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Prosecutor in Trump Georgia case paid for flights with Fulton County DA, filing reveals

The top special prosecutor in the Georgia case against former President Donald Trump and a large number of co-defendants paid for at least two plane trips with Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, bank statements filed as part of his divorce case reveal.

This comes after Ms Willis pushed back on allegations that she has had an “improper” relationship with the prosecutor, Nathan Wade, 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 Mr 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 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, but without providing evidence for her claims, the Atlanta 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 course of 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 benefitted 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 have his entire case dismissed. Earlier 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 Ms Willis’ 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.

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.

Ms Wade’s attorney wrote in the Friday filing that “Contrary to Ms. Willis’s belief, the Defendant is not utilising the deposition to harass her but rather to seek pertinent information from her husband’s paramour regarding her relationship with Plaintiff and the extent of the Plaintiff’s financial involvement in the same”.

“These answers are relevant to the equitable division of the marital estate, dissipation of marital assets and the Plaintiff’s capacity to provide spousal support,” the filing stated.

The motion filed by Ms Willis noted that the subpoena and the filing from Mr Roman came in close succession and that the office of the Fulton County DA had complied with Ms Wade’s subpoena for records linked to Mr Wade.

She added that the subpoena was improper as it was “unlimited in scope”.

“Willis cannot provide unique personal knowledge of any matter that is relevant to Defendant Wade’s divorce,” Mr Axam wrote in the filing. “Because the parties agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken and the concept for 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.”

The credit card statements included in the filing don’t show the dates of the travel, but does show transactions including the DoubleTree Napa Valley hotel between 14 and 16 May 2023 and two tickets for a Royal Caribbean cruise bought on the same day the tickets bought for Miami, The Post noted.

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.

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.

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