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Former President Donald Trump speaks Aug. 12, 2023, at  the Iowa State Fair  in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP) Former President Donald Trump speaks Aug. 12, 2023, at  the Iowa State Fair  in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP)

Former President Donald Trump speaks Aug. 12, 2023, at the Iowa State Fair in Des Moines, Iowa. (AP)

Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman August 18, 2023

Did Fulton County DA Fani Willis campaign to ‘get Trump'? No, she didn’t say that

If Your Time is short

  • Fani Willis is running for re-election as Fulton County district attorney in 2024. Her campaign website doesn’t mention Donald Trump.

  • In 2022, Willis from her campaign account tweeted a political cartoon about the case and thanked a strategist who had tweeted a request for people to contribute to her campaign.

     

In the early morning hours after he was indicted in Georgia, former President Donald Trump had some words to share about Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis. 

"So the witch hunt continues!" he wrote Aug. 15 on Truth Social. Trump said he was prosecuted by "an out of control and very corrupt District Attorney who campaigned and raised money on, ‘I will get Trump.’"

Trump and 18 co-defendants were indicted by a grand jury for their alleged illegal efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election. Willis, who took office in January 2021, is running for re-election in 2024.

Trump made similar attacks on other attorneys investigating him, including New York Attorney General Letitia James and Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg.

But we found no evidence that Willis said she would "get Trump" as she fundraised for reelection.

Trump has routinely fundraised off of the investigations. On the day of the Fulton indictment, he sent a fundraising email that said: "What better way to show just how unbreakable we truly are than countless patriots proudly wearing their support for our movement and their favorite president." The email then asks for a $47 contribution for a "free" "I stand with Trump" T-shirt.

Trump team's objections are more subtle than what Trump said

Willis ran for district attorney in the August 2020 primary, months before the plot unfolded to try to overturn Trump’s loss in Georgia. She defeated her former boss, incumbent Paul Howard, in the Democratic primary and ran unopposed in the general election in the heavily Democratic county. 

We read news articles about the Willis 2020 campaign and didn’t find she campaigned on anything Trump-related. (During the primary, an anonymous mailer bizarrely said she was "supported by Donald Trump.") It doesn’t appear that Willis has any serious challenger for her reelection so far, but the official qualifying period is not until spring 2024.

So what is Trump’s evidence?

The Trump presidential campaign sent us links to a news article about Willis’ website and social media posts that it framed as support for Trump’s claim.

None backed up what he said.

Atlanta News First, a local news website, reported Aug. 10 that Willis "launched a new fundraising website." The story cited an email from Willis to her supporters inviting them to see the new website and volunteer.

Faniforda.com doesn’t mention Trump directly in any of the descriptions of Willis’ background or work as the district attorney. The only mention of Trump we found was an "in the news" section with links to news articles about Willis in The New York Times and Time. Her website also linked to local news articles about a back-to-school event, a crackdown on crime at apartment complexes and an event to restrict or seal certain criminal history records. 

It is a typical campaign website, registered in 2022, with a "donate" button and her career biography. We looked for earlier versions of the Wayback Machine, and the only capture was taken Aug. 14.

The Trump campaign also directed us to July 2022 posts by Willis’ campaign account on X, formerly Twitter. The campaign also highlighted these posts in its pending July Fulton County lawsuit seeking to quash Willis’ investigation. The Georgia Supreme Court previously dismissed a similar lawsuit, finding that Trump failed to make his case. 

In July 2022, as the special grand jury was subpoenaing witnesses, Willis tweeted a political cartoon that depicted Willis on a "fishing expedition," pulling in a fish version of U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., into her boat. The cartoon shows Trump also as a fish saying, "I know you’ll do the right thing for the swamp, Lindsey." 

Steve Stegelin, a longtime cartoonist for the weekly Charleston City Paper, drew the cartoon.

Willis wrote: "This is my first cartoon, and likely the only time a boat will ever bear my name. #Embracinghumor #talentedartist #FCDA #FirstwomanDA #Nolaughingmatter." 

This does not support what Trump said about Willis fundraising off of this case.

The Trump campaign’s lawsuit also pointed to tweets by Democratic strategist Adam Parkhomenko encouraging people to contribute to Willis’ campaign

"She is exactly the kind of candidate we must not only elect but re-elect," Parkhomenko tweeted July 11, 2022. In a subsequent post, he wrote, "Republicans will do everything they can to stop her when she is up for re-election."

Parkhomenko told PolitiFact that he has not worked for Willis’ campaign and has "never even volunteered for her, talked to her or talked to her staff."

Following Parkhomenko’s tweets, Willis’ account grew by tens of thousands of followers and her fundraising surged. Willis thanked him for his support July 14 and 17. She did not mention Trump or comment on tweets that mentioned him.

We asked two Georgia political scientists for their thoughts about the Trump prosecution’s potential effect on Willis’ fundraising.

Kerwin Swint, a political scientist at Kennesaw State University, said Willis’ "prosecution of Trump will raise her profile and her fundraising." 

Swint said, "Did she send mailers or have web sites advertising her prosecution of Trump? No. But it has absolutely been a constant refrain among her, her staff, and her network in GA and elsewhere."

Andra Gillespie, a political scientist at Emory University, said Willis won’t want to appear that she is raising money off the case, something that could be weaponized against her. Instead, she may talk about her conviction rate or high-profile convictions, Gillespie said.

As for Willis’ tweets, Gillespie said, "People will view this behavior through their partisan lenses."

"You can make a case that Willis is just thanking an independent supporter who alone is responsible for his rhetoric and behavior (though it helps her) and acknowledging an artist who immortalized her in an editorial cartoon," Gillespie said. "Others, though, will see political motivations behind Willis’ responses. That is a matter of perspective."

Our ruling

Trump said Willis "campaigned and raised money on, ‘I will get Trump.’"

Trump’s words on Truth Social created the impression that Willis literally said, "I will get Trump," but the Trump campaign hasn’t proved she did.

Instead, the campaign sent two examples of tweets, including one of her trying to find the humor in a political cartoon and another thanking a Democratic strategist who urged people to give her money, highlighting her investigation. Willis did not say, "I will get Trump."

We rate this statement False. 


RELATED: Who is Fani Willis, the prosecutor in Trump’s Fulton County, Georgia, election interference case?

RELATED: Fact-check: Donald Trump’s misleading attack ad on Fani Willis’ ‘relationship with a gang member’

Our Sources

Donald Trump, Truth Social post, Aug. 15, 2023

Atlanta News First, ‘We have an announcement’ | Fulton DA Willis launches fundraising website, Aug. 10, 2023

Fani Willis, Campaign website, Accessed Aug. 15, 2023

GoDaddy, Fani Willis website, 2022

Fani Willis, Campaign disclosure reports, 2022-2023

Adam Parkhomenko, Tweets about Fani Willis, July 11-16, 2022

Fani Willis campaign, Tweet, July 17, 2023

Fani Willis campaign, Tweet, July 18, 2022

Supreme Court of Georgia, Order dismissing Trump petition, July 17, 2023

Superior Court of Fulton County, Trump v Willis amended petition, July 20, 2023

Patricia Murphy, Atlanta Journal-Constitution opinion writer, Tweet, June 8, 2020

Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Trump tries again to get DA off case, July 22, 2023

Donald Trump campaign for president, Statement to PolitiFact, Aug. 15, 2023

Charleston City Paper, Stegelin: Fishing expedition, July 13, 2022

PolitiFact, In Context: What NY Attorney General Letitia James said about Trump that Trump’s video left out, Aug. 12, 2022

PolitiFact, Here’s what Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said about Donald Trump during his DA campaign, April 12, 2023

Telephone interview, Adam Parkhomenko, Democratic strategist, Aug. 17, 2023

Email interview, Kerwin Swint, director, School of Government and International Affairs and professor of political science, Aug. 16, 2023

Telephone interview and email interview, Andra Gillespie, associate professor of political science, Aug. 16, 2023

 

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Did Fulton County DA Fani Willis campaign to ‘get Trump'? No, she didn’t say that

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