Fani Willis, Trump collide over dramatic day: Five takeaways

Former President Trump’s legal troubles collided in spectacular fashion Thursday.

A Georgia prosecutor appeared shaken on the stand as his first criminal trial date was set in New York.

The New York case revolves around allegations that President Trump falsified business records to hide payments made in the run-up to the 2016 election. Six-figure sums were paid to two women who say they had affairs with President Trump: adult actress Stormy Daniels and former model Karen McDougall.

In Georgia, Trump is one of 19 defendants charged with conspiring to overturn the state’s 2020 election results.

The Georgia case has recently been rocked by revelations that Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis (D) had a romantic relationship with Nathan Wade, another prosecutor contracted to handle the case. .

One of Trump’s co-defendants, Michael Roman, is seeking dismissal from the case, arguing that Willis’ actions were inappropriate and that he benefited financially from his relationship with Willis.

Mr. Willis has denied wrongdoing, as has Mr. Trump in all four criminal cases he faces.

The main contents of this day are as follows.

Fani Willis fights back

Fulton County District Attorney Fani testifying while gesturing as Fulton County Senior Judge Scott McAfee presides over the hearing during a Georgia election interference case Thursday, February 15, 2024, in Atlanta. Willis. (Pool photo via Alyssa Pointer/AP)

The biggest surprise of the day was undoubtedly Willis’ decision to take the witness stand.

Lawyers on both sides had been debating whether she should testify when she appeared in court.

She said she “ran to the courtroom” after being told that Mr. Wade’s testimony had ended. Some of the accusations leveled against her were “disingenuous,” she said. “So here I am.”

What followed was an amazing sight.

“Mr. Wade is a Southern gentleman. I’m not so much,” Willis says early on, setting the tone for much of what was to come.

When one of the opposing attorneys suggested that Willis “gave” Wade money in the contract, the district attorney argued that Willis had not received the compensation in good faith and had somehow given Wade the money. He took exception to the suggestion that he may have given it as a gift.

“I didn’t give him any money in the contract. That was cute,” Willis retorted. “Please stop feeling sorry for me and thinking I won’t get an answer.”

At another point, Willis was asked why she didn’t use some of the cash she kept in her home to pay off the tax lien against her.

“Can you tell me how to pay the bill?” she answered.

But the most dramatic moment for Willis was when she fired back with both barrels against the nature of the lawsuit itself.

“These people are on trial for trying to steal the 2020 election,” she said, referring to President Trump and his co-defendants. “No matter how much you try to put me on trial, I am not on trial.”

For some, Mr. Willis’ approach may seem too combative. From a sympathetic point of view, it was a welcome display of defiance.

In any case, her testimony will resonate for a long time to come.

Willis obscures Nathan Wade’s more complex testimony

ATLANTA, GA – FEBRUARY 15: Fulton County Special Prosecutor Nathan Wade testifies during the State of Georgia v. Donald John Trump hearing on February 15, 2024 at the Fulton County Courthouse in Atlanta, Georgia. . Judge Scott McAfee is hearing testimony about whether prosecutor Fannie Willis and Wade should be disbarred from the case for allegedly lying about personal relationships. (Photo by Alyssa Pointer Pool/Getty Images)

Willis’ appearance overshadowed previous testimony by her ex-lover Bartner, Wade.

But that may not be a bad thing for both parties, given that Mr. Wade’s testimony has been more stagnant and raises legitimate questions about his credibility.

This is especially true regarding his claim that Willis paid for his travels with him in cash.

Mr. Wade had no choice but to agree with opposing counsel’s argument that there was “not a single instance” of a bank deposit slip or other receipt showing that this was true.

“Not really,” he admitted.

There was also little reasonable doubt from his testimony that he misled him about the duration of his romantic relationship with Willis in his own divorce proceedings.

That said, Wade is clearly uncomfortable with having the intimate relationships in his life become national news, and will likely garner some sympathy.

Accused of keeping the relationship a secret, Wade responded: Our relationship was not a secret, just private. ”

New York setback for Trump – but a sign of hope

Former President Donald Trump arrives at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York on Thursday, February 15, 2024. (AP Photo/Mary Altafer)

Before the drama began in earnest in Georgia, Trump was handed a setback in New York and was in court to watch it.

Trump’s lawyers had hoped to delay the trial, consistent with an overall effort to delay the trial Trump faces as long as possible. They argued that if the lawsuit proceeded quickly, his campaign for president would be hampered.

they lost.

Judge Juan Manuel Mercian decided that jury selection would begin on March 25th. According to his estimates, the trial is likely to last about six weeks.

This is bad news for Trump for several reasons.

First, it emphasizes that he could face a criminal conviction before the November election.

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Second, the trial’s timeline would result in a ruling well in advance of the Republican National Convention in mid-July. Therefore, it could cast a shadow on Trump’s coronation as the official Republican nominee.

Third, unlike the two federal cases against Trump, the New York and Georgia cases would not allow Trump to pardon himself.

However, there is one big asterisk.

The New York lawsuit is widely seen as the most frivolous of those facing President Trump. It also highlights alleged conduct that, while serious, does not pose a fundamental danger to democracy, such as his attempts to overturn the 2020 election.

This makes it more likely that the initial verdict against Trump will be acquittal. It also creates fertile ground for his claims that he is being unfairly targeted.

Sex and race collide in Georgia

ATLANTA, GA – FEBRUARY 15: Fulton County Superior Judge Scott McAfee watches a hearing in the State of Georgia v. Donald John Trump case at the Fulton County Courthouse on February 15, 2024 in Atlanta, Georgia. Judge Scott McAfee is hearing testimony on whether prosecutor Fani Willis and special counsel Nathan Wade should be disbarred from the case for allegedly lying about his personal relationships. (Photo by Alyssa Pointer Pool/Getty Images)

The Georgia case was unusual on many levels. One is how intertwined the combustible issues of sex and race are with the case that could send the former president to prison.

Lawyers representing Roman sought to focus on the financial entanglements between Willis and Wade.

However, the two fought back, often attempting to expose the supposed sexual nature of the attacks against them.

At one point, Wade was asked if his “personal” relationship with Willis continued after they officially broke up.

“Are you asking me if I had sex with the district attorney?” Wade responded to the attorney’s obvious discomfort. “The answer is no.”

As for Willis, she took exception to the implication that she slept with Wade when they first met. She said that’s not the case, and that her insinuations to the contrary were “very offensive.”

Racist views could not be ignored either.

A black female district attorney and a seasoned black prosecutor spent the day under intense questioning from several white attorneys.

These lawyers, in turn, were trying to overturn a case involving a seditious former president accused of plotting to undo election results in states with large black populations.

This mixture could not be more flammable.

It’s not over yet

The hearing on whether Willis should be disqualified from the Georgia case is scheduled to resume Friday morning.

But there’s a lot more to come.

Also on Friday, a judge in Trump’s civil fraud case is scheduled to rule in New York. That could include hefty fines and restrictions on Trump’s ability to operate businesses in New York.

Meanwhile, the Supreme Court will soon have to decide whether to consider Trump’s argument that he will not be prosecuted for his actions while president, particularly the Jan. 6 Capitol riot and actions leading up to it.

And the lawsuit surrounding the Mar-a-Lago documents remains an issue to consider.

Some experts believe the evidence of obstruction in this matter is among the strongest facing President Trump. A trial in the case is scheduled for May, but it could be postponed.

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