District attorney and lawyer in Trump case take the witness stand to deny their romance is a conflict of interest

By John Mercury February 15, 2024

The district attorney and the lawyer prosecuting Donald Trump for allegedly trying to overturn his 2020 election defeat in Georgia have taken the witness stand – denying claims their romantic relationship presents a financial conflict of interest.

Trump and some of his 14 co-defendants argue Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis should be disqualified from the prosecution due to her relationship with lawyer Nathan Wade.

The pair went on trips together – with Mr Wade booking them while he was being paid by Ms Willis’ office.

Mr Wade and Ms Willis have testified that their relationship, which is said to have come to an end last summer, began in early 2022 – months after the district attorney appointed the lawyer in November 2021.

However, Robin Yeartie, a former friend and employee of Ms Willis, contradicted the timeline and said the pair began dating shortly after they met in 2019.

Taking the witness stand, Ms Willis angrily pushed back against what she described as “lies” about her relationship with Mr Wade.

She said: “Do you think I’m on trial? These people are on trial for trying to steal an election in 2020. I’m not on trial no matter how hard you try to put me on trial.”

Ashleigh Merchant, an attorney representing Trump co-defendant Michael Roman, asked Ms Willis about where the money came from that she gave to Mr Wade to reimburse him for travel.

“I am sure that the source of the money is always the work, sweat and tears of me,” Ms Willis said.

Pic: AP
Pic: AP

‘She demanded to pay her own way’

When questioned, Ms Willis also explained she didn’t pay with cash from bank withdrawals because she keeps money in her home. She said her father had told her to always keep six months of money in the house.

Ms Willis also said that she and Mr Wade never lived together despite court filings that were submitted that stated otherwise.

“It’s certainly a lie that he lived with me,” Ms Willis said.

If the district attorney were to be disqualified, it could lead to a new district attorney being appointed who could either proceed with the charges against Trump and his co-defendants or drop the case altogether.

Since the allegations of an inappropriate relationship surfaced, Trump has used them to try to cast doubt on the legitimacy of Ms Willis’ case against him.

Other Republicans have called for an investigation into the district attorney, a Democrat who’s up for re-election this year.

During personal and uncomfortable testimony that spanned hours, Mr Wade admitted to having sex with Ms Willis during his separation from his estranged wife.

“There is nothing secret or salacious about having a private life,” he said. “Nothing.”

Nathan Wade testifies in court on Thursday
Nathan Wade testifies in court on Thursday. Pic: AP

Friend’s evidence questions when relationship started

Mr Wade has testified that he booked trips with Ms Willis to California, Belize and Aruba while working for her office.

However, he maintains Ms Willis either reimbursed him in cash or covered other expenses.

“She was very emphatic and adamant about this independent, strong woman thing so she demanded that she paid her own way,” Mr Wade said.

Mr Wade said the relationship ended last summer, but that he remains good friends with Ms Willis. He added that they were “probably closer than ever because of these attacks”.

Ms Merchant has described the relationship as a conflict of interest that should disqualify Ms Willis – and her entire office – from the case.

She claims Ms Willis personally profited from the relationship, paying Mr Wade more than $650,000 (£516,000) for his work and then benefiting when he used his earnings to pay for the trips they went on together.

The hearing, which will continue on Friday, will determine whether Ms Willis’ office should be disqualified from prosecuting the election case.

Read more:
Trump asks Supreme Court to delay election case
How Trump blocked Ukraine aid – to help bid to beat Biden
Trump criticised for comments that ‘put soldiers at risk’

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis speaks at a press conference next to prosecutor Nathan Wade in November 2023
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis speaks at a press conference next to prosecutor Nathan Wade in November 2023. Pic: Reuters

Claims dismissed as ‘fantastical speculation’

The district attorney’s office has blasted the disqualification effort as a publicity stunt based on “fantastical theories and rank speculation”.

In a court filing earlier this month, Ms Willis’ office insisted that she has no financial or personal conflict of interest and that there are no grounds to dismiss the case or to remove her from the prosecution.

The Georgia case is one of four criminal prosecutions that Trump is facing as he closes in on securing the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic President Joe Biden in the November election.

Trump has long presented the Georgia prosecution, and others he faces, as politically motivated attempts to prevent him from returning to power.

He has highlighted the claims against Ms Willis as evidence of perceived misconduct by those pursuing him.

Trump was in New York on Thursday where a judge scheduled a trial on charges related to hush-money payments to a porn star to start on 25 March.


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