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Fani Willis: Georgia trial involving Trump might not conclude until early 2025

Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis speaks during a news conference on Aug. 14 in Atlanta.    (Joshua Lott/The Washington Post)
By Holly Bailey and Amy Gardner Washington Post

The Atlanta-area prosecutor leading the criminal racketeering case against former president Donald Trump and 14 allies alleging they broke the law when they sought to overturn Trump’s 2020 election loss said Tuesday that she anticipated the trial to conclude by early 2025, with proceedings probably underway during the final stretch of the 2024 presidential election.

In an interview at the Washington Post Live Global Women’s Summit, Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis (D) said the anticipated trial over alleged election interference by Trump and his allies could be ongoing on Election Day 2024 and possibly still underway on Inauguration Day.

“I believe in that case there will be a trial. I believe the trial will take many months. And I don’t expect that we will conclude until the winter or the very early part of 2025,” Willis said.

Ted Goodman, a spokesman for Rudy Giuliani, a defendant in the case, said Willis’s prediction that a trial could stretch into 2025 proves that the case is politically motivated to thwart Trump’s reelection ambitions next year.

The news comes as Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee is beginning to consider scheduling issues in the sprawling Georgia case, a decision in which he will probably have to take into account Trump’s scheduled legal proceedings in other cases, including the separate federal election interference case led by special counsel Jack Smith.

Willis’s comments are likely to draw criticism from Trump, who has accused her and other prosecutors of attempting to disrupt his 2024 bid for the presidency. While Willis pointedly declined to comment on Trump and any of his co-defendants specifically, she said the election calendar plays no role in her decisions about any of the cases that her office pursues.

“I don’t, when making decisions about cases to bring, consider any election cycle or an election season. That does not go into the calculus. What goes into the calculus is: This is the law. These are the facts. And the facts show you violated the law. Then charges are brought,” Willis said. Her appearance Tuesday came hours after she filed an emergency request asking a presiding judge to issue a protective order over discovery materials in the case to prevent leaks of potential evidence.

The request came a day after The Post published details of recorded statements given to prosecutors by four Trump co-defendants who have accepted plea deals in the case. The recordings of interviews between prosecutors and pro-Trump attorneys Kenneth Chesebro, Jenna Ellis and Sidney Powell and Atlanta bail bondsman Scott Hall offered previously undisclosed details about the effort by Trump and his allies to reverse his defeat. Some of the details from two of the videos were first reported Monday by ABC News.

Willis denied that her office was behind the leak, which she described as not “surprising” but “disappointing.” She added, “I’m not happy that it was released.” She previously requested a protective order over discovery materials in the case, which includes “proffer” videos featuring statements of those who have pleaded guilty in the case. In a Tuesday court filing, Willis renewed that request “on an emergency basis” citing the leak of the recordings to the media.

“These confidential video recordings were not released by the State to any party other than the defendants charged in the indictment, pursuant to the discovery process as required by law,” the filing said. “The release of these confidential video recordings is clearly intended to intimidate witnesses in this case, subjecting them to harassment and threats prior to trial, constitutes indirect communication about the facts of this case with codefendants and witnesses, and obstructs the administration of justice, in violation of the conditions of release imposed on each defendant.”

Prosecutors said they would no longer share “confidential video recordings of proffers” to any defense attorneys involved in the case and said they must view those statements in person at the district attorney’s office. “They may take notes, but they will be prohibited from creating any recordings or reproductions.”

The filing, which was signed by Willis and two deputy prosecutors, Donald Wakeford and Will Wooten, asked McAfee to immediately grant an emergency protective order covering all discovery materials and to schedule a hearing and to issue a “permanent order prohibiting disclosure of any discovery materials by any party.” In response, McAfee scheduled a Wednesday hearing on the issue.

The prosecution’s filing includes a copy of an email chain about the leak that began Monday night between prosecutors and some criminal defense attorneys involved in the case. Steve Sadow, the lead Georgia attorney for Trump, emailed prosecutors saying the leak of the recordings did not come from him or another co-counsel on the case and asked prosecutors whether someone in the district attorney’s office disclosed it to the media.

“The State had nothing to do with leaking any information to the media!” Nathan Wade, a special prosecutor and lead government attorney on the case, replied. An attorney for Harrison Floyd, a Trump ally charged for his alleged role in the harassment of election worker Ruby Freeman, replied to the chain Tuesday morning, writing, “It was Harrison Floyd’s team.” In the filing, prosecutors said Floyd’s attorney later said that statement was a typo and that Floyd’s team had not shared the information with the media.

An attorney for David Shafer, the former Georgia Republican Party chair who is charged in part for his role as a Trump elector, filed a motion opposing the prosecution’s proposed protective order, describing it as too broad. The motion put forward an alternative protective order, supported by several other co-defendants including Trump, that would label some discovery evidence as “sensitive” and allow it to be filed under seal but still be accessible to the defendants.

Willis and her team originally requested a protective order over evidence in the case on Sept. 27. During a hearing in the case last month, before Powell, Chesebro and Ellis entered guilty pleas, McAfee asked about the status of that proposed protective order and a defense attorney for Chesebro said the order was still being negotiated between prosecutors and the numerous defense attorneys on the case.