Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis on Friday for the first time directly addressed allegations that she had an improper relationship with a top prosecutor in her RICO case against Donald Trump and more than a dozen other defendants. In a court filing, she confirmed that she began a “personal relationship” with prosecutor Nathan Wade beginning in 2022, but denied that that relationship tainted her case.
Willis argued that the relationship should not have any affect on whether she can continue to prosecute Donald Trump and his co-defendants. She emphasized in the filing that she did not hire Wade because of the relationship and that Wade hasn’t received any special financial benefit from the government because of the relationship. He was hired in November 2021, Willis said in the filing, months before the relationship began.
Mike Roman, a Trump operative charged in the matter, raised the lurid allegations of an improper relationship between the two last month, asking the court to disqualify Willis from prosecuting the case and to dismiss all the charges against him. Trump and another defendant later joined the motion.
And though she draws a sharp line between the admitted relationship and claims that it might impact the case at all, much of her argument also reveals how damaging the allegations might be.
“The existence of a relationship between members of a prosecution team, in and of itself, is simply not a status that entitles a criminal defendant any remedy,” Willis wrote at one point.
At another, Willis argued that “Special Prosecutor Wade made much more money than the other special prosecutors only because Wade did much more work.”
In an affidavit attached to the filing, Wade himself denied accusations that the DA’s office paid for trips that he and Willis took. He said that the money for the travel, which included trips to Aruba and Florida, came from their personal funds. None of his income from his work on the Trump RICO case funded activities with Willis or was shared with Willis, he said. He described the two as “financially independent professionals” who used personal funds to buy each other trips.
Fulton County Superior Court judge Scott McAfee ordered an evidentiary hearing on Feb. 15 to air out the claims.
And the filing suggested that the prosecuting team is ready to get in the muck and fight. She included Facebook images of Roman’s attorney Ashleigh Merchant from 2016, in which she dances while advocating for Wade’s candidacy for a judicial post.
“Why Nathan Wade? Nathan is ethical,” the Facebook post included by prosecutors in the filing reads.
“Counsel for Defendant Roman, of course, is well-familiar with the experience and qualifications of Special Prosecutor Wade, whatever contrary representations are made in Roman’s motion,” Willis wrote.
Wade is not a full-time employee of the Fulton County DA’s office, but was contracted to be a special prosecutor on the Trump case in 2021. Ongoing divorce proceedings between Wade and his estranged wife have fed into claims from Trumpworld that he and Willis were engaged in an improper relationship where the two benefitted financially from the Trump case.
In the affidavit, Wade said that Willis initially asked him in spring 2021 to help find a “competent, trustworthy attorney to manage and lead the investigation” of attempts to interfere with Georgia’s 2020 election. Wade added that he received $250 per hour for the work, “significantly less than the market rate for experienced lawyers in the Atlanta metro area.”
From there, Wade said, Willis approached him with an offer to take the job in September 2021, and that he only agreed to work on the matter two months later after resigning from his judicial appointments. The relationship then began in 2022, he said.
Read the filing here: