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Georgia Senate Republicans say probe of Fulton DA in 2020 election case will be free of bias

Athens Republican Sen. Bill Cowsert said the special committee’s objective is to find the truth and not conduct partisan biased investigations into Fani Willis’ decision to pursue a case against the former Republican president. Credit: Ross Williams/Georgia Recorder

Stanley Dunlap, Georgia Recorder
February 10, 2024

The chairman of a Georgia Senate panel pledged on Friday that his committee will be on a fact finding mission during its investigation into whether Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis misappropriated taxpayer money as she pursued a sweeping felony racketeering case against Donald Trump and a number of his allies.

In its first meeting held on Friday, the Senate Special Committee on Investigations approved rules and provided insight into how the panel, which consists of six Republicans and three Democrats, will conduct its investigations into a Fulton district attorney, who admitted on Feb. 4 that she had a romantic relationship with special prosecutor Nathan Wade. Wade was appointed by Willis in November 2021 to assist in the prosecution of the 2020 election interference case against Trump and 18 other defendants.

Athens Republican Sen. Bill Cowsert said the special committee’s objective is to find the truth and not conduct partisan biased investigations into Willis’ decision to pursue a case against the former Republican president, several members of Trump’s inner circle and others in the historic racketeering case.

The special panel does not have the authority to remove Willis from the case or office but does have subpoena powers that could be used to try to get Willis, Wade or other potential witnesses to testify.

“It is not within our authority or our scope to disqualify counsel in any ongoing investigations. It is not part of our job to disbar anybody or to bring professional allegations of misconduct against anybody,” said Cowsert, an attorney who chairs the committee.

“It is not the charge of this committee to in any way interfere with any ongoing criminal prosecutions and that is not where this committee will go,” Cowsert said. “Our job is to investigate many of these troubling allegations that have come forward in these last few months, and determine what the true facts are.”

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee has scheduled a court hearing on Thursday on defense motions seeking to remove Willis from the case on arguments that her relationship with Wade is a conflict of interest and misuse of taxpayer funds for personal gain.

Willis, who has rejected calls for her to be disqualified from the case, did not attend Friday’s hearing inside the state Capitol.

Senate Minority Leader Gloria Butler raised questions Friday about the committee’s ability to overcome partisan bias during its investigation into Willis, a Democrat elected in 2020 as Fulton’s top prosecutor.

“It is my hope that this committee conducts itself in a responsible fashion and pursues the truth, nothing but the truth,” said the Stone Mountain Democrat. “I think a political witch hunt or show trial would damage Georgians’ faith in both our political and legal system.”

Willis has said that she and Wade strictly had a professional relationship and were friends prior to Wade’s appointment to the case in November 2021. The relationship became romantic in 2022, said Willis, who accused defense lawyers of trying to manufacture a conflict of interest based on irrelevant allegations.

Wade has been paid more than $650,000 since being appointed by Willis as a lead prosecutor in the historic case against Trump and the former Republican president’s co-defendants.

In early January, an attorney for Michael Roman, a former Trump campaign official and one of Trump’s Fulton co-defendants, accused Willis and Wade of being romantically involved while financially profiting off their relationship. In a divorce filing, Wade’s estranged wife released credit card statements under Wade’s name showing roundtrip airline tickets purchased for himself and Willis to San Francisco and Miami in 2022 and 2023.

In a Feb. 7 online article published by Slate, Western Carolina University ethics professor J. Tom Morgan, the former district attorney for DeKalb County, said the details of Wade’s relationship with Willis don’t appear to violate the state’s ethics code for lawyers. Morgan said that there is no evidence that Willis or Wade engaged in improper financial kickbacks that would compromise the election interference case.

Georgia Recorder is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Georgia Recorder maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John McCosh for questions: info@georgiarecorder.com. Follow Georgia Recorder on Facebook and Twitter.

This article is republished from Georgia Recorder under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.