Georgia district attorney prosecuting Trump has been subpoenaed over claims of improper relationship

Associated Press | 2/1/2024, 6 p.m.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis and a special prosecutor she hired for the Georgia election interference case against former ...
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis and Nathan Wade, one of her top prosecutors in the Georgia election interference case against former President Donald Trump and 18 others, have been subpoenaed to testify at an upcoming hearing to examine allegations that they were involved in an improper relationship while investigating the former president, according to a new lawsuit filed in Georgia this week. Photo by Associated Press

ATLANTA - Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis and a special prosecutor she hired for the Georgia election interference case against former President Donald Trump have been issued subpoenas by a defense attorney who has alleged Ms. Willis and the prosecutor had an inappropriate romantic relationship.

Lawyer Ashleigh Merchant, who represents Trump co-defendant Michael Roman, filed a motion Jan. 8 seeking to dismiss the indictment and to remove Ms. Willis and special prosecutor Nathan Wade from the case.

Ms. Willis

Ms. Willis

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee, who’s presiding over the election case, has ordered Ms. Willis’ team to respond by Friday to the motion and to remove Ms. Willis from the prosecution. He has set a hearing on the matter for Feb. 15.

Ms. Merchant confirmed that she has subpoenaed both Ms. Willis and Mr. Wade to testify at that hearing.

Ms. Merchant’s law firm also filed a lawsuit Tuesday accusing Ms. Willis’ office of failing to comply with the Georgia Open Records Act, saying they “appear to be intentionally withholding information” that she has requested. Ms. Merchant had to repeatedly file certain requests after they were prematurely closed and she was incorrectly told certain records did not exist, the lawsuit says.

“We’ve provided her with the information she’s entitled to,” he said, adding that some of the records are still being compiled. He provided a letter that the office sent to Ms. Merchant last week providing an update on the status of requests she’d made, as well as screenshots showing that Ms. Merchant had accessed some records.

The lawsuit says that despite sending that letter, the district attorney’s office “failed nonetheless to provide most of the requested documents.”

Neither Ms. Willis nor Mr. Wade has publicly addressed the allegations of an inappropriate relationship. Ms. Willis’ office has repeatedly said a response to Roman’s motion will come in a court filing.

Ms. Willis, an elected Democrat, hired Mr. Wade in November 2021 to help with her investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia. Since a Fulton County grand jury in August returned an indictment against Mr. Trump and 18 others, Mr. Wade has led the team of lawyers Ms. Willis assembled to prosecute the case.

Mr. Trump has seized on the allegations as he campaigns for the Republican nomination for president, trying to use them to cast doubt on the legitimacy of the case against him. Four co-defendants have already pleaded guilty in the case after reaching plea deals with prosecutors. Mr. Trump and the others who remain have pleaded not guilty.

Mr. Roman is a former Trump campaign staffer and one-time White House aide. Mr. Trump and co-defendant Robert Cheeley, a Georgia lawyer, have joined Mr. Roman’s motion.

Mr. Roman’s filing alleges that Ms. Willis had paid Mr. Wade large sums for his work and then improperly benefited when Mr. Wade paid for the pair to go on trips, creating a conflict of interest. It also questioned Mr. Wade’s qualifications for the job.

No proof of the alleged relationship was included in the motion. Ms. Willis spoke out during a church service nearly a week later and defended Mr. Wade’s qualifications, but did not address the allegations of a relationship.

In a court filing seeking to avoid sitting for a deposition in Mr. Wade’s divorce case, Ms. Willis accused Mr. Wade’s wife of trying to obstruct the election case. In a filing in response, Mr. Wade’s wife included credit card statements that showed Mr. Wade had bought plane tickets for Ms. Willis to travel with him to San Francisco and Miami.