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Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis speaks at a press conference next to prosecutor Nathan Wade after a grand jury brought back indictments against former President Donald Trump and his allies in their attempt to overturn the state’s 2020 election results, in Atlanta on Aug. 14, 2023.

Elijah Nouvelage | Reuters

The sprawling Georgia election interference case against former President Donald Trump and his co-defendants can continue if either Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis or prosecutor Nathan Wade removes themselves, Fulton County Superior Court judge Scott McAfee ruled Friday.

The ruling represents a middle ground following the bombshell revelation that Willis and Wade were engaged in a romantic relationship for more than a year while the case was being investigated and prosecuted. Accounts of precisely when the relationship began differed significantly.

The highly anticipated decision came more than two months after one of Trump’s co-defendants first called to disqualify Willis from prosecuting the former president for allegedly trying to overturn President Joe Biden’s victory in Georgia’s 2020 election.

Multiple other defendants, including Trump, joined the bid to dismiss the indictment and remove Willis on conflict-of-interest grounds. The defendants also called to disqualify Wade.

“While respecting the Court’s decision, we believe that the Court did not afford appropriate significance to the prosecutorial misconduct of Willis and Wade,” Trump attorney Steve Sadow said Friday in response to the ruling. “We will use all legal options available as we continue to fight to end this case, which should never have been brought in the first place.”

Willis and Wade admitted to the relationship only after it was first alleged in January court filings for defendant Michael Roman. These filings claimed the D.A. and the prosecutor engaged in an “improper, clandestine personal relationship” and that they profited off the arrangement at taxpayers’ expense.

But both Willis and Wade insisted their relationship posed neither a personal nor financial conflict, and Willis has decried related claims as “fantastical theories and rank speculation.”

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In a volatile hearing in mid-February, Willis tore into Ashleigh Merchant, the defense lawyer who first surfaced the relationship allegations.

On the witness stand, both Willis and Wade insisted that their relationship did not become romantic until after he joined the election interference case in November 2021.

Willis’ 98-page, 41-count indictment initially charged Trump with 13 criminal counts. Trump, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, pleaded not guilty to the charges. A number of Trump’s co-defendants have already struck plea deals in the case.

On Wednesday, McAfee dismissed six counts from Willis’ case — including three against Trump — ruling that the basis for those charges was insufficiently explained. Those counts had accused Trump and five other defendants of the crime of solicitation of violation of oath by a public officer.

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