Fani Willis Fights Back Against Misconduct Claims | Crooked Media
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January 18, 2024
What A Day
Fani Willis Fights Back Against Misconduct Claims

In This Episode

  • Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis faces misconduct allegations after a co-defendant in Georgia’s election interference case against Trump claimed that Willis was in a “romantic relationship” with her special prosecutor. The presiding judge set a hearing for February 15th to focus on the allegations.
  • The Justice Department released a scathing 575-page report Thursday about the 2022 elementary school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. The report described the “significant failure” in the police’s response that day, and emphasized that the officers took too long to treat the incident as an active shooter situation.
  • And in headlines: Congress narrowly avoided a partial government shutdown by passing a short-term funding bill Thursday, Pakistan and Iran both launched unprecedented attacks on each other’s territories, and the NFL announced that Reba McEntire, Post Malone and Andra Day will perform at this year’s Super Bowl pregame.

 

Show Notes:

 

 

TRANSCRIPT

 

Tre’vell Anderson: It’s Friday January 19th and Tre’vell Anderson. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: And I’m Priyanka Aribindi and this is What a Day where we think that if any message could get aliens to avoid us here on Earth, it’s probably a sign that says Visit Lexington, Kentucky. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Yes, apparently the city recently revealed that they beamed that up to, I guess the Milky Way? But don’t nobody want to go there. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Why are we assuming that the aliens read English? [laughter] [music break]

 

Priyanka Aribindi: On today’s show, the Justice Department delivered a scathing report about the 2022 school shooting in Uvalde, Texas. 

 

[clip of the Justice Department] The law enforcement response at Robb Elementary School on May 24th, 2022, and in the hours and days after was a failure that should not have happened. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Plus, the Congress came together under the wire yesterday to avoid another government shutdown. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: But first, the twists and turns of the Georgia election interference case against Donald Trump are twisting and they are turning. Okay. I hope your wigs are pinned down tight. Priyanka. You ready? 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. Same goes for those aliens that are passing by Earth. [laughter] Hold them down. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Listen up. Because Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis might be in some hot water, and that could definitely jeopardize her attempt to hold Trump and his 14 co-defendants responsible for their illegal foolishness last presidential election cycle. The judge overseeing the case has now scheduled a separate hearing next month to suss out the validity of some misconduct claims directed at Fani Willis and her lead prosecutor on the case, Nathan Wade. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Okay, so these claims have been percolating for about a week now, but tell us more about this. You know, is there any validity to them? 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. So one of Trump’s co-defendants is Mike Roman. Mike Roman was one of his campaign aides. Okay. Last week, Roman and his lawyer accused DA Willis of having a personal relationship with her lead prosecutor. They also said that she’s been benefiting from whatever it is that the prosecutor is getting paid, because apparently the pair went on multiple cruises and trips together that Nathan Wade paid for. What they’re trying to say here is that there’s some fraud going on or some unethical behavior, or at minimum a conflict of interest, and they’re trying to get the judge to disqualify D.A. Willis and her prosecutor, Nathan Wade, from the case in hopes of the entire thing being thrown out altogether. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Let me see if I have this straight. Basically, they’re saying that because, you know, they have some kind of relationship that she, you know, has gotten a dinner or a trip from this man who is being paid by her office, that there’s like some impropriety going on here.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. Like they’re basically trying to say that she hired her boyfriend to–

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: –lead this case, and now her and her boyfriend are benefiting off of this case that is being funded by taxpayer dollars. Right. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Got it. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: But two notes here really quickly. One, there is no evidence or there at least was no evidence submitted as part of the filing to substantiate these claims. Right. So we don’t want to rush to any conclusions yet. We know how this entire case has become super political. Right? 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: And then number two, this is where the roller coaster of this case gets a little more soap opera ish, because the way that Roman and his lawyers say that they know this information to be true is because Nathan Wade, the prosecutor, is currently in the middle of a divorce, and it’s not one of the good divorces. Okay? 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Not a conscious uncoupling. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: It is not a conscious uncoupling. Okay. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Got it. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: And so Roman’s lawyer told the Washington Post that she’s seen records from Wade’s divorce case that substantiate her claims, but that she hasn’t submitted those records because they have since been sealed by a judge. And so now there’s a coalition of media organizations that have filed motions to try to get those records unsealed. But here’s also some other interesting info about this messy saga. Literally hours before Mike Roman and his lawyer filed their motion last week, DA Willis was served a subpoena by Nathan Wade’s estranged wife for a deposition in their divorce case. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Okay, my head is in my hands [laughter] because this sounds like a total mess. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: But I’m not 100% sure that any of it is anything other than messy. I don’t know if there’s actual impropriety here. I suppose that’s not for me to decide, but has D.A. Willis responded to any of this yet? 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Well, so her lawyers have said that they’ll respond to everything in court, that they wanted to just focus on it in that way. But this past Sunday, DA Willis actually spoke at Big Bethel AME Church in Atlanta. She gave a 35 minute long speech from the pulpit that–

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Oh. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: –started off being about Martin Luther King Jr. because, you know, it was his birthday coming up. But then she started reading aloud this letter she said that she wrote to God about this moment in her life. And I’m going to share some bits of what she says in that letter, because, you know, it applies. Okay. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: All right. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Let’s start with this first clip of her talking about accepting what she saw as a calling for this role and not knowing what would land in her lap. 

 

[clip of Fani Willis] God, you got to be kidding. Seven of the highest profile cases in the United States going to lay them right here. [applause] No please make it stop. [laughter] God, you forgot to mention that my life and the life of my family would be threatened so regularly I now think it’s not normal if I don’t have two death threats a week. [crowd sound] God, you did not tell me that people would call me the N-word more than they’d call me Fani. You did not tell me as a woman of color, it would not matter what I did. My motive, my talent, my ability, and my character would be constantly attacked. You did not tell me that the people would think they required of me perfection and flawless. God, why would you send this imperfect and very flawed woman to that position?

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Clearly wrestling with a lot here. A lot is on her plate. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. Right. And and we’ve spoken a little bit about the pressures, right, that she, as a Black woman, is facing in this role at this time. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Totally. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Dealing with, you know, all of the foolishness that comes with it. There’s a second clip I want to play where she starts talking about the election interference case a little bit more directly and folks questioning her decisions. 

 

[clip of Fani Willis] I appointed three special counsel is is my right to do. Paid them all the same hourly rate. They only attack one. I hired one white woman. A good personal friend and great lawyer. A superstar I tell you. I hired one white man. Brilliant, my friend and a great lawyer. And I hired one Black man, another superstar, a great friend and a great lawyer. Oh, Lord, they going to be mad when I call them out on this nonsense. First thing they say. Oh, she gonna play the race card now. But no, God isn’t it them who’s playing the race card when they only question one. Isn’t it them playing the race card when they constantly think I need someone from some other jurisdiction in some other state to tell me how to do a job I’ve been doing almost 30 years. [applause]

 

Tre’vell Anderson: And then I’ve got one final clip here where, you know, I like to say she really starts feeling her oats in the great tradition of a Black pastor. 

 

[clip of Fani Willis] Lord, I’m just asking. Is it that I, because of the shell you chose to put me in, will never be qualified in their eyes to make the decisions the voters put me here to make? [applause] Lord, nevermind your flawed, imperfect servant has composed a team that wins, wins and wins. [applause] Never mind, Lord, that this leader has a trial conviction rate of 95%. [applause] Never mind, Lord, that the trial team this lawyer put together has a conviction rate of 95%. [applause] Nevermind Lord that the appellate rate of my office is 96%. [applause]

 

Tre’vell Anderson: And so she basically goes on to like basically say that, you know, she knows what she’s doing and these forces– 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: You know, are working against her. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Right. I gotta hand it to her. I feel like everyone sitting in that church probably has a such a good understanding of everything she is trying to do. She broke it down so incredibly clearly and everything that she is up against, she also, you know, as you mentioned, lining up a solid backup career if this isn’t working out for her, clearly could be up there. But anyways, what comes next in this story? 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. So there are a number of hearings set over the next month or so that will impact how all of this shakes out. There’s literally one every week. There’s the divorce hearing and whether D.A. Willis will have to testify. She’s trying to block that subpoena by the way. Her lawyer Thursday actually accused the estranged wife of conspiring, quote, “to use the civil discovery process to annoy, embarrass, and oppress District Attorney Willis.” So that’s going to be interesting in and of itself. Also, we have the hearing about whether or not the divorce records will be unsealed and the, you know, alleged proof of the allegations that are there. And then there is the hearing on the misconduct allegation and attempts to dismiss the election interference case by Mike Roman. All of this is before Donald Trump even has to face the music for his specific role in all of this. So y’all can expect, you know, a few different updates to come over the next couple weeks. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Oh, yes, we will be on it right now. Just messy, messy, messy. But thank you so much for getting us up to speed and breaking it all down. Now, switching to another big story, after a nearly two year long investigation, the Justice Department released a 575 page report yesterday on the failures of the police during the 2022 massacre at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas. As many of you may remember, back in May of 2022, an 18 year old gunman in Uvalde killed 19 children and two teachers, while police officers took a whopping 77 minutes to confront him. That was time during which the gunman held his victims inside a classroom at Robb Elementary School. It has become known as one of the worst school shootings in the history of this country, and by extension, the world, because this is the only country where mass shootings at schools like this happen. As well as a colossal failure on the part of law enforcement. Take a listen to Attorney General Merrick Garland speaking about this new report yesterday. 

 

[clip of Attorney General Merrick Garland] The department’s review concluded that a series of major failures, failures in leadership, in tactics, in communications and training, and in preparedness were made by law enforcement leaders and others responding to the mass shooting at Robb Elementary. As a result, 33 students and three of their teachers, many of whom have been shot, were trapped in a room with an active shooter for over an hour as law enforcement officials remained outside. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: I mean, it’s horrific to comprehend if you or anyone you knew was in that same situation, you would be completely outraged, as are so many of the families and community members in Uvalde. Garland went on to say that had law enforcement agencies involved followed the accepted practices and acted quickly to stop the shooter, lives would have been saved here. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: I hate to be that girl, but I feel like, you know, a lot of us knew that, felt that, you know as–

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: –information has come out right over the last year or so. A lot of the details right about this shooting were already known to the public. So I guess what more can you tell us about this report? What it was for, what, if anything, new we learned from it? 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. I mean, you’re definitely right. We knew a lot going in. Back in July of 2022, the Texas House actually released a report that was pretty much echoed by the Justice Department’s report, though. I mean, the DOJ’s is in very painstaking detail, but this report is known as a critical incident review. It was initiated over a year and a half ago at the request of the former mayor of Uvalde, and its goal was to find out what went wrong here and to offer recommendations to improve policing, both in Uvalde and everywhere else. The most significant failure, according to this report, was the decision by local police officials to classify the incident as a barricaded standoff, instead of as an active shooter scenario. That might sound like semantics, but in an active shooter situation, the protocol is an immediate, aggressive response to take down the shooter. A barricaded standoff is more of a negotiation situation, which this clearly wasn’t. That was a decision by the now former school police chief, Pete Arredondo, who was heavily scrutinized in this report. This report named him as the de facto person in charge and one who consistently made the wrong decisions that delayed the confrontation with the gunman, though it is important to note that several state law enforcement officers on the scene also didn’t do anything to directly confront the shooter any sooner. That was really a consistent throughline among so many of the people who were present there that day. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah, so the idea here, right, is that if local authorities acted with more urgency, things might have turned out differently here. Makes perfect sense to me.

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Right. The report didn’t, you know, parse it out and say explicitly that that’s would have happened. But according to Garland, the main takeaway from the investigation is that officers who respond to an active shooting scene need to immediately enter the room to stop the shooter with whatever they have at their disposal. The report found that the officers there wasted a bunch of time waiting for keys to classrooms or shields, or more highly trained officers to show up when what they should have been doing was confronting the shooter and getting the kids and the teachers he shot, and the people who were in danger because they were trapped in that classroom with him, away from the scene. And had that happened sooner, had people been able to get out, get treatment sooner, more people might have lived. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. And you mentioned that Arredondo is no longer an officer. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: What actions have been taken against the law enforcement officials who contributed to the failure here? 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, several former police officers in Uvalde, including Arredondo, as well as the acting Uvalde police chief that day, Mariano Pargas, have already resigned or been fired, but there haven’t been any criminal charges against any of the nearly 400 officers who were involved at this point. This report by the DOJ didn’t consider criminal wrongdoing, but the local D.A. in Uvalde actually has an open criminal investigation into this. She has for quite a while now. Many people expected a grand jury to convene for that before the end of last year, but the investigation actually ended up stretching into this year. And a lot of people, including many members of victims’ families, are really not happy about that delay. In Uvalde itself, the community has has really been shaken to its core. I mean, such a traumatic event. But they remain a bit more split than you might expect. Last November was the first mayoral race since the shooting, and locals ended up electing a man who had previously served as the mayor years prior over a woman who has called for tougher gun laws since her daughter was killed at Robb Elementary. At the federal level in the wake of Uvalde. Congress did expand background checks on people under 21 who tried to buy guns. They provided funding to states to expand red flag laws, and they gave them more money to improve mental health services. And that bipartisan legislation is considered the most sweeping measure to prevent gun violence in 30 years. But we still don’t have an assault weapons ban. There is still alarmingly frequent gun violence in schools and college campuses all over the U.S., pretty much, and there is still so much more that we have to do. More on all of this soon. But that is the latest for now. We’ll be back after some ads. [music break]

 

[AD BREAK] 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Let’s get to some headlines. 

 

[sung] Headlines. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Congress narrowly avoided a partial government shutdown set for tonight by passing a short term funding bill yesterday. That bill heads to President Biden to sign into law. Here’s Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. 

 

[clip of Chuck Schumer] The government will stay open. Services will not be disrupted. We will avoid a needless disaster. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Money was about to run out for 20% of the government late Friday night, including funding for food and drug safety programs and transportation. But lawmakers were able to avoid disaster by avoiding the political disaster of the far right House Freedom Caucus. They wanted to hold the bill hostage to get deeper budget cuts and a crackdown on immigration. So being able to pass a measure despite their objections is an absolute victory, but only a temporary one. It kicks the can down the road to early March, when funding is set to run out again, unless Congress can extend a money lifeline again. Yesterday’s bill was the third time in four months that lawmakers passed a stopgap spending bill. But the best scenario is that lawmakers agree to a permanent deal that funds the country through the fall. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: And then we can do this all over again right before the election. Can’t wait. And in some more updates out of the Middle East, Pakistan launched retaliatory strikes on an Iranian village yesterday. This came after Iran launched its own attacks on the Pakistani province of Balochistan, on sites allegedly belonging to a separatist military group. Pakistan and Iran have long accused each other of harboring separatist terrorists, but their decision to strike each other’s territories over the last couple of days have really been unprecedented. It was Pakistan’s first external land attack on Iran since Saddam Hussein’s forces invaded in the 1980s. Of course, all of this has been stoking fears of further instability in the region and escalating conflict with the ongoing war of Gaza. And speaking of Gaza, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu publicly rejected the idea of the creation of a Palestinian state in any postwar scenario. That is a very different statement than the U.S. has been calling for for quite some time. Just let that sink in, especially with more than 24,000 Palestinians who have been killed and almost 2 million who have been displaced since this war started. But yes, it’s a sign of a major rift between the U.S. and Israel, direct odds with the U.S.’s goals, and is a sign that the Biden Netanyahu relationship is likely not doing so hot lately.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. Thousands of anti-abortion demonstrators are expected to gather in D.C. today for the annual march for life. Their goal is to pressure lawmakers and Americans across the country to see abortion as immoral, even though perhaps they should be looking in the mirror and minding their business. Who knows? But this march has been held every January since 1974 on the National Mall, and it’s the second year it’s been held since Roe versus Wade was overturned. Organizers anticipate 50,000 people will be at the rally, and twice that number will march. Among those set to speak at the rally include House speaker Mike Johnson, former NFL player Benjamin Watson and some other folks. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Literally, who are any of those people? I mean, Mike Johnson, fine, but no one knew him three weeks ago. Benjamin Watson never heard of him in my life. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Okay. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: We don’t know any of these.

 

Priyanka Aribindi: What a hot ticket they’re running over there. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Anyway, though. In related news, abortion rights groups in Missouri formally launched an effort yesterday to place a constitutional amendment on the 2024 ballot. They want to enshrine abortion rights in the Missouri Constitution. They’ve started collecting signatures and hope to reach 172,000 by May 5th to qualify. It’s worth noting that in the months since Roe was overturned in June of 2022, abortion rights advocates have won every single race in which abortion has appeared directly on the ballot. And so we will put a link to the effort in our show notes so that those of you in Missouri can get involved. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Absolutely. Do it. Get involved. And um, to all of these people who are going to be out and about in Washington, D.C. this weekend. I just took a look at the forecast and knock yourself out, I guess. [laughter] A trans candidate for Ohio’s State House was cleared to run yesterday after Republicans tried to get her off the ballot. To catch you up on the back and forth here. Arienne Childrey is running to represent Mercer County in the state House this year. She was certified to be on the ballot for the March primary, but Republicans filed a complaint with her county’s Board of elections, arguing that she shouldn’t be allowed to run because she changed her name back in 2020 after she transitioned. They argue that Childrey violated a state law that candidates for office must list any name changes over the past five years on their paperwork. But the Board of Elections announced yesterday that they would not take any action on the complaint. Childrey isn’t the only trans Ohioan facing Republican back challenges to their campaign. Three other candidates for the state’s legislature have had the same obscure law used against them. Most recently, Vanessa Joy, a trans woman who hoped to represent Stark County, was removed from the ballot after election officials sided with Republicans on the very same issue. But trans candidates aren’t backing down. Even if Republicans were successful in forcing Childrey to reveal her dead name. She says she would have done it, even if it meant sacrificing her comfort. She told the Associated Press quote, “at the end of the day, while it would have been a hit to my pride, there is something much more important than my pride, and that’s fighting for this community.” 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: What’s particularly absurd about this headline is that this law that they’re trying to apply here, literally no one has heard of it. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: No one. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Even folks in the government are like, oh. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Huh? 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Okay?

 

Priyanka Aribindi: It’s all a little telling to me. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: It’s wild. It is wild. And finally, the NFL has announced the three artists who will perform at the pregame of this year’s Super Bowl in Nevada. And their picks are interesting, to say the least. According to a joint statement between the league and ROC Nation, country superstar Reba McEntire will deliver the national anthem, while R&B singer and actress Andra Day will perform “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” and we love that for them. But joining them is rapper Post Malone– 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Oh. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Who is slated to sing or maybe rap sing. I’m not quite sure, “America the Beautiful,” which–

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Oh?

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Listen. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: That’s not an easy song. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Not an easy song, but I guess it doesn’t matter anyway, because all three of them are essentially opening up for Usher baby, you know, the headliner for the Super Bowl halftime show on February 11th. But this is a particularly uh, head scratching decision. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: I should also say, I don’t know that beloved’s music to even know if he has the range for it, but I assume he does because they selected him. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Listen, no disrespect to Post Malone. He has some bangers, as the kids might say, [laughter] but like, I just don’t know if his musical stylings are the best fit for America the Beautiful. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: Listen, he can’t be any worse than Flavor Flav singing the Star-Spangled Banner or Fergie and whatever it was she did that one time. Okay?

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Bring back Fergie. I mean, the people give the people what they want. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: And those are the headlines. 

 

[AD BREAK]

 

Tre’vell Anderson: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review. More sitcom stars for the Super Bowl and tell your friends to listen. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: And if you’re into reading and not just intergalactic travel ads like me, What a Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Priyanka Aribindi.

 

Tre’vell Anderson: I’m Tre’vell Anderson.

 

[spoken together] And vacation anywhere else, aliens. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: Listen, they want them in Lexington, Kentucky. I don’t know if I have a problem with them going. I just don’t know if a sign in English is the right way to get them. 

 

Tre’vell Anderson: I don’t think they want to come to this rock at all. Go to one of the other ones. You know, it’s not even about Lexington, Kentucky. 

 

Priyanka Aribindi: That’s fair, that’s fair. It’s not you. It’s them. [laughter] [music break]

 

Tre’vell Anderson: What a Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Our show’s producer is Itxy Quintanilla. Raven Yamamoto and Natalie Bettendorf are our associate producers, and our showrunner is Leo Duran. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka. [music break] 

 

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