DA Fani Willis and the top prosecutor in Donald Trump's Georgia case admit a relationship.
Willis says this shouldn't disqualify her from the Trump case.
The relationship started after she appointed Nathan Wade, not before, filing says.
Fani Willis, the Fulton County, Georgia, district attorney prosecuting former President Donald Trump and 18 of his allies over 2020 election interference, admitted to having a relationship with the man she appointed to special prosecutor in the case.
In a new court filing on Friday, attorneys for Willis hit back at demands to disqualify her over allegations that she had an "improper" romantic relationship with special prosecutor Nathan Wade.
The highly-anticipated court filing was in response to a January 8 motion that was filed by a lawyer for one of the co-defendants in the racketeering case, former Trump campaign staffer Michael Roman.
That motion alleged that the relationship began while Wade — who filed for divorce from Joycelyn Wade on November 2, 2021 — was married. The divorce filing came a day after Willis appointed Wade to spearhead the probe into Trump and others' efforts to overturn Trump's Georgia loss during the 2020 presidential election.
In Willis' response to the motion on Friday, her attorney argued that the efforts to disqualify her have "no merit" and "should be summarily denied without an evidentiary hearing."
"While the allegations raised in the various motions are salacious and garnered the media attention they were designed to obtain, none provide this Court with any basis upon which to order the relief they seek," the filing from Willis' attorneys says.
Willis' lawyers wrote that she never benefited financially from a relationship with Nathan Wade and that she has no financial or personal conflict of interest that justifies disqualification.
"To be absolutely clear, the personal relationship between Special Prosecutor Wade and District Attorney Willis has never involved direct or indirect financial benefit to District Attorney Willis," the filing read.
Willis' attorneys also pointed to "at least two personal relationships" between lawyers for defendants in the election interference case "that, under the standard urged by the Roman's motion, would almost certainly require disqualification."
An affidavit from Wade was included in the Friday filing in which he admitted to having a relationship with Willis.
"While professional associates and friends since 2019, there was no personal relationship between District Attorney Willis and me prior to or at the time of my appointment as special prosecutor in 2021," Nathan Wade said, according to the filing.
"In 2022, District Attorney Willis and I developed a personal relationship in addition to our professional association and friendship," said Nathan Wade, according to the court documents.
Roman's lawyer accused Willis of benefiting financially from hiring Wade because he paid for her extravagant vacations, but Wade said they share all travel costs.
"The District Attorney and I are both financially independent professionals; expenses for personal travel were roughly divided equally between us," he wrote. "At times I have made and purchased travel for District Attorney Willis and myself from my personal funds."
Roman's motion suggested that Willis benefited from the hundreds of thousands of dollars Nathan Wade was paid for his work on the case because he went on to pay for their travel to places like Napa Valley, Florida, and the Caribbean. The motion also claimed that Nathan Wade also bought tickets for him and Willis to go on cruises.
"As the layers unfold, it becomes clear that the district attorney and the special prosecutor have been profiting personally from this prosecution at Fulton County's expense," Roman's motion, which does not provide any proof, said.
The motion calls "the entire prosecution" "invalid and unconstitutional" and seeks to get the criminal indictment against Roman tossed and to disqualify Willis, an elected Democrat, her office, and Nathan Wade from prosecuting the case.
Attorneys for Trump, along with his co-defendant, lawyer Robert Cheeley, have also joined in on the motion filed by Merchant, Roman's lawyer.
Trump, who was quick to weigh in on the allegations of an interoffice affair, posted to Truth Social Friday about Willis' response.
"Fani Willis, the D.A. of Fulton County, just admitted to having a sexual relationship with the Prosecutor she, in consultation with the White House and DOJ, appointed to 'GET PRESIDENT DONALD J. TRUMP,'" he wrote.
"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. THAT MEANS THAT THIS SCAM IS TOTALLY DISCREDITED & OVER!"
Meanwhile, legal expert and former federal prosecutor Neama Rahmani told Business Insider the relationship is a "terrible look and a potential ethics violation" for Willis.
"But it's not a conflict of interest with respect to Trump or the co-defendants," Rahmani, the president and co-founder of West Coast Trial Lawyers, told Business Insider.
Rahmani said that Willis and Nathan Wade "should probably step down from the case due to the optics and have career prosecutors take over, but there is no legal requirement that they do so or effect if they do not."
Wade and Willis are expected to testify
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee has scheduled a February 15 hearing on Roman's motion.
Merchant has subpoenaed Willis and Nathan Wade to testify at that hearing.
Later last month, lawyers for Joycelyn Wade had subpoenaed Willis for a deposition in the divorce proceedings. In a court filing, an attorney for Willis argued that Joycelyn Wade was "using the legal process to harass and embarrass" Willis and was, in turn, "obstructing and interfering" with the election interference case.
Joycelyn Wade's lawyers, in a filing in response, included credit card statements that showed Wade bought plane tickets in October 2022 for him and Willis to go to Miami and booked tickets in their names for San Francisco.
On Tuesday, Nathan and Joycelyn Wade reached a temporary divorce settlement, which canceled a Wednesday hearing at which Nathan Wade was expected to be grilled about his relationship with Willis, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
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