In an effort to get special prosecutor Nathan Wade former president Donald Trump and another co-defendant removed from the Georgia election tampering case, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis admitted on Friday that she has a personal relationship with Wade.
In a lengthy 176-page document, Willis appeared to address the accusations by asserting that “any personal relationship among members of the prosecution team does not amount to a disqualifying conflict of interest or otherwise harm a criminal defendant.” The friendship, according to Willis and her staff, has not compromised their capacity to manage the case.
“Defendants have done nothing to establish an actual conflict of interest, nor have they shown that, in the handling of the case, District Attorney Willis or Special Prosecutor Wade have acted out of any personal or financial motivation,” it said.
An accusation that Willis “benefited financially from the investigation and prosecution of this criminal case, but provides no support to justify that conclusion” was made by Trump co-defendant Michael Roman, who initially made the claim that Willis and Wade had an affair to get the charges dropped, according to the document.
“To be absolutely clear, the personal relationship between Special Prosecutor Wade and District Attorney Willis has never involved direct or indirect financial benefit to District Attorney Willis,” it said. Wade admitted in an affidavit that he had a personal relationship with Willis, even though he claimed it didn’t exist when he was hired.
“In 2022, District Attorney Willis and I developed a personal relationship in addition to our professional association and friendship,” he said. Regarding the personal vacations they went on together, he mentioned that they shared the expenses to a reasonable extent. It was her job to schedule flights sometimes, he explained.
Rumors circulated Friday claiming that Roman’s and other attempts to disqualify Willis and Wade’s statements “are salacious and garnered the media attention they were designed to obtain.” However, it rejected Trump’s and a co-defendant’s claims.
“District Attorney Willis has no financial conflict of interest that constitutes a legal basis for disqualification,” it said. “District Attorney Willis has no personal conflict of interest that justifies her disqualification personally or that of the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office.”
There was no reason to dismiss the indictment or disqualify Wade, and the allegations on his qualifications “are factually inaccurate, unsupported, and malicious,” according to the document. Willis, it added, has also “made no public statements that warrant disqualification or judicial inquiry.”
In a post on Truth Social that he made in response to the news on Friday, Trump attacked the Fulton County prosecutors, calling the case against him and others a “scam” that is “totally discredited & over!”
The response from Willis “begs the Court to turn a blind eye to her alleged personal and financial misconduct,” according to a statement Friday by Trump attorney Steve Sadow. “The DA believes she can make public out-of-court statements about race, this case, and the defendants whenever she wants, and the Court is powerless to punish her by disqualification,” Sadow said.
“Such hubris for all to see. Nothing has changed. Our requested remedy remains clear: dismiss the case and disqualify the DA, together with her team and office, from any related matters.” Ashleigh Merchant, Roman’s attorney, also responded on Friday, urging to maintain the evidentiary hearing on Roman’s accusations scheduled for February 15.
The election case is being presided over by Judge Scott McAfee of the Fulton County Superior Court, who also scheduled the hearing. In a filing made public on Friday, Roman revealed his intention to submit petitions to quash the subpoenas that Willis and Wade were previously served with, compelling them to testify at the hearing.
Claims that Willis and Wade never lived together were refuted by Merchant in Friday’s petition. Merchant further stated her belief that testimony would reveal that the relationship started before Wade’s hiring.
“If they had nothing to hide in the first place because they did nothing wrong, then why did they intentionally not tell anyone about it until they got caught with their hand in the cookie jar?” Merchant’s filing said.
Attorneys representing Roman first accused Willis of having an “improper, clandestine personal relationship” with Wade in a court filing last month that sought dismissal of charges in the case. Even Trump himself has tried to have the charges against him dropped by bringing up the possibility of a love relationship.
Not guilty pleas have been entered by Roman and Trump, who is facing thirteen criminal charges. Pleading guilty were four of the co-defendants. Credit card records that seemed to suggest that Wade had bought aircraft tickets for excursions with Willis were presented in a court filing last month by Wade’s divorced wife.
Following a temporary deal he made with his wife Jocelyn Wade on Tuesday, Wade was able to cancel a court hearing where he was scheduled to testify regarding the charges in their divorce proceedings.
On the same day, Roman’s lawyer Ashleigh Merchant sued Willis’ office, claiming that Roman’s attorney had subpoenaed Willis and Wade to testify at a hearing on February 15 in relation to petitions to disqualify them from prosecuting the election case.
Willis is being sued by Merchant for allegedly violating the Georgia Open Records Act by refusing to deliver numerous requested materials. It is further asserted in the lawsuit that Willis “used taxpayer money to pay Wade, with whom she has had a romantic relationship at the time,” and thus reaped “financial benefits from such payments” such gifts, vacations, and hotel stays.
The purported relationship has brought Willis more and more attention in the past few weeks. A resolution to create an investigation committee to look into Willis was passed last week by the Republican-led Georgia Senate, and Republican state representative Charlie Byrd presented articles of impeachment against Willis in the lower chamber of the state legislature.
In a statement last month, Fulton County board of Commissioner Bob Ellis vowed to conduct a “full investigation” into the claims.
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