Fani Willis’ Case Against Donald Trump at Risk of Being ‘Blown Apart’


The length of Fulton County Fani Willis’ sprawling election interference trial in Georgia may have a knock-on effect on other trials involving Donald Trump, according to a legal expert.

Willis has stated that she intends to try all 19 defendants charged under her anti-racketeering investigation into alleged criminal attempts to overturn the 2020 election together, and has suggested her office is prepared to begin proceedings as soon as October 23.

Former Trump lawyers Kenneth Chesebro and Sidney Powell, who were indicted alongside the former president, have moved to have their case severed so they can be tried separately from other defendants. All three have pleaded not guilty.

On Wednesday, Fulton County Judge Scott McAfee will oversee a hearing on whether Chesebro and Powell can have their cases tried independently. Judge McAfee has asked Willis’ office to prove a “good faith” estimate on how long it may take to present the state’s case during a joint trial of all 19 defendants, as well as the number of witnesses likely to be called and the size of the evidence likely to be introduced.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis on August 14, 2023, in Atlanta, Georgia. The potential length of the Fulton County DA’s RICO election interference case may be a hindrance, according to one legal expert.
Getty Images/Joe Raedle

In a series of posts on X, formerly Twitter, former Deputy Assistant Attorney General Harry Litman suggested that Willis will have a problem either way with an estimate, seeing as her previous major RICO trial involving dozens of educators in Atlanta accused of cheating on standardized tests lasted several months.

“If Willis comes in with an estimate along the lines of previous trials—8 months or more—it will basically blow to smithereens the scheduling of the various trials,” Litman wrote. “And hard to see how she can provide a ‘good-faith’ estimate that’s way lower than the previous teacher RICO.

“Recall that the best precedent—RICO for teachers—took some 8 months to try (and months before to pick a jury). If she gives a similar estimate, everything gets blown apart; if she doesn’t, questions will be why this one [is] so much shorter,” Litman added.

“Seems to me McAfee has to finesse this and not clear exactly how he will. Big hearing.”

Willis’ office has been contacted for comment via email.

Trump is scheduled to attend three other trials in 2024. On March 4, the former president is to go on trial on four charges relating to the events that led up to the January 6 Capitol attack following Special Counsel Jack Smith’s federal probe. Trump faces 34 counts in New York over allegations he falsified business records in connection to “hush money” paid to Stormy Daniels with the trial in the case beginning March 25, 2024.

In May, Trump is due to begin his trial in Florida over accusations he illegally retained classified documents after he left office, then obstructed the federal attempt to retrieve them. Trump has pleaded not guilty to all charges across all four cases.

It is unclear if any of the scheduled trials will have to move in order to accommodate Willis’ potentially mammoth case involving the former president, or if the start of the Georgia trial will be delayed until the other three legal proceedings have finished or be allowed to run alongside.

The timing of Willis’ RICO trial could have historic implications for the 2024 presidential elections. Trump, who remains the GOP frontrunner, could potentially face a conviction prior to entering office if he wins.

As the Georgia case is a state investigation, Trump would not be able to pardon himself if he becomes president, unlike the federal investigations.

However, it is possible that Trump could spend months arguing via the courts to delay his sentencing until he becomes president under the assumption that he will then no longer have to serve time.

“We are in completely new territory if a sitting president is convicted of crimes he committed before he was elected president, which will be the case here,” Eric J. Segall, professor of law at Georgia State University College of Law and Constitution expert, previously told Newsweek.

“There’s nothing in the Constitution about this. There’s very little case law about this. We’ll have to see. There’s no way to predict how that would play out. No way.”


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