Citation Needed! A Guide to Writing and Editing on Wikipedia
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Ashleigh Merchant, a Defense Lawyer, Is Arguing for the Prosecutors’ Disqualification
Ms. Merchant, who brought the allegations against Fani Willis and Nathan Wade to light last month, has said their relationship poses a conflict of interest.
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By Anna Betts
- Feb. 15, 2024 Updated 12:25 p.m. ET
Ashleigh Merchant is a lawyer representing Michael Roman, a former campaign official for former President Donald J. Trump and a co-defendant facing criminal charges in the Georgia election interference case.
Ms. Merchant, who was recently elected president of the Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers , owns a private practice with her husband. She was previously a public defender in Fulton County for several years.
In early January, Ms. Merchant filed court documents accusing Fani T. Willis, the Fulton County district attorney, of engaging in a “clandestine” relationship with Nathan J. Wade, the special prosecutor she hired in 2021 to help with the case against Mr. Trump and his allies.
Ms. Merchant has argued that the relationship between Mr. Wade and Ms. Willis should disqualify them, as well as Ms. Willis’s entire office, from prosecuting the case, citing a conflict of interest. She claimed that Ms. Willis was profiting financially from the prosecution, accusing her of taking vacations with Mr. Wade with money he had made working for her.
Ms. Willis admitted to a relationship with Mr. Wade in February but argued that it was not a reason to disqualify her or her office from the case. She and Mr. Wade have also said they split costs for private travel.
In the court filings, Ms. Merchant said that Mr. Wade was unqualified for the role. But in 2016, she praised Mr. Wade’s “robust legal background” on Facebook, when she was supporting him in one of his failed bids to be elected as a Superior Court judge. In another post, a photo showed her posing in a Wade campaign T-shirt.
Asked about the posts, Ms. Merchant said recently that Mr. Wade “was the most qualified candidate in that race.”
Before the Thursday hearing, Ms. Merchant sent subpoenas demanding that Mr. Wade, Ms. Willis and several witnesses testify regarding the relationship between the prosecutors. It is unclear whether the judge will allow her to put them on the stand.
Richard Fausset and Danny Hakim contributed reporting.
Anna Betts reports on national events, including politics, education, and natural or man-made disasters, among other things. More about Anna Betts
Looks Like Another Russian Landing Ship Just Blew Up
The Black Sea Fleet continues to lose a warship every month or so
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The Russian Black Sea Fleet’s Ropucha -class landing ship Caesar Kunikov narrowly escaped Berdyansk when Ukrainian rockets bombarded the Russian-occupied port on March 24, 2022.
The 369-foot Kunikov suffered damage—and her skipper died—when the landing ship Saratov exploded nearby, peppering Kunikov with wreckage.
Twenty-three months later, the Ukrainians returned for Kunikov . Videos that circulated online on Wednesday reportedly depict the landing ship burning and sinking a few miles off Alupka on the southern tip of Russian-occupied Crimea.
The Russians’ practice of using their landing ships to haul ammunition to their garrisons in southern Ukraine both explains why the Ukrainians apparently made a point of targeting Kunikov —and why the vessel would explode after getting hit, reportedly by explosive drone boats.
The Black Sea Fleet began Russia’s wider war in Ukraine with nine landing ships, including six Ropucha s and three Tapir s. Several more landing ships reinforced the Black Sea Fleet from the Baltic and Northern Fleets.
In two years of hard fighting, the Ukrainians have blown up or sunk three of the Ropucha s plus the Tapir -class Saratov.
They’ve also blown up or sunk a cruiser, a submarine, a supply ship, several patrol boats and small landing craft and a missile-corvette .
These losses amount to more than a fifth of the Black Sea Fleet. In losing—to Ukrainian rockets, cruise missiles and drone boats—warships together displacing around 15,000 tons, the Russian navy nearly erased the 18,000 tons of new warships it built last year.
That makes it one of the few big navies that actually is stagnant by tonnage; most of the other top-10 navies steadily are growing as they replace many small warships with fewer, but much larger, new ships.
Russian troops may be advancing, slowly and at great cost, in the ruins of Avdiivka, a Ukrainian stronghold just northwest of Russian-occupied Donetsk in eastern Ukraine. Three hundred miles away off Crimea, however, the Russians are losing—badly.
Lately writing off warships at a rate of roughly one a month, the Black Sea Fleet has had no choice but to pull most of its ships from the most vulnerable Crimean ports—and also from Novorossiysk in southern Russia.
But the dwindling flotilla of Ropucha s and Tapir s—apparently eight or nine are left out of the pre-war roster—can’t help but sail within range of Ukrainian munitions. Their primary mission of hauling ammunition to southern Ukraine requires them to dock in Crimea. That makes them vulnerable.
As the wider war grinds into its third year and the front line freezes essentially everywhere but Avdiivka , expect the Ukrainian navy and air force to double down on their anti-shipping campaign. Especially on their anti-shipping campaign targeting the Russians’ landing ships.
For Russia and Ukraine, this year is likely to be a year of positional warfare as neither side gains much ground and both sides concentrate on preserving and rebuilding their forces.
If the Ukrainians can sink the remaining Tapir s and Ropucha s, they could sever the main maritime supply lines into southern Ukraine, and squeeze the Russian regiments and brigades in Crimea and southern Kherson Oblasts.
If the Ukrainians can sink those vessels and drop the Kerch Bridge connecting Russia to Crimea, they could starve those regiments and brigades—and set conditions for Ukrainian gains in the south in 2025.
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