Fulton County D.A. Fani Willis fights for her job in Georgia primary reelection

 

▶ Watch Video: Appeals court to review decision that kept DA Fani Willis on Trump case

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is fighting for another term as D.A. as her prosecution of former President Donald Trump and others in the Georgia 2020 election interference case remains tied up in a Georgia appellate court.

“I plan to win and win big,” Willis predicted in an interview with MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Monday night. “I am at a point where I need Fulton County voters to get out and vote.”

The 52-year-old prosecutor is running for reelection in the Democratic primary Tuesday against attorney and author Christian Wise Smith. He previously challenged Willis in 2020, along with then-incumbent District Attorney Paul Howard.

“People are ready for a change,” Wise Smith told CBS News. “People are tired of the same-old, same-old from that office. People want a breath of fresh air.”

Wise Smith, 41, called for Willis’ resignation Monday. He pointed to a pair of GOP-led congressional investigations probing the district attorney’s office use of federal funds.

Last week, GOP Senators Chuck Grassley and Ron Johnson sent a letter to Willis requesting information about several Justice Department grants and alleged “the Fulton County DA may have misused funds from these grants to fund unrelated travel or the purchase of computers and “swag.”‘

“It’s a very serious job where people are trusting you to do the right thing and to have continuous allegations of misuse of those funds to do that, it’s time to go, ” Wise Smith said.

The House Judiciary Committee is also conducting a probe into the district attorney’s funding and has threatened to hold Willis in contempt of Congress. This month, Chairman Jim Jordan also asked former special prosecutor Nathan Wade, who was romantically involved with Willis, to testify before the panel.

Willis has denied any wrongdoing.

“Jim Jordan has time after time after time attacked my office with no legitimate purpose,” Willis said. “He has now turned his tricks into he’s going to look into grant programs, which I invite him to do, and we have complied with his subpoenas, but yet he continues his attacks to try to interfere in a criminal investigation.”

A state Senate committee in Georgia has also opened a probe into Willis’ office and has indicated it is prepared to subpoena her. Willis said the inquiry is “not legitimate.”

“And so it shall fail, and it’s not going to go anywhere,” she said.

WIllis launched the election subversion investigation into former President Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia shortly after she won her first term. Last summer, she announced a sweeping racketeering indictment against the former president and 18 co-defendants. Four defendants have pleaded guilty.

Earlier this year, the district attorney disclosed a romantic relationship with former special prosecutor Nathan Wade who oversaw the case. Wade resigned in March after Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee issued a ruling rejecting efforts to disqualify Willis if Wade stepped aside. McAfee is also on today’s ballot in a nonpartisan contest.

The Georgia State Court of Appeals has agreed to hear an appeal by former President Trump and several of the co-defendants on Willis’ standing which could stall a potential trial beyond the November election.

With campaign signs dotting portions of Fulton County, Willis makes no mention of the Trump case in her ads.

“I took on the gangs and violent offenders,” Willis says in a television ad airing in the Atlanta metro. “We’ve seen the third largest crime drop in America.”

Willis, who is the first woman to lead the Fulton County D.A.’s office, points to her experience in the community including the establishment of a pre-indictment diversion program to offer second chances to offenders, initiatives targeting at-risk youth and greater transparency with law enforcement.

Wise Smith founded the National Social Justice Alliance nonprofit to combat police brutality and says his goal, if elected, is to end mass incarceration and “dismantle the school-to-prison pipeline.” If elected, on Day One, he said he hopes to establish a school-based internship and mentorship program. Wise Smith also wants to divert non-violent marijuana and THC cases, expunge old non-violent convictions and put more focus on victim-centered crimes.

“So much time right now is wasted on prosecuting marijuana, is wasted on prosecuting crimes where the basis or foundation was a mental disability or substance addiction or homelessness,” Wise Smith explained. “If we partner up folks with resource providers that can help them turn their lives around, then I have more attorneys, more investigators, more money and more time to attack the rapes, the robberies, the murders and the crimes that really impact our safety.”

Wise Smith was the only candidate to show up last month for an Atlanta Press Club debate where he addressed an empty podium. Willis did not attend.

If Willis wins the Democratic primary, she would face Republican challenger Courtney Kramer in the general election this fall. According to her LinkedIn profile, Kramer was an intern in the White House counsel’s office during the Trump administration and a litigation consultant for the Trump campaign in Georgia after the 2020 election.

Wise Smith told CBS News he would “respect the decision of the voters no matter which way it goes” in the primary but stopped short of saying whether he would endorse Willis if she advances.

Willis hopes to prevail despite the ongoing challenges.

“I am not going to be broken and I am going to still be standing here doing my job lawfully,” Willis said.

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