Re Fani Willis — remember Bill Barr on Trump : “Our country can’t be a therapy session for a troubled man like this”

Jan 27th, 2024 | By | Category: In Brief
Michael Seward, Conception. 2024. Acrylic. 28”sq.

NORTH AMERICAN NOTEBOOK. RANDALL WHITE, FERNWOOD PARK, TORONTO . SATURDAY, JANUARY 27, 2024. (UPDATE FEBRUARY 3 : See Below). I recently read “A Reality Check on the Fani Willis Scandal … Is Trump’s Georgia prosecution about to get derailed?” It’s on the POLITICO site, and it’s by “Ankush Khardori, an attorney and former federal prosecutor in the U.S. Justice Department,” and “a POLITICO Magazine contributing writer.”

This inevitably prompted me to re-examine my own enthusiastic discovery of Ms Willis, as commemorated in a counterweights piece late this past August : ”What Fani Willis has done in Georgia means that Donald Trump is finally not going to get away with his un-creative destruction of democracy in America.”

Having now re-read my earlier piece, I think I’m happy enough to report that it does not live up to the hyperbole of its too-long title seriously. It ends on a note of “makes me think I’m going to have to pray a lot harder than usual!” And of course I wouldn’t go along with quite the same hyperbolic title in January 2024 as I did in August 2023.

In January 2024, eg, there is also much on US TV to suggest that this coming November 5 Donald Trump might not just get away with his past un-creative destruction of democracy in America. He could suddenly be in charge of some new plutocratic autocracy still known as the American republic, but built on the gigantic lie that Trump is the strong arm of some traditional American common man (and his female partner).

Ankush Khardori’s Reality Check on the Fani Willis Scandal

”Fani Willis and Nathan Wade, right, allegedly took lavish trips together, his ex-wife alleges. Getty Images” (NY Post).

Ankush Khardori summarizes the so-called Fani Willis scandal as follows :

“The allegations are far from clear-cut, but here are the basic outlines: Earlier this month, a lawyer for Michael Roman, one of Trump’s co-defendants in the case, filed a motion claiming that Willis and lead prosecutor Nathan Wade have been having a romantic relationship. Willis hired Wade, a private sector lawyer who appears to have limited experience working on complex criminal matters, and he has reportedly been paid more than $600,000 for his work on the prosecution.”

Khardori goes on : “The motion asserts that Wade and Willis have been taking vacations using the fees that Wade has been paid and argues that Willis and Wade have been “profiting significantly from this prosecution at the expense of the taxpayers.” The motion also claims that the two may have committed federal crimes, citing a law known as the honest-services fraud statute.”

Michael Seward, Standing Alone. 2024. Acrylic. 30” x 42”.

Khardori does stress : “As a lawyer, I feel compelled to note … that this filing itself was extremely unusual and arguably ran afoul of some serious ethical rules and professional norms itself.” He goes on again , eg : “ In particular, Roman’s filing claims that Willis and Wade may have violated the honest-services and RICO statutes because they ‘personally benefited from an undisclosed conflict of interest,’ but that theory of criminal liability was foreclosed by the Supreme Court nearly 15 years ago. The lawyers who wrote that language either did not know that it was wrong (ethically fine, perhaps, but embarrassing) or refused to level with the court about it (not fine at all and deeply ironic).”

Khardori’s analysis is finally more than a little critical of Ms Willis. When all is said and done, “there are two major problems for Willis here … The first is that, as the old axiom goes, even the appearance of a conflict of interest is a problem … The second major problem with Willis’ handling of this controversy is … When a criminal defendant lodges a serious allegation of impropriety against a prosecutor, the best approach is for the government to address it quickly and directly — even if the allegation is irrelevant, overblown or tendentious … Willis has done almost the exact opposite so far. That has had the wholly foreseeable effect of making it look like she has something very serious to hide.”

Khardori concludes : “At this point, it is incumbent upon Willis to address the allegations clearly … She is well within her rights to wait until Feb. 2, when her court filing is now due, but it would be better for her and for the public not to wait until the last minute and not to do it under duress … to …fully resolve the … serious concerns that are now in the air concerning Willis and her professional judgment … Willis needs to level with the public, and she needs to do it fast.”

“Trump Joins Legal Effort To Disqualify DA Fani Willis From Georgia Election Case”

The day after Khardori’s POLITICO piece, a related story by Sanjana Karanth was posted on the Huffington Post site : “Trump Joins Legal Effort To Disqualify DA Fani Willis From Georgia Election Case …”

Here are some selected quotations from the Karanth update, as it were, of Khardori’s slightly earlier article :

“Donald Trump has joined an existing legal effort to disqualify Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis from the Georgia election interference case against the former president and his 18 co-defendants, accusing her of having an improper romantic relationship and injecting ‘racial animus’ into the probe.”

“Trump’s legal team accused Willis of violating her prosecutorial responsibilities, citing the unsubstantiated allegation that she hired someone she was romantically involved with to be the case’s lead special prosecutor … After Roman’s allegations — which did not include concrete evidence of such a relationship — a judge on Monday ordered the unsealing of court records in divorce proceedings between Wade and his estranged wife.”

“Financial statements showed that Wade purchased flights to San Francisco and Miami, Florida, with Willis during the election probe. The documents publicly released so far do not provide additional evidence of a possible affair or any financial misconduct … Willis has not directly denied having a romantic relationship with Wade, but filed a motion last week that said his estranged wife had ‘conspired with interested parties’ in the election case and was ‘obstructing and interfering with an ongoing criminal prosecution.’”

“In addition to Roman’s claims, Trump lawyer Steve Sadow has accused Willis, who is Black, of ‘falsely and intentionally injecting race into this case’ after she spoke at Atlanta’s Big Bethel AME Church on Jan. 14 … Willis has said that she’s faced racist criticism since indicting Trump. The district attorney said that she and her family have been doxxed by the former president’s supporters, and that the case has taken a toll on her personal and professional life.”

“Both Trump and Roman asked a judge to disqualify Willis from the case, though the former president is also seeking to disqualify the special prosecutors she hired and the entire Fulton County District Attorney’s Office … . Roman asked the judge to drop the seven felony counts against him, and Trump asked to have all 13 counts against him dropped, including alleged violations of Georgia’s racketeering law … Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee, who is overseeing the racketeering case, has scheduled an evidentiary hearing on Roman’s allegations for Feb. 15.”

In the midst of all this disappointing news, from my own political point of view, I have taken at least some heart from a tweet or Xpost from Brian Krassenstein yesterday : “Give me one good reason why these comments from former [Trump-appointed] Attorney General Bill Barr shouldn’t alarm voters in November … ‘He’s a very petty individual who will always put his interests ahead of the country’s… Our country can’t be a therapy session for a troubled man like this.’”

(O and I should also say I still feel some serious admiration for DA Fani Willis from Fulton County. It may be that she will finally not be able to continue with what has struck me as her strong and impressively apt RICO/racketeering case against the Trump business empire. That would be tragic at best. Yet we live in a complex global village. And in my mind Fani Willis remains someone who makes Georgia the “State of Adventure” look good enough in 2024, half living up to its motto “Wisdom, Justice and Moderation.”)

UPDATE FEB 3 : For a February 2 update on all this see Kate Brumback’s Associated Press piece : “Fani Willis acknowledges a ‘personal relationship’ with prosecutor she hired in Trump’s Georgia case” … NB — “Anthony Michael Kreis, a Georgia State University law professor who’s been following the case, said this was ‘as strong a response as she could have made,’ noting that the filing acknowledged the relationship, explained the timing and addressed the financial issues. ‘I’m just left with the question of why did they not respond sooner,’ he said. ‘As a legal matter, I think it’s done. As a political matter, it still seems a little messy.’”

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