Lawyer hired to prosecute Trump in Georgia is accused of affair

(Miguel Martinez/Associated Press)

Lawyer hired to prosecute Trump in Georgia is accused of affair


January 19, 2024

Fulton County Dist.




j. Fani Willis hired attorney Nathan Wade to lead the prosecution of Donald Trump and eighteen others in Georgia over efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Now,

accusations accusations

of a romantic relationship between Willis and Wade raise questions about his past work and qualifications and threaten to spoil one of four criminal cases against the former president.

She has defended her appointment of Wade, who has little prosecutorial experience and has not directly denied a romantic relationship. The claim emerged last week in a motion filed by an attorney representing a former Trump campaign official, but which provided no concrete evidence. The lawyer tries to get the charges dropped and Willis and Wade removed from the case.

The relative silence of the public prosecutor

well more than

For a week, Trump and other critics have been able to exploit the claims as the former president vies to win back the White House. But while it has caused a political firestorm, the legal implications are less clear.

It’s certainly a huge political issue, it’s certainly scandalous and salacious, if true, said Anthony Michael Kreis, a law professor at Georgia State University who is following the case. But he questioned whether this will affect prosecutors’ ability to handle the case professionally.

Where is the line between an ethical error or a political misjudgment and something that corrupts this office? he asked.

Regardless of any effect on this case, Willis, an elected Democrat, is up for re-election this year, and this could become a campaign issue depending on how she ultimately responds.

The motion filed last week by attorney Ashleigh Merchant, who represents former Trump campaign aide and former White House aide Michael Roman, alleges that Willis paid Wade large amounts of money and benefits


personally when he in turn used his earnings to take her to Napa Valley, Florida and the Caribbean. Wade has been paid more than $650,000 since his appointment at a rate of $250 per hour, according to records cited by Merchant.

Wade did not respond to an email seeking comment.

The judge scheduled a hearing on the case for February 15 and ordered prosecutors to file a response by February 2.

Merchant has provided no evidence of a romantic relationship. She wrote that the files in Wade’s pending divorce have been sealed. She also cited sources close to the two, without elaborating further. She is now trying to settle Wade’s divorce case. The Associated Press and other news organizations have also applied to unseat the case.

Wade’s wife has subpoenaed Willis for a deposition in the divorce case. In a filing Thursday to quash that subpoena, an attorney for Willis accused Joycelyn Wade of trying to obstruct and interfere with the criminal election interference case. An attorney for Joycelyn Wade said any response to Willis’ motion would be filed with the court.

Willis strongly defended Wade’s credentials at a church service on Sunday, suggesting the questioning of his hiring was rooted in racism. She has three special prosecutors working on the election case: a white woman, a white man and a black man. They only attacked one, she said, referring to Wade.

The other special prosecutors are John Floyd, a nationally recognized expert on anti-racketeering laws, and Anna Cross, who spent 20 years as a prosecutor and has handled numerous high-profile cases.

Willis cited Wade’s 10 years as a municipal court judge and more than 20 years in private practice. But Wade’s



as a public prosecutor

is thin. He worked for less than a year in the late 1990s for the Cobb County Attorney’s Office, which handles felony cases, a county spokesman said.

In a December 2010 letter, then-Att


j. Gen.


Thurbert Baker appointed Wade special assistant attorney general. Baker left office the following month. A spokesperson for the Attorney General’s office said they “have not found any information confirming that Mr. Wade served as Special Assistant Attorney General.

This isn’t the first time Wade’s qualifications have been questioned.

After his company was tapped by then-Cobb County Sheriff Neil Warren in 2020 to review operations at the local jail, a TV news station sued the sheriff, claiming the investigation was a sham designed to prevent the release of data on prisoner deaths. According to the lawsuit, Wade had no apparent experience, qualifications or training in conducting jail investigations.

Months after the investigation, Wade told the TV station’s attorney that he had no notes or other written documentation of his work, saying he only had “what’s going on in my head.”

Records obtained by the AP through an open records request show that Wade billed the sheriff’s office $44,000 for 80 hours of work, or $550 per hour, in November and December 2020. The sheriff’s office said no report or other documents from that investigation had been submitted. .

Wade was also heavily involved in the special grand jury investigation that preceded Trump’s indictment. The panel’s chairman told the AP that Wade typically led these proceedings, describing him as a true prosecutor. Since Trump and the others were indicted, Wade has been a near-constant presence in the courtroom during hearings. But generally, it is other prosecutors who argue motions, question witnesses or prepare reports.

The Trump team, also outside Georgia, is following the battle. Defense attorneys in the federal case involving classified documents have requested any records related to 2022 meetings between Wade and White House staff. Records show that Wade charged for what he described as a trip to Athens; conf with White House counsel in May 2022. Charges remain pending for DC/White House interview.

A review of White House visitor logs turned up no meeting with Wade. In May 2022, a conference call took place between the Willis team and the White House counsel’s office to ask whether investigators could interview former White House officials, or whether they would be bound by federal rules prohibiting unauthorized disclosure of official information , according to a person familiar with the call who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about it. But it was not immediately clear whether Wade was on the phone.

Not surprisingly, Trump has seized on Willis and Wade’s accusations.

Trump took a similar approach during the FBI’s investigation into Russian election interference, amid revelations that the lead agent in that investigation had an extramarital relationship with a lawyer for the agency. The two had exchanged anti-Trump texts, including messages calling him an idiot and a disgusting human being and describing the prospect of a Trump victory in 2016 as terrifying.

Trump used the texts to try to undermine the investigation and portray the FBI as politically biased against him. The agent, Peter Strzok, was later fired, although a subsequent report by the Justice Department’s inspector general found no evidence that investigative steps during the Russia probe were taken for partisan or political reasons.

Robert James, formerly DeKalb County District Attorney, G


a., said if Wade and Willis are in a relationship, it’s an optical issue, but he doesn’t see anything inherently inappropriate about a relationship. Even if Wade spends money on Willis, that’s probably not a problem unless there’s evidence of some kind of conspiracy to make a profit, he said.

“I don’t believe, unless something comes out other than what I’ve heard, that Fani Willis will be disqualified from this case,” James said.

Richer reported from Boston. Associated Press reporters Eric Tucker and Colleen Long contributed to this report from Washington.


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