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Fulton County DA could be disqualified from Trump case if she financially benefitted from relationship with top prosecutor

<i>Dennis Byron/Pool/Getty Images</i><br/>Fulton County DA Fani Willis
Dennis Byron/Pool/Getty Images
Fulton County DA Fani Willis

By Holmes Lybrand, Zachary Cohen, Nick Valencia and Jason Morris, CNN

(CNN) — The judge presiding over the Georgia election subversion case against Donald Trump and several co-defendants said Monday that the district attorney who brought the case could be disqualified if she financially benefitted from a personal relationship with her lead prosecutor on the case.

A hearing is set for Thursday on motions to disqualify Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis based on allegations that she and Nathan Wade, the special prosecutor she hired, engaged in an improper romantic relationship that amounted to a conflict of interest. Trump and his co-defendants are also seeking to get the entire case dismissed.

“I think it’s clear that disqualification can occur if evidence is produced demonstrating an actual conflict or an appearance of one,” Judge Scott McAfee said during a hearing on Monday over subpoenas that defense attorneys have issued for Thursday’s dismissal hearing.

“The state has admitted a relationship existed,” McAfee said. “So what remains to be proven is the existence and extent of any financial benefit, again if there even was one. Because I think it’s possible that the facts alleged by the defendant could result in disqualification. I think an evidentiary hearing must occur to establish the record on those core allegations.”

McAfee was clear, however, that Thursday’s hearing would be limited in scope, noting that not all of the issues raised by defense attorneys over Wade and Willis are relevant.

“The issues at point here are whether a relationship existed, whether that relationship was romantic or non-romantic in nature, when it formed and whether it continues,” McAfee said. “And that’s only relevant because it’s in combination with the question of the existence and extent of any benefit conveyed as a result of their relationship.”

Anna Cross, a lawyer representing the district attorney, attacked the motions to dismiss the case, arguing that defense attorneys who brought the allegations against Willis and Wade were peddling in “gossip.”

“The defense is not bringing you facts, the defense is not bringing you law, the defense is bringing you gossip,” Cross said. “The court should not condone that practice.”

Willis could also be required to testify, the judge said, noting that the defense attorneys have “established a good faith basis for relevance.”

A defense attorney for one of the defendants in the case, Mike Roman, has subpoenaed Willis and several of her staff to testify during Thursday’s hearing.

While McAfee said Willis may not be the first witness called on Thursday, he did not rule out the possibility of Willis taking the stand. Willis had sought to quash subpoenas.

This story has been updated with additional details.

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