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Fact check: Debunking Trump’s dishonest attacks against Georgia prosecutor Fani Willis


By Daniel Dale, CNN

Washington (CNN) — Former President Donald Trump has launched a barrage of attacks, many of them dishonest, against the Georgia district attorney who is prosecuting him over his attempts to overturn his 2020 election defeat in the state.

Both before and after he was indicted Monday in Fulton County, Trump targeted District Attorney Fani Willis, an elected Democrat, in speeches, social media posts and a television ad released by his 2024 election campaign, which Trump also posted on social media. Below is a fact check of two of his false claims, an inflammatory claim for which there is no evidence, and a misleading claim from the campaign ad.

The legitimacy of the 2020 election

Trump has repeatedly accused Willis of refusing to investigate the supposed theft of the 2020 election.

He wrote in a social media post on Sunday: “The only Election Interference that took place in Fulton County, Georgia, was done by those that Rigged and Stole the Election, not by me, who simply complained that the Election was Rigged and Stolen. We have Massive and Conclusive Proof, if the Grand Jury would like to see it. Unfortunately, the publicity seeking D.A. isn’t interested in Justice, or this evidence.”

Facts First: Trump’s claim of a rigged and stolen election is a lie. The 2020 election was free and fair, in Fulton County and in the rest of the country, and nobody rigged or stole it. Joe Biden’s victory over Trump in Georgia was confirmed by three counts of the ballots and certified by Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and Republican Gov. Brian Kemp. More than two and a half years after his defeat, Trump has never presented anything remotely resembling proof that he was the rightful winner of Georgia or the presidency. Instead, he has deployed false claims that have been thoroughly debunked by Raffensperger and many others, including Trump’s own senior Justice Department appointees.

For example, Trump has continued into 2023 to claim that Fulton County election workers were caught on video stuffing the ballot box – even though this claim was debunked in 2020 and even though top officials from his Justice Department have testified to Congress that they had personally told him in 2020 that the video did not show any wrongdoing.

Georgia’s final ballot count found that Biden beat Trump by 11,779 votes. In a January 2, 2021 phone call with Raffensperger, Trump pushed the secretary of state to “find” enough votes to give him a one-vote victory over Biden in the state.

Murder in Atlanta

Trump wrote in a social media post on Sunday that instead of spending time on him, Willis “should instead focus on the record number of murders in Atlanta!”

Facts First: Trump’s claim about Atlanta having a “record number of murders” is false. Though Atlanta has struggled with a spike in murders since 2020 – part of a national pandemic-era trend that began before Willis became district attorney in 2021 – the city is nowhere near its all-time murder record.

Atlanta’s 2022 total, 170 murders, was its 23rd-highest annual figure since 1960 and not even in its top 30 highest when population size is taken into account, according to figures provided to CNN on Monday by crime analyst and consultant Jeff Asher, co-founder of the firm AH Datalytics. The 2022 total of 170 murders was Atlanta’s highest since 1996 and well above its 2019 total of 99 murders, so it was certainly high by the city’s recent standard, but Trump’s claim of a “record” is not true; the city recorded 263 murders in 1973.

In addition, as Asher and Atlanta media outlets have noted, murder is down substantially in Atlanta so far in 2023 compared to 2022 – again mirroring a broader trend around the country. Atlanta had a 25% year-over-year decline through August 5, Asher said.

The Trump campaign ad features large text reading, “ATLANTA VIOLENCE: NEARLY 60% MORE MURDERS so far this year.” But that claim is highly misleading because it is not about this year at all. Small and faded text in the ad identifies the source for the claim as a Fox News article from more than two years ago, June 2021, that compared murders so far that year to murders at the same point in 2020.

An evidence-free claim about a Willis affair

Trump claimed in a speech last week that “they say – I guess – they say that she was after a certain gang and she ended up having an affair with the head of the gang or a gang member.” He made a similar claim in a social media post on Sunday, writing that Willis “is being accused of having an ‘affair’ with a Gang Member of a group that she is prosecuting.”

Facts First: There is zero evidence for these Trump claims. Trump never explained what he was referring to, and his campaign did not respond to a CNN request for an explanation on Monday, but it appears that the former president may have been grossly distorting a January article in which the rapper YSL Mondo told Rolling Stone magazine that Willis, who became district attorney in 2021, had represented him in an aggravated assault case when she was working as a defense lawyer in 2019. YSL Mondo was quoted as saying that he had a “cool relationship” with Willis during his case, calling her a “great attorney” who understands real life, but specified that they had “auntie-to-nephew, mother-to-son type of talks.” He was also paraphrased as saying that he had no contact with her after his case was resolved.

The Trump campaign ad cited the Rolling Stone article as supposed support for the ad’s claim that “Willis got caught hiding a relationship with a gang member she was prosecuting.” YSL Mondo is a co-founder of the YSL hip-hop collective; Willis has prosecuted other YSL members since she became district attorney (YSL Mondo is not among those defendants), alleging that the group is also a criminal street gang.

But there was no sign in the article that Willis had made an effort to conceal her ties to YSL Mondo. In fact, she confirmed to Rolling Stone that she had represented him when she was in private practice and said she had liked him and continues to want him to succeed. And there was nothing at all in the article to suggest the two had ever had an affair.

Trump has a long history of attributing baseless and inflammatory claims to unnamed sources, regularly using vague phrases like “they say” or “many people are saying.” Willis sent an email to her staff last week, which was later obtained by CNN, calling unspecified claims in the Trump campaign ad “derogatory and false” and telling them not to comment.

YSL Mondo, whose legal name is Fremondo Crenshaw, faces gun, drug and gang charges after his arrest in early August in a different Atlanta-area county. His attorney did not respond Monday to a CNN request for comment for this article.

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Article Topic Follows: CNN - US Politics

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