the relationship began.

Wade’s testimony was incredible. He and Willis had both hoped to avoid taking the stand, but Wade was required to testify and counsel asked him about the trips he took with Willis. These trips, to Napa Valley, the Caribbean and other locations, were put on Wade’s credit card, which supports the idea that Fani was benefiting financially from her exorbitant payments to Wade. Wade tried to avoid this conclusion by claiming that Willis paid him back, but there is no record of this because she paid him in cash. This caused one of the defendants to laugh out loud.

Fani Willis initially objected to testifying, but changed her mind at the last minute. Everyone seems to agree that things did not go well for her. Politico’s account is here. MSNBC offered a legal scholar who said that “This is not going well for the state [i.e., Fani Willis].” He suggested that “it might be appropriate for Ms. Willis to consider removing herself from this case now and turn the reins over to a senior official in the district attorney’s office and have him or her handle it.”

At one point, Willis blew up at counsel for co-defendant Michael Roman, who uncovered the guilty liaison between the two lawyers. Willis’s outburst prompted the judge, Scott McAfee, to call a recess:

At the moment, it looks likely that the prosecution will have to continue without Ms. Willis and Mr. Wade. That would result in a delay, presumably, but I am not aware of any realistic ground on which their misbehavior would cause the case to be dismissed.

Lost in the shuffle are the underlying merits of the case. As I wrote here, I think Fani Willis’s case against the former president is ridiculously weak, perhaps the weakest of all the prosecutions the Democrats have brought against Trump. The complaint charges Trump with trying to overturn the result of the 2020 election in Georgia, but of course there is nothing wrong with that. Al Gore tried to overturn the result of the 2000 election in Florida, and Al Franken became a senator by successfully overturning an election in Minnesota. In my opinion, Fani Willis’s lengthy complaint alleges only a single crime, and it wasn’t committed by Donald Trump. You can’t make legal conduct illegal by calling it a conspiracy.

So the Georgia clown show will continue, but perhaps without a couple of its more eminent clowns.

UPDATE: For some reason, CNN posted the first 11 minutes of Fani Willis’s testimony today. She is an awful witness, every trial lawyer’s nightmare if she is your client. What is striking to me about Ms. Willis is her sense of entitlement. Here she is, trying to put a former President of the United States, and the current favorite to be re-elected President of the United States, in prison. And in doing so, she takes the opportunity to slide the better part of a million dollars to her illicit, still married boyfriend, to her own pecuniary benefit. And she is shocked that anyone notices.

Where does that sense of entitlement, that resolute belief in one’s own specialness, come from?

STEVE asks: John, John John—you don’t really expect a candid answer do you?

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