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Fani Willis says deputy’s estranged wife ‘interfering’ with prosecution of Trump

Fani Willis says deputy’s estranged wife ‘interfering’ with prosecution of Trump

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has pushed back on allegations that she has had an “improper” relationship with her deputy, instead accusing his estranged wife of attempting to interfere with their prosecution of Donald Trump.

Ms Willis has been issued a subpoena to sit for a pretrial deposition in the divorce case of special prosecutor Nathan Wade and his wife Joycelyn Wade on 23 January. On Thursday, Ms Willis’s lawyer said in a filing that the subpoena should be dismissed.

Attorney Cinque Axam, representing Ms Willis, argued that Ms Wade “has conspired with interested parties in the criminal election interference case to use the civil discovery process to annoy, embarrass and oppress District Attorney Willis”.

Last week, Ashleigh Merchant, a lawyer for Mike Roman, one of Mr Trump’s co-defendants, argued in a filing that Ms Willis and Mr Wade were in a relationship. Ms Merchant argued that Ms Willis has financially benefitted from the relationship without providing evidence for her claims, TheAtlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

But on Friday, a filing in the divorce case, which has been ongoing since February 2022, showed that Mr Wade paid for two trips alongside Ms Willis during the investigation.

Mr Wade bought tickets for himself and the district attorney in October 2022 for a trip to Miami and in April last year to fly to San Francisco.

The statements showing the transactions were filed by lawyers for Mr Wade’s estranged wife as part of an effort to compel Ms Willis to testify, which she attempted to avoid in her Thursday filing. The new filing could corroborate allegations facing Ms Willis and Mr Wade by Mr Roman regarding their supposed improper relationship.

Mr Roman, a former Trump campaign aide, has argued that Ms Willis financially benefited from Mr Wade’s hiring by receiving free travel. Mr Wade is a private practice attorney who has earned more than $650,000 while working for the office of Ms Willis, The Washington Post noted on Friday.

Mr Roman is attempting to disqualify Ms Willis and Mr Wade from the case, as well as having his entire case dismissed. Previously this month, he argued that Ms Willis crossed the line of professional conduct and that she may have committed fraud by taking gifts from a person she hired.

Both Ms Willis and Mr Wade have so far not directly addressed the allegations, and Willis’s spokesperson said that a response to the filings would also come in court, according to The Post. It remains unclear if Mr Wade was reimbursed for the travel expenses or why the trips were taken.

Ms Merchant previously argued that the evidence for a relationship had been sealed in documents related to the divorce case. A hearing has been scheduled for 31 January on possibly unsealing the documents. The filing with the bank statements was obtained by lawyers representing a coalition of media outlets seeking to unseal the documents, The Post reported on Friday.

Ms Willis stated in her filing that she received a subpoena on 8 January, the day that Mr Roman’s filing became public, and that Ms Merchant filed to unseal the documents in the divorce case.

“Defendant Joycelyn Wade has not objected to Michael Roman’s motion to unseal the proceedings despite having previously sought it and having benefited from its protection for more than two years,” Mr Axam wrote.

Attorney Andrea Dyer Hastings, who’s representing Ms Wade, said she’s working to resolve the divorce case “fairly and privately”, adding that she would answer the claims put forward by Ms Willis in writing via the court, according to the Journal-Constitution.

On Thursday, Ms Merchant said, “Ms Willis alleges that her deposition is being sought in an attempt to harass and damage her reputation. Why would her truthful testimony risk damaging her reputation?”

“We believe her filing in Cobb County is just another attempt to avoid having to directly answer the important questions Mr Roman has raised. She appears to be doing everything she can to avoid having to account for inconvenient and difficult facts,” she added.

In her court filing, Ms Willis didn’t outline the nature of her relationship with Mr Wade, but she did say that Ms Wade didn’t put forward a relevant reason for her to give a deposition “in an uncontested no-fault divorce where the parties have been separated for over two years”.

She added that it “suggests that Defendant Joycelyn Wade is using the legal process to harass and embarrass District Attorney Willis, and in doing so, is obstructing and interfering with ... ongoing criminal prosecutions”.

Obstruction is a crime in the state, the local Atlanta paper noted.

The motion filed by Ms Willis states that the marriage between the Wades ended after Ms Wade admitted to having an affair with a longtime friend of Mr Wade.

“If, however, media reports are any indication, (Joycelyn Wade) may intend to ask questions regarding the nature of any relationship with (Nathan Wade),” the motion says.

“Because the parties agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken and the concept of fault is not at issue, there is no information that District Attorney Willis could provide that might prove relevant to granting or denying the divorce,” it adds.

Fulton Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee, who’s in charge of the Trump case, has scheduled an evidentiary hearing on 15 February to look into the claims made by Mr Roman regarding Mr Wade and Ms Willis.

Mr Roman is requesting that his charges be dismissed and for Ms Willis as well as her office to be taken off the case. At least two other lawyers representing other defendants in the case have suggested that they may sign onto Mr Roman’s motion.

Ms Willis has yet to respond to Mr Roman’s claims, such as if she improperly received financial benefits for working on the Trump case.

In a speech lasting 35 minutes at the Big Bethel AME Church in Atlanta on Sunday, Ms Willis defended Mr Wade and her own decisions, arguing that critics were “playing the race card” as they went after the only Black special prosecutor on the case.

This story has been updated with additional information.

The Independent has attempted to reach Ms Willis and Mr Wade for comment.