Fulton County, Ga., District Attorney Fani Willis (D) acknowledged developing a “personal relationship” with the top prosecutor in former President Trump’s Georgia criminal case in a new court filing Friday, but she said it was no reason for her to step aside.
Trump co-defendant Michael Roman last month first accused Willis and special prosecutor Nathan Wade of having romantic ties, claiming it rendered the far-reaching Georgia election interference indictment “fatally defective.”
Wills responded to those accusations in court filings on Friday, writing that the motion is “salacious” and “designed to obtain” media attention. She offered a forceful defense of Wade as “a leader more than capable of managing the complexity of this case,” even noting how Roman’s attorney made Facebook posts in 2016 voicing enthusiastic support for Wade’s judicial campaign at the time.
In an attached affidavit from Wade, he insisted he was no more than friends with the district attorney prior to his hiring in 2021.
“In 2022, District Attorney Willis and I developed a personal relationship in addition to our professional association and friendship,” Wade acknowledged.
Roman’s motion asks for the charges against him to be dropped and for Willis, Wade and the Fulton County district attorney’s office to be blocked from continuing to work on the case. The Hill requested comment from his lawyer and Trump’s lawyer, who joined Roman’s motion.
At nearly the same time, Wade’s estranged wife raised the issue in their ongoing divorce proceedings. Lawyers for Joycelyn Wade later filed bank statements appearing to show flights to San Francisco and Miami in the pair’s names while the district attorney’s office investigated Trump and his allies.
In the Friday filing, Willis denied any benefit from her relationship with Wade, indicating they divide their personal travel expenses “rather evenly” and have no shared finances.
“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 reads.
Willis also said that Wade’s compensation, which amounts to at least $650,000, should not be compared to that of other special prosecutors who are tasked with “dramatically less time-consuming work.”
“Special Prosecutor Wade made much more money than the other special prosecutors only because Wade did much more work,” the filing reads.
Wade’s wife subpoenaed Willis for a deposition in the divorce case, but that testimony is indefinitely on hold after the Wades reached a temporary agreement settling the matter. Andrea Hastings, one of Joycelyn Wade’s lawyers, previously accused Willis of “trying to hide under the shield of her position” as district attorney by attempting to get out of testifying.
The revelation of the relationship threw a curveball into prosecution of the former president by Willis’s office, one of four criminal indictments Trump faces as he campaigns to return to the White House. Trump has called his case “totally compromised.”
Prior to Willis’s response, Steve Sadow, Trump’s lead attorney in Georgia, had publicly questioned on Thursday whether the district attorney would answer to the accusations that she went on personal vacations with Wade and whether Willis would reveal who in the office knew about their relationship.
“Will the response directly answer or dodge these factual questions,” Sadow wrote on X, formerly known as Twitter.
In a statement Friday, Sadow said Willis’s response asks the court to “turn a blind eye” to her alleged misconduct, claiming she “fails to provide full transparency and necessary financial details.”
Willis also replied Friday to a claim in Trump’s motion joining Roman’s bid to disqualify the district attorney that Willis sought to “foment racial animus” against the former president and his co-defendants to draw attention away from her affair.
During a church service commemorating Martin Luther King Jr., Willis implied race played a part in the criticism she and Wade faced after Roman’s motion was filed.
“Defendant Trump’s motion fails to establish an adequate basis in law or in fact, but even if it somehow did establish such, it fails to articulate any reasonable argument connected to a real, actual legal standard,” the filing reads. “Instead, much like the motion advanced by Defendant Roman, Defendant Trump’s motion appears designed to generate media attention rather than accomplish some form of legitimate legal practice.”
Sadow said in his statement that Willis was attempting to “downplay” her church speech by “preposterously” claiming it had nothing to do with Trump and his co-defendants.
“Such hubris for all to see,” he said. “Nothing has changed. Our requested remedy remains clear: dismiss the case and disqualify the DA, together with her team and office, from any related matters.”
Willis’s acknowledgement of the relationship Friday was filed the day of the judge’s deadline for the district attorney to respond to Roman’s motion. A hearing is set for Feb. 15, where attorneys for Roman, Trump and at least one other co-defendant will seek Willis’s disqualification.
Willis’s filing argued there is no need for the hearing and urged the judge to dismiss the motion.
Updated at 3:09 p.m.