It’s a tough week for President Trump in Georgia. Besides catching flack for the historic Republican defeat in the Senate runoffs Tuesday, his attempt to flip his own defeat in the state have left him with a brand-new criminal prosecutor to worry about. And her name is Fani Willis.
Willis will be officially sworn in Friday as Fulton County’s first female District Attorney, taking the job less than a week after Trump harangued Georgia officials to help him reverse his defeat in the state in the infamous taped phone call.
Trump’s diatribe may have broken a Georgia state law against soliciting voter fraud. And that means Willis, a Democrat and the daughter of a Black Panther, faces the politically explosive task of deciding whether to charge Trump. Doing so would make her an overnight hero to Trump’s critics but also the instant foe of millions of Trump supporters who believe Trump’s false insistence that he somehow won both the state of Georgia and the 2020 national election.
Willis has expressed alarm at Trump’s call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger last Saturday and pledged to prosecute any proven lawbreaking.
“Like many Americans, I have found the news reports about the president’s telephone call with the Georgia secretary of state disturbing,” Willis said in a statement. “As district attorney, I will enforce the law without fear or favor. Anyone who commits a felony violation of Georgia law in my jurisdiction will be held accountable.”
Trump is already facing state-level investigations in New York led by the Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance and New York State Attorney General Letitia James. That means Willis has effectively become a third key local law enforcement official eyeing Trump for possible state charges that couldn’t be swept away with a presidential pardon—in an entirely new jurisdiction.
If Trump does face a state criminal case in Georgia, the state’s Republican governor, Brian Kemp, couldn’t save him with a pardon, either. In Georgia, pardons for state crimes are administered exclusively by a five-member board called the Georgia State Board of Pardons and Paroles.
Willis has experience in the art of taking on powerful men in the political arena.
She won her 2020 race for District Attorney with a blistering assault on her former boss, then-sitting Fulton DA Paul Howard, who’d held the seat for over 20 years. Willis worked for the DA’s office for 16 years before seeking the top job.
Willis blasted Howard for padding his own pay with $195,000 in city grant money from local non-profit organizations, in an incident that reportedly prompted federal and state investigations.
“I believe he’ll be arrested for it and ultimately prosecuted before the year is out,” Willis declared. She called Howard’s conduct “a criminal offense.”
Howard denied breaking the law, and hasn’t been charged with a crime. He insisted that he received the funds as part of a pay raise. In August, he agreed to pay a $6,500 to settle a 14-count state ethics complaint for failing to disclose his role as CEO of the two non-profits. Days later, Willis clobbered him in the election. She won more than 70 percent of the vote, and took his job.
The incident demonstrated her willingness to come out swinging against a politically powerful official. And it might provide a taste of the fire she’d bring against Trump.
Her campaign isn’t the only time she’s stirred up controversy or raised allegations of corruption.
During her earlier 16-year stint working for Howard, she led the prosecution of 12 public school teachers in Atlanta accused of falsifying their students’ scores on standardized tests to improve their schools’ standing. Eleven were convicted of racketeering—the kind of organized crime charge typically brought against mob bosses.
Willis has promised to offer first-time offenders a chance to straighten up and perform community service instead of serving a prison sentence.
“People take kindness for weakness, and I’m very kind, but I’m not weak,” Willis said. “I just think we can save people, and at the same time, I don’t want any of your listeners to be confused: I am a prosecutor at my heart and my soul.”
Going after Trump
Trump’s critics say he may have broken a state law against knowingly solicit election fraud.
On Saturday night, Trump implored and cajoled Raffensperger to find a way to dig up more votes for Trump.
“All I want to do is this,” Trump told Raffensperger. “I just want to find 11,780 votes, which is one more than we have, because we won the state.”