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Trump urges Georgia court to reject Fulton County DA Fani Willis effort to dismiss disqualification appeal

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(ATLANTA) — Former President Donald Trump on Thursday urged the Georgia Court of Appeals to reject Fulton County DA Fani Willis’ effort to dismiss his appeal of the judge’s decision not to disqualify her from Trump’s election interference case in the state.

Calling Wills’ effort a “desperate bid to avoid disqualification,” Trump’s attorneys urged the appeals court to allow the issue to move forward.

The filing comes in response to Willis’ motion last week that asked the Court of Appeals to dismiss Trump’s appeal of a lower court’s decision to allow Willis to remain on the case.

Trump and 18 others pleaded not guilty last August to all charges in a sweeping racketeering indictment for alleged efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in the state of Georgia. Four defendants subsequently took plea deals in exchange for agreeing to testify against other defendants.

Willis was allowed to stay on the case after Judge Scott McAfee declined to outright disqualify her despite finding there was a “significant appearance of impropriety” stemming from a romantic relationship between Willis and a top prosecutor on her team.

The election interference case has essentially been halted as Trump’s appeal of the disqualification ruling makes its way through the courts.

In his filing Thursday, Trump attorney Steve Sadow criticized Willis’ efforts to have Trump’s appeal dismissed, saying, “Simply stated, the State’s motion is a calculated, disingenuous attempt to mislead this Court for the obvious purpose of preventing interlocutory appellate review of the District Attorney’s misconduct.”

The Court of Appeals has already agreed to hear Trump’s appeal of the disqualification decision, and earlier this month it paused the election case pending the outcome — a move that experts said is likely to delay the election interference case until after the election.

Willis’ office last week sought to have the appeals court dismiss the appeal by claiming there was “lack of sufficient evidence” to support a reversal of the lower court’s ruling, in which Judge McAfee made a factual finding after multiple public hearings that Willis had no actual conflict of interest in the case resulting from her relationship with prosecutor Nathan Wade.

The DA’s filing argued that only in “very rare circumstances” can appeals courts “disturb” a lower court’s factual finding unless the filing is “flatly incorrect.”

“The trial court’s careful and extensive evaluation of the resulting record, and its utter dismissal of the central evidence proffered by the Appellants, forecloses any possibility of reversal,” the filing from the DA’s office stated.

Trump’s attorney pushed back on the DA’s request by saying the DA’s office has “no proper procedural vehicle to relitigate this Court’s sound decision to hear the merits” of the appeal.

“Of course, as this Court well knows, that has never been, and is not now, the law,” Sadow wrote in his filing.

Sadow also said that most of the issues in Trump’s appeal involve legal issues, including what he called McAfee’s “misinterpretation of misapplication” of the legal standard for disqualification — not issues about the factual findings, as the DA’s motion states.

“The focus of these appeals will be the legal errors that the trial court committed below, errors that this Court has plenary authority to review and decide,” Sadow said.

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