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Fani Willis disqualification saga continues, even as Georgia case moves ahead

The New York hush money case is set to be Trump’s first criminal prosecution to see trial. It’s an open question as to which of the other three criminal cases, if any, goes second.

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The Georgia prosecution against Donald Trump and others was back in court last week, with a hearing about pretrial legal issues in the election interference case. That might have given the impression that the saga over District Attorney Fani Willis’ potential disqualification is settled. But it’s still possible that Willis and her office get kicked off the case.

We were reminded of that Friday, with the filing of a defense appeal in the matter. Recall that Judge Scott McAfee essentially split the difference last month, when he said that Willis could stay on the case if special prosecutor Nathan Wade, with whom she had a romantic relationship, stepped down. That’s what happened. But McAfee also allowed the defense to appeal his order.

Now we wait on whether the state appeals court will decide to take it up; the court has 45 days from Friday. As last week’s hearing shows, the case will move forward in the meantime, but with this crucial issue hanging over it.

In their application for appeal, Trump and his co-defendants approvingly cited McAfee’s criticism of Willis and Wade. But they argued that the judge drew the wrong legal conclusions from the damning facts that he found. If the state appeals court agrees, then Willis and her office are off the case.

It’s possible that the court takes up the issue, given the apparent murkiness on the state law surrounding disqualification. That would, of course, cast further doubt over when — and even whether — the election subversion case goes to trial in Fulton County. There’s no trial date as it is.

So, for those keeping tabs on all four of Trump’s criminal cases, this uncertainty emphasizes the apparent certainty that Trump’s New York hush money case, set for April 15, will be his first to go to trial. And with the wild cards of U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon’s offbeat handling of the classified documents case and the Supreme Court’s pending immunity review in the federal election-related case, it also highlights that, if the New York case in fact goes first, it’s still an open question as to which case, if any, goes second.

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