Trump prosecutor Fani Willis admits relationship with lawyer leading Georgia prosecution

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis alongside Nathan Wade at a press conference  last year
Fani Willis alongside Nathan Wade at a press conference last year - ELIJAH NOUVELAGE/REUTERS
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The district attorney prosecuting Donald Trump in Georgia has admitted to being in a relationship with the lawyer leading the case, in a boost to the former US president’s efforts to derail proceedings.

Fani Willis addressed claims that she had an “improper, clandestine” relationship with Nathan Wade for the first time on Friday, almost a month after an effort by Mr Trump’s co-defendant to disqualify both lawyers from handling the case.

Ms Willis has brought racketeering charges against Mr Trump, alleging he conspired with 18 others to overturn his 2020 election defeat in the state.

She hired Mr Wade, a lawyer with limited prosecution experience, to work on the case in November 2021.

His firm has been paid more than $653,000 (£516,500) by Ms Willis’s office since he was brought on as an outside prosecutor.

Rumours of the pair’s romance has led to claims of a prosecution for personal profit, with one co-defendant alleging Ms Willis hired Mr Wade so he could spend thousands of dollars on trips “across the world”.

Ms Willis called the allegations “salacious” but confirmed a “personal relationship” with Mr Wade in a court filing on Friday.

She argued there was “no merit” to efforts to remove her from the case, and noted there “are at least two personal relationships” among the collection of defence lawyers involved.

Mr Trump, 77, immediately seized on Ms Willis’ admission to bolster his claims of foul play.

He wrote on social media: “By going after the most high-level person, and the Republican nominee, she was able to get her ‘lover’ much more money, almost a million dollars, than she would be able to get for the prosecution of any other person or individual.”

He added: “THAT MEANS THAT THIS SCAM IS TOTALLY DISCREDITED & OVER!”

Election loss

A focal point of the case against Mr Trump is the now-infamous call in which he pressured Georgia’s top election official to “find 11,780 votes” to reverse his loss to Joe Biden in the state.

The Georgia prosecution is among the most serious the Republican frontrunner faces, in part because, as a state criminal case, it would not be covered by a presidential pardon in the event of his conviction.

For weeks, Mr Trump and two co-defendants have sought to disqualify Ms Willis and dismiss the charges, alleging the Fulton County district attorney benefited financially from her relationship with Mr Wade.

One of the co-defendants, Michael Roman, alleged in a court filing that Mr Wade had paid for luxury holidays with Ms Willis while he was being paid by her office to work on the case.

Divorce

A bitter divorce case between Mr Wade and his estranged wife revealed extensive travel spending, including for flights to Miami with Ms Willis, as well as $2,600 (£2,057) paid to Royal Caribbean Cruises in 2022.

While Ms Willis has insisted her personal relationship has nothing to do with the prosecution, even her allies are reported to fear public trust in the case has been irreparably undermined.

In an affidavit, Ms Willis testified that there was no personal relationship between her and Mr Wade when she appointed him a special prosecutor.

“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,” the filing stated.

She insisted the romance “has never involved direct or indirect financial benefit” to herself.

In his own affidavit, Mr Wade testified that the relationship began after his appointment to the case, that the pair have never cohabited, and that any travel expenses have been split between them.

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