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Fani Willis wants lawyer for Trump fake electors off the case, says there’s conflict

There are signs of life in the probe into 2020 election interference in Georgia. How those signs impact Donald Trump and others remains to be seen.


What has Georgia's Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis been up to? We’ve all been wondering since she said months ago that decisions from her office about its 2020 election interference probe were “imminent.” Well, we got an update this week.

Specifically, there may be some flipping among the so-called fake electors — the people who signed false slates of electors for then-President Donald Trump during the 2020 election — and it’s leading Willis to try and get a state GOP-paid lawyer kicked off the matter.

That lawyer is Kimberly Bourroughs Debrow, who’s been representing 10 of the Georgia Republicans who sought to push Trump into office despite him losing to Joe Biden. According to a filing from Willis on Tuesday, some of them have implicated another in criminal activity (though the filing didn't specify which elector or what alleged crime or crimes). That led Willis to seek Debrow’s disqualification because, per Willis, her office interviewed some of those electors last week, which revealed not only that some of them are implicating another, but that the defense never conveyed immunity offers to the electors that were broached last year. (Debrow has denied Willis’ allegation.)

But wait. Why is Willis, the prosecutor, getting involved with defense representation? Don’t people have a right to their chosen lawyer if they’re informed about any potential conflict (and if they can afford the lawyer)?

Yes, but not without exception. A lawyer needs to keep their client’s best interests in mind, which can be complicated when a lawyer represents multiple clients. When clients’ interests conflict, that can make it close to impossible for a lawyer to act on one client’s interests without negatively impacting another's. As Willis has framed the situation in her filing — which, again, Debrow contests — such a conflict appears to be a serious possibility here.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis during a hearing on Jan. 24, 2023, in Atlanta.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis during a hearing Jan. 24 in Atlanta.John Bazemore / AP file

However the representation issue gets sorted out, the more important takeaway for now may be the possibility of potential flipping and immunity that have led the DA to take the step of seeking Debrow’s disqualification.

So what does this mean for the timing of the Georgia investigation and potential charges? Remember, the special grand jury that recommended charges (in a still partially sealed report) was purely investigative — it couldn’t vote on an indictment. To secure an indictment, Willis needs to go through a regular grand jury. The New York Times reported Tuesday that the DA “is expected to seek indictments next month” but that it “was not immediately clear if the latest development could delay the timetable.”

Given the apparently sprawling nature of Willis' investigation — compared to Trump’s New York indictment, for example, where he’s the only defendant on a narrow set of charges — it won’t be surprising if Georgia charges don’t come next month, either. But the latest known action in Fulton County suggests that Willis’ office is actively working toward charges. Whatever those charges might be and against whom, we still do not know.