ATLANTA — In an embarrassing blow to the prosecutor investigating election interference by former President Donald J. Trump, an Atlanta judge has disqualified District Attorney Fani T. Willis of Fulton County from developing a criminal case against one Trump ally, citing a conflict of interest.
Ms. Willis had recently notified State Senator Burt Jones, the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor in Georgia, that he could face indictment. But on Monday, Judge Robert C.I. McBurney of Fulton County Superior Court barred her from pursuing a case against Mr. Jones because she had headlined a June fund-raiser for his Democratic rival in the race.
Mr. Jones was one of 16 pro-Trump “alternate electors” in Georgia who were sworn in on the same day as the state’s legitimate presidential electors, who cast their votes for Joseph R. Biden Jr. Ms. Willis’s office had recently warned the pro-Trump electors, as well as another state senator and the head of the Georgia Republican Party, that they could face charges in the matter.
criticized Ms. Willis in a hearing last week for her participation in the fund-raiser, calling it a “what-are-you-thinking moment.” The judge also expressed concern that the district attorney, as “the legal adviser to the grand jury,” was “on national media almost nightly talking about this investigation.”
While the House select committee in Washington that is investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol has put on display how Mr. Trump and his allies sought to subvert the election results in several crucial states, it is Ms. Willis’s investigation that puts Mr. Trump and his allies in the most immediate legal peril.
The judge’s ruling concerning Mr. Jones is likely to have limited repercussions for Ms. Willis’s broader investigation, since the ruling concerns only one of the 16 pro-Trump purported electors.
Jeff DiSantis, a deputy district attorney for Fulton County and a spokesman for Ms. Willis, said on Monday that the office was reviewing the order and “considering a potential course of action.”