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Fani Willis admits relationship with prosecutor in Trump case but rejects ‘meritless’ accusations

Fulton County district Attorney Fani Willis has formally responded to allegations that she had an improper relationship with a special prosecutor she hired to lead a sprawling election interference case against Donald Trump.

In a 176-page court filing on Friday, Ms Willis admitted her relationship with outside prosecutor Nathan Wade but rejected “meritless” and “salacious” accusations from Republican officials and defendants in the case, and denied allegations of misconduct or claims that her relationship tainted the proceedings.

The “bad faith” attempts to disqualify her should be “summarily denied,” according to her filing in Fulton County Superior Court.

Ms Willis has come under heightened scrutiny in recent weeks after one of Mr Trump’s co-defendants – a GOP operative who worked on his 2020 campaign – alleged in a sensational court filing without direct evidence that she hired a prosecutor with whom she was romantically involved and that the pair were “profiting significantly from this prosecution at the expense of the taxpayers.”

The motion to disqualify Ms Willis from defendant Mike Roman, among 14 remaining co-defendants in the criminal case, was also joined by attorneys for Mr Trump, who accused Ms Willis of injecting “racial animus” in the case and violating her prosecutorial responsibilities.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee has scheduled an evidentiary hearing in the case on 15 February. Ms Willis and Mr Wade are expected to be subpoenaed to testify.

In her lengthy filing, Ms Willis notes that there are other members of the prosecution team in a relationship, and until Mr Roman’s filing, the “private lives of the attorney participants in this trial was not a topic of discussion.”

“A conflicted prosecutor presents a risk that he or she will disregard public interest for personal benefit,” according to the filing. “No circumstances alleged by any of these Defendants even approach that threshold, let alone cross it. And the accusations brought to this Court by these Defendants on the flimsiest of factual support may cause a reasonable person to wonder [if] the Defendants’ motivation is more tactical than legal.”

She said it’s worth questioning whether Mr Roman’s “supposition and innuendo”-loaded arguments are intended to “disqualify the prosecutor who has taken on all of the abuse to pursue justice in this case at great personal cost, only to be substituted with someone less committed to do so.”

In a signed affidavit attached to the filing, Mr Wade noted that he and Ms Wade “developed a personal relationship in addition to our professional association and friendship” in 2022, a year after he was hired on the case.

He stated he has no financial interest in the case, that no funds from his hiring have been shared with Ms Willis, and that they have never shared any financial accounts, expenses or housing.

Mr Roman’s attorney Ashleigh Merchant has also subpoenaed bank records tied to Mr Wade and his law firm in an attempt to bolster her claims of misconduct.

The filing appeared on the court’s documents list on Friday as news emerged of an attempt from House Republicans to subpoena Ms Willis as part of a broader effort among Mr Trump’s allies to muddy his multiple criminal prosecutions, which they have baselessly labelled “election interference” or part of a Democratic conspiracy to keep him out of the White House.

Mr Trump and more than a dozen co-defendants are criminally charged under Georgia’s anti-racketeering statute as part of a “criminal enterprise” to overturn the state’s election results in 2020 by pushing state officials and lawmakers to unlawfully reverse his loss while directing attacks on election equipment and pressuring election workers. They have pleaded not guilty.