Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis admitted in a Friday court filing to a relationship with a lawyer she appointed to prosecute former President Donald Trump but denied the relationship interfered in the case.
Until Friday, Willis had not confirmed the affair or denied the impact of the relationship on the case.
If Willis resigns or recuses herself from the case, it could effectively end the county’s prosecution of Trump or potentially delay the proceedings until after the presidential election. Republicans have accused Willis of interfering in the presidential election.
Trump and codefendant Mike Roman have accused Willis and Nathan Wade, her top prosecutor, of corruption in the case for:
- Maintaining an improper romantic relationship
- Enriching themselves through the taxpayer-funded prosecution
- Meeting with Biden administration officials before indicting Trump and codefendants
Willis claimed the allegations are “meritless” and “salacious” and requested the judge reject the motion filed by Trump and codefendants that would essentially torpedo her case, Willis’s 176-page court filing states:
- “District Attorney Willis has no financial conflict of interest that constitutes a legal basis for disqualification;”
- “District Attorney Willis has no personal conflict of interest that justifies her disqualification personally or that of the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office;”
- “The attacks on Special Prosecutor Wade’s qualifications are factually inaccurate, unsupported, and malicious, in addition to providing no basis whatsoever to dismiss the indictment or disqualify Special Prosecutor Wade;”
- “Criticism of the process utilized to appoint and compensate the special prosecutors in this case demonstrates basic misunderstandings of rudimentary county and state regulations, and provides no legal basis for dismissal of the indictment or disqualification of any member of the prosecution.”
In January, the Georgia judge ordered Willis to “respond” to the corruption accusations in writing by February 2. The order will force Willis to speak on February 15 on live television about the allegations, the Washington Post reported:
Ashleigh Merchant, Roman’s attorney, has said she plans to issue subpoenas for witnesses and documents to back up her client’s claims of misconduct. Merchant said in a lawsuit this week that she has subpoenaed Willis and Wade to testify, and she is expected to seek testimony from Wade’s current and former law partners and others associated with the district attorney’s office.
Until now, neither Willis nor Wade had directly addressed or denied the allegations. Bank records made public as part of Wade’s divorce proceedings showed Wade purchased plane tickets for himself and Willis on two occasions — a trip to Aruba purchased in October 2022 on American Airlines, and a second trip purchased in April 2023 to San Francisco on Delta Air Lines. It is unclear if Willis reimbursed Wade for the tickets or went on the trips. A spokesman for Willis has declined to comment. Wade has not responded to requests for comment, and his divorce attorney has declined to comment.
Merchant has told The Washington Post the claims against Willis and Wade were based on sources that she did not name as well as records she said had been disclosed as part of Wade’s divorce proceedings but were under seal. While some documents from the divorce were subsequently made public, discovery materials were not, including Wade’s bank statements and subpoenaed records from the district attorney’s office.
House Judiciary Committee Chair Jim Jordan (R-OH) launched an investigation into Willis on January 12, 2024, for accepting more than $14.6 million in grant funds from the Department of Justice (DOJ) between 2020 and 2023. The timeframe of the funding suggests the DOJ granted Willis federal funds to finance the prosecution of Trump. Willis refused to supply documents to Jordan, so the Ohio congressman subpoenaed her Friday.
On Monday, Georgia House members passed a bill to recreate a committee to remove Willis. Gov. Brian Kemp (R) supports this method, as he opposed launching a criminal investigation into Willis. Kemp denied Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene’s (R-GA) complaint that sought the dismissal of the charges against Trump.