Fulton County District Attorney Fannie Willis admitted Friday to having a personal relationship with special counsel Nathan Wade as former President Donald Trump and another co-defendant sought to disqualify them from the Georgia election interference case.
In the 176-page filing, Willis appears to respond to the allegations, saying that “no personal relationship between members of the prosecution team constituted an inappropriate conflict of interest or prejudice to the criminal defendant.”
Willis and his office argued that the relationship did not impair his ability to oversee the case.
“Defendants have done nothing to establish an actual conflict of interest, nor have they shown that District Attorney Willis or Special Counsel Wade acted from any personal or financial motivation in handling the case,” it said.
Trump co-defendant Michael Roman — who first alleged that Willis and Wade had a relationship to press charges — said in the filing that Willis “benefited financially from the investigation and prosecution of this criminal case, but provides.” There is no support to justify that conclusion.
“To be absolutely clear, the personal relationship between Special Counsel Wade and District Attorney Willis never directly or indirectly resulted in financial gain for District Attorney Willis,” it said.
In the affidavit filed, Wade directly acknowledged his personal relationship with Willis, saying it did not exist at the time of his hiring.
“In 2022, District Attorney Willis and I developed a personal relationship beyond our professional association and friendship,” he said.
Addressing the personal trips they took together, he said they split the travel expenses roughly. Sometimes he booked the flights, he said, and sometimes she did.
Friday's filing said the allegations raised by Roman and other motions to disqualify Willis and Wade were “outrageous and received the media attention they were designed to receive.” But it dropped charges against Trump and a co-defendant in the case.
“District Attorney Willis has no financial conflicts of interest that would constitute a legal basis for disqualification,” it said. “There are no personal conflicts of interest that justify the disqualification of District Attorney Willis personally or the Fulton County District Attorney's Office.”
It said the attacks on Wade's qualifications were “factually false, unsupported and malicious, providing no basis for dismissal of the charge or disqualification”.
It added that Willis “has not made any public statements that warrant disqualification or a judicial investigation.”
Responding to Friday's news, Trump lashed out at Fulton County prosecutors in a post on Truth Social, saying the case against him and others was a “fraud” that was “completely discredited & over the top!”
In a statement on Friday, Trump lawyer Steve Sato said Willis' response “blind-sidedly asks the court about his personal and financial misconduct.”
“Apparently, the DA believes she can make out-of-court statements about race, this case and the defendants whenever she wants, and the court is powerless to punish her with disqualification,” Sato said. “Such kudos to all. Nothing has changed. The remedy we seek is clear: dismiss the case and disqualify the DA, along with his team and office, from related matters.”
Roman's attorney, Ashley Merchant, filed a response Friday, urging a 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 in the trial, but Friday's filing said they plan to file motions to quash them.
In Friday's filing, the businessman pushed back on claims that Willis and Wade never lived together.
“If they didn't do anything wrong and had nothing to hide in the first place, why didn't they intentionally tell anyone until they got their hand in the cookie jar?” The merchant filed.
In a court filing last month seeking to dismiss charges in the case, Roman's attorneys originally alleged that Willis engaged in an “improper, secret personal relationship” with Wade. Trump has also cited allegations of an affair in his own attempts to get the charges thrown out.
Both Roman and Trump, who face 13 criminal charges, have pleaded not guilty in the case. Four co-defendants pleaded guilty.
Credit card statements filed in court last month by Wade's estranged wife showed Wade purchased airline tickets for trips with Willis.
Wade on Tuesday reached a tentative agreement in divorce proceedings with his wife, Jocelyn Wade, canceling a court hearing in which she was expected to testify about the allegations.
That same day, Roman's attorney Ashley Merchant asked Roman's attorney to testify at a Feb. 15 hearing on motions to disqualify Willis and Wade from running the election case, according to a lawsuit filed against Willis' office.
The businessman's suit alleges that Willis has refused to provide many of the requested materials in violation of the Georgia Open Records Act. The lawsuit alleges that Willis “used taxpayer money to pay Wade, with whom she was having an affair at the time,” and that she received “financial benefits from such payments” as a result, including vacations, hotel stays and gifts.
Willis has faced intense scrutiny over the alleged affair 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 the Georgia lower house.
Bob Ellis, a member of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners, said in a statement last month that he would pursue a “full investigation” amid the allegations.