If politics make for strange bedfellows, the sudden agreement between Brian Kemp and Marjorie Taylor Greene could be among the strangest within the GOP. The two have been at odds in Georgia politics for years, especially in the wake of the 2020 election and the governor’s refusal to play along with Donald Trump on recounts and lawsuits.
But when it comes to Fani Willis and increasing suspicions of her turning a prosecution of Trump into a personal grift, suddenly Kemp and MTG find themselves on the same page, Newsweek reports this morning:
Georgia Governor Brian Kemp showed support for Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene’s request for help in investigating Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, amid claims that the prosecutor personally benefited from tapping Nathan Wade to lead the RICO case against former President Donald Trump.
Kemp told Newsweek in a statement that Greene had “every right” to refer her complaint to Georgia lawmakers, calling the accusations against Willis “deeply troubling.” The governor stopping short of urging Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr to order an immediate criminal investigation into the matter, as Greene has requested in her letter to the two state officials.
“Evidence should be presented quickly,” Kemp said. “Georgians need to be able to have confidence in this trial and the Georgia General Assembly laid out a specific process to investigate matters such as these. The Congresswoman has every right to refer her complaint to the oversight commission once it commences full operations.”
That is quite a turnaround for Kemp, who had previously staved off efforts to probe Willis for her RICO prosecution of Trump. Kemp has also publicly rebuked Trump for claiming that the 2020 election in Georgia was decided by “election fraud,” another point of contention with Taylor Greene. Four months ago and shortly after that rebuke, Kemp blasted efforts to single out Willis for such scrutiny in a proposed special legislative session. Kemp didn’t exactly endorse Willis at the time, but he did declare that he didn’t see any evidence of wrongdoing, not even enough to warrant an investigation by the oversight commission he helped create:
“Let me be clear: We have a law in the state of Georgia that clearly outlines the legal steps that can be taken if constituents believe their local prosecutors are violating their oath by engaging in unethical or illegal behavior,” Kemp said at a news conference. “Up to this point, I have not seen any evidence that DA Willis’ actions, or lack thereof, warrant action by the Prosecuting Attorney Oversight Commission.”
He also said calling a special session to impeach Willis is “not feasible and may ultimately prove to be unconstitutional.” (Such a move would require a two-thirds majority in the Georgia Senate, which would require Democratic votes.)
That comes from MSNBC in a report that goes on to complain about the commission and Kemp’s role in its creation. The creation of an oversight panel was an “overtly political attack … against Willis and other Democratic prosecutors,” Ja’han Jones claimed at the time, despite Kemp’s refusal to use it against Willis at the time. Jones also claimed that Kemp was providing sotto voce support for Trump’s criticism of Willis that she “engages in political hit jobs” rather than “prosecute real crime in the Atlanta area.”
Suddenly, however, the commission looks like a very good idea.
First, though, the court handling the RICO case will have to deal with the claims made by Michael Roman’s attorneys that first alleged that Willis set up Nathan Wade as special prosecutor to get personal financial gain from the case. The lack of public comment by both Willis and Wade have their allies suddenly very nervous about how they will respond to those inquiries, and what it could mean for the RICO case against all of the defendants, especially Trump. Legal analysts have made clear that the kind of personal financial gain alleged could derail the indictment, potentially for good, not to mention incur additional sanctions against Willis and Wade.
AJC columnist Patricia Murphy lamented that Willis’ “personal life” has been made an issue, but also wonders what Willis was thinking in putting herself in this position:
When Judge Robert McBurney admonished Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis in 2022 for hosting a fundraiser for a political opponent of Lt. Gov. Burt Jones, McBurney declared it a “what-were-you-thinking moment.”
“The optics are horrific,” the judge said, before slicing the Jones piece of the case off of Willis’ grand jury investigation because of the potential conflict of interest.
Now two years later, the optics for Willis are even worse, after a court filing accused her of having a romantic relationship with Nathan Wade, the special prosecutor her hired in the Fulton County case against former President Donald Trump.
Murphy’s also unnerved by the silence coming from Willis and Wade:
This could be an elaborate case of he-said, she-said, except Willis has said … nothing. Not a press conference. Not a back-channel denial. Not a staff email, like the one she sent to her office after Trump grossly accused her of being romantically involved with a defendant in a gang trial. That rumor was “derogatory and false,” she said then.
This week, Willis’ office said only that she would respond in court filings. But the silence outside of that has left Republicans pushing to investigate her, and Democrats reeling, worried that the case against Trump, which they believe is rock-solid, will be slowed or undermined.
Willis’ personal life isn’t the issue here, nor is her gender or skin color, even if Murphy attempts to redirect the concern in those directions. The question is why Wade got appointed to this position in the first place, and whether Willis arranged it to direct public funds to her boyfriend for her benefit as well as his. Wade has never prosecuted a RICO case ever, and as Murphy concedes, he’s never even tried a felony case in Georgia. In a state filled with experienced prosecutors and veterans of RICO cases, how did Nathan Wade get the job at all? And did taxpayer dollars get routed through Wade to benefit Willis, as alleged?
That sounds like a … potential RICO case, no? At least by Willis’ standards?
We may hear some answers as early as this afternoon. The first court hearing since the bombshell filing will take place at 1 pm, although it doesn’t involve Roman:
A hearing this afternoon in Fulton Superior Court will focus on more than a half-dozen pending procedural motions in the Donald Trump election interference case.
But it will be closely watched for another reason: it marks the first time Fulton County prosecutors will appear in public since Monday’s bombshell allegations that District Attorney Fani Willis improperly hired a romantic partner as special prosecutor and financially benefited from their relationship.
The claims, from defendant and former Trump campaign operative Mike Roman, were not substantiated and Judge Scott McAfee, who oversees the case, is not scheduled to address them today. (McAfee will ultimately decide whether to take any other action against Willis or the case.)
The claims haven’t yet been “substantiated” because McAfee hasn’t yet scheduled a hearing on them. At least some of the material comes from a sealed court case and can’t be made public, which means McAfee will have to order the case unsealed to allow the claims to be substantiated. Once that happens, Roman’s attorneys can then provide any substantiation they may have.
That probably won’t happen today, but McAfee may want to get to the bottom of this quickly. Stay tuned.