Fulton County DA Fani Willis acknowledges personal relationship with the special prosecutor in Trump election case

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis on Friday acknowledged having a personal relationship with special prosecutor Nathan Wade as former President Donald Trump and another co-defendant have sought to get them disqualified from the Georgia election interference case.

In a 176-page filing, Willis seemed to respond to the allegations by stating that “any personal relationship among members of the prosecution team does not amount to a disqualifying conflict of interest or otherwise harm a criminal defendant.”

Willis and her office argued that the relationship hasn’t corrupted their ability to oversee the case.

“Defendants have done nothing to establish an actual conflict of interest, nor have they shown that, in the handling of the case, District Attorney Willis or Special Prosecutor Wade have acted out of any personal or financial motivation,” it said.

The filing said that Trump co-defendant Michael Roman — who first made the allegation that Willis and Wade had a relationship to get the charges tossed — “wildly speculates” that Willis “benefitted financially from the investigation and prosecution of this criminal case, but provides no support to justify that conclusion.”

“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,” it said.

In an affidavit included in the filing, Wade directly acknowledged his personal relationship with Willis, which he said didn’t exist at the time of his hiring.

“In 2022, District Attorney Willis and I developed a personal relationship in addition to our professional association and friendship,” he said.

Addressing personal trips they took together, he said that they roughly split the cost of travel. Sometimes he booked flights, he said, and sometimes she did.

The filing Friday said that the allegations raised by Roman and other motions to disqualify Willis and Wade “are salacious and garnered the media attention they were designed to obtain.” But, it shot down accusations made by Trump and a co-defendant in the case.

“District Attorney Willis has no financial conflict of interest that constitutes a legal basis for disqualification,” it said. “District Attorney Willis has no personal conflict of interest that justifies her disqualification personally or that of the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office.”

It said that attacks on Wade’s qualifications “are factually inaccurate, unsupported, and malicious, in addition to providing no basis whatsoever to dismiss the indictment or disqualify” him.

Willis, it added, has also “made no public statements that warrant disqualification or judicial inquiry.”

Reacting to the news Friday, Trump railed against the Fulton County prosecutors in a post on Truth Social, saying that the case against him and others is a “scam” that is “totally discredited & over!”

Trump attorney Steve Sadow said in a statement Friday that Willis’ response “asks the Court to turn a blind eye to her alleged personal and financial misconduct.”

“Apparently, the DA believes she can make public out-of-court statements about race, this case, and the defendants whenever she wants, and the Court is powerless to punish her by disqualification,” Sadow said. “Such hubris for all to see. 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.”

Roman’s attorney, Ashleigh Merchant, also filed a response Friday pushing to keep the evidentiary Feb. 15 hearing on Roman’s allegations. The hearing was scheduled by Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee, who is presiding over the election case. Roman has previously issued subpoenas to Willis and Wade to testify at the hearing, but the Friday filing said they intend to file motions to quash them.

In the filing Friday, Merchant pushed back on claims that Willis and Wade never cohabitated, adding that she believes testimony will show the relationship began even before Wade was hired.

“If they had nothing to hide in the first place because they did nothing wrong, then why did they intentionally not tell anyone about it until they got caught with their hand in the cookie jar?” Merchant’s filing said.

In a court filing last month seeking dismissal of charges in the case, attorneys for Roman first accused Willis of engaging in an “improper, clandestine personal relationship” with Wade. Trump has also cited the allegations of a romantic relationship in his own efforts to get his charges tossed out.

Both Roman and Trump, who faces 13 criminal counts, have pleaded not guilty in the case. Four co-defendants have pleaded guilty.

A court filing last month from Wade’s estranged wife included credit card statements that appeared to show Wade had purchased plane tickets for trips with Willis.

Wade on Tuesday reached a temporary agreement with his wife, Jocelyn Wade, in their divorce proceedings, canceling a court hearing where he had been expected to testify about the allegations.

The same day, an attorney for Roman subpoenaed Willis and Wade to testify at the Feb. 15 hearing in connection with motions to disqualify them from prosecuting the election case, according to a lawsuit that Ashleigh Merchant, Roman’s attorney, filed against Willis’ office.

Merchant’s lawsuit alleges that Willis has refused to provide many requested materials in violation of the Georgia Open Records Act. The lawsuit also claims that Willis “used taxpayer money to pay Wade, with whom she has had a romantic relationship at the time,” and as a result has received “financial benefits from such payments” including vacations, hotel stays and gifts.

Willis has faced intensifying scrutiny over the alleged relationship in recent weeks.

Last week, the Republican-led Georgia Senate approved a resolution to establish a committee to investigate Willis, and state Rep. Charlie Byrd, a Republican, introduced articles of impeachment against Willis in Georgia’s lower chamber.

Bob Ellis, a member of Fulton County’s board of commissioners, also said in a statement last month that he would pursue a “full investigation” amid the allegations.

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com

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