Trump Prosecutor in Georgia Rebukes Critics in Speech to Black Church Group

Trump Prosecutor in Georgia Rebukes Critics in Speech to Black Church Group

With her prosecution of former President Donald J. Trump bottled up in a state appeals court fight, the Georgia district attorney who brought the case pushed back at her conservative critics on Thursday, appearing to single out recent remarks made about her by Mr. Trump’s co-defendant Rudolph W. Giuliani.

At a recent stop on the ReAwaken America tour, a right-wing Christian event, Mr. Giuliani referred to the district attorney, Fani T. Willis, who is Black, as a “ho,” using a stylized version of the word “whore” borrowed from the African American vernacular. He also said he chose to deliberately mispronounce Ms. Willis’s first name as “Fanny,” as opposed to the proper pronunciation, “FAHN-ee.”

Ms. Willis spoke on Thursday to leaders of the African Methodist Episcopal Church, who were meeting at a church in Marietta, Ga.

“I’ve lived the experience of a Black woman who is attacked and over-sexualized,” she said. “See, I’m so tired of hearing these idiots call my name as ‘Fanny,’ in a way to attempt to humiliate me. Because, like silly schoolboys, the name reminds them of a woman’s rear, of her behind.”

Though Ms. Willis did not refer specifically to Mr. Giuliani, the former New York City mayor, she was introduced to the crowd by Bishop Reginald T. Jackson, the presiding prelate for the A.M.E. church in Georgia, who made it plain that Mr. Giuliani was on his mind. “You’ve got somebody who used to be referred to as America’s mayor,” Bishop Jackson said, “who’s now become America’s moron in chief.”

The volley of insults came at a moment of frustration among many Democrats about the fact that Ms. Willis’s case against Mr. Trump would not reach the trial phase until after the November election. Mr. Trump, Mr. Giuliani and 17 others were indicted in August by a grand jury in Fulton County over their efforts to overturn Mr. Trump’s 2020 election loss. Four of the defendants later pleaded guilty.

The case hit serious turbulence this year, when defense lawyers accused Ms. Willis of creating a conflict of interest by engaging in a romantic relationship with Nathan J. Wade, a lawyer she hired to manage the prosecution team. Defense lawyers sought to have Ms. Willis disqualified, but the judge in the case, Scott McAfee, ruled that she could stay on it if Mr. Wade stepped down, which he did.

The judge’s ruling is now being appealed, and this month the state appellate court made it clear that the case would not be resolved until after the presidential election. It also ordered the case stayed at the lower court level for the nine defendants who appealed the disqualification ruling, which include Mr. Trump and Mr. Giuliani.

This week, Judge McAfee, of Fulton County Superior Court, indicated that he would continue working through motions filed by the remaining defendants. On Wednesday, Ms. Willis’s office asked the appellate court to dismiss the defendants’ appeal for lack of evidence.

If Mr. Trump wins the election, his lawyers are likely to raise constitutional challenges to any effort to put him on trial in Georgia while he is in the White House. Legal experts say that the arguments could succeed.

Ms. Willis, a Democrat, is running for a second term as district attorney of Fulton County, which covers much of the city of Atlanta. It is a liberal stronghold, and Ms. Willis is considered a strong favorite against Courtney A. Kramer — a Republican who has worked in the Trump White House and with the Trump campaign — in the November contest.

Mr. Wade was in the audience for Ms. Willis’s speech. On Wednesday, he appeared in a CNN interview with Kaitlan Collins, in which she asked him when his romance with Ms. Willis had begun. That question has been a focus of the disqualification fight; Ashleigh Merchant, a lawyer for one of the defendants, has claimed that the relationship began before Ms. Willis hired Mr. Wade.

But Mr. Wade and Ms. Willis have said that it began after she hired him in November 2021. Both have also said that the relationship ended last summer.

In the CNN interview, Mr. Wade began answering Ms. Collins’s question but was interrupted by a man identified as his consultant. The two men huddled for a moment and spoke privately, after which Mr. Wade returned to the interview and said the timing question was a “not a relevant issue.”

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