June 24, 2024 11:00 am

Trump prosecutor Fani Willis faces misconduct claims

Fani Willis, the Georgia district attorney driving the landmark election interference case against ex-President Donald Trump, is facing accusations that she improperly hired her romantic partner as the trial’s prosecutor.

The allegations, first aired by Michael Roman – one of the 19 co-defendants in Mr Trump’s case – have raised a flurry of questions about Ms Willis’ conduct and judgement.

Last week,documents filed in the divorce case of her alleged lover, Nathan Wade, suggested he also paid for lavish trips on Ms Willis’ behalf while the case was underway.

Receipts provided by his ex-wife, Joycelyn Wade, appear to show that he paid for her to travel to Miami and San Francisco. It is unclear whether he was reimbursed for the payments.

Ms Willis and her lawyers have accused Ms Wade of “conspiring with interested parties in the criminal Election Interference Case… to annoy, embarrass, and oppress” her.

But the claims could prove damaging to the high-flying prosecutor’s position.

Mr Trump has already seized on the allegations on his social network, Truth Social, posting that the “lovebirds” are targeting him “in order to ENRICH themselves, and to live the Lifestyle of the Rich and Famous”.

What is Fani Willis accused of?

In early January, Mr Roman filed a motion accusing Ms Willis of engaging in an “improper, clandestine personal relationship” with Mr Wade.

He claimed this had resulted in “the special prosecutor, and, in turn, the district attorney, profiting significantly from this prosecution at the expense of the taxpayers”.

Mr Roman, who worked on the 2020 Trump campaign, has been charged over his role in helping put forward a slate of fake pro-Trump electors in Georgia and other battleground states.

He argued that Mr Wade would not typically have been hired for the special prosecutor role due to his lack of experience, and alleged that his legal fees of $650,000 (£513,000) over the past year were exorbitant.

He has urged the court to dismiss the election case and also disqualify Ms Willis from prosecuting the case.

Fani Willis with Nathan WadeIMAGE SOURCE,GETTY IMAGES
Image caption,

Ms Willis has described Mr Wade as a “trusted friend” in the past

But the motion included no proof of his allegations, with his lawyer instead saying the claims were based on sources and records from Mr Wade’s divorce proceedings.

The first black female district attorney for Fulton County, Ms Willis has rejected the accusations, and suggested last week her critics were “playing the race card”.

“I appointed three special counsellors. It’s my right to do. Paid them all the same hourly rate,” she said at the Big Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church during a service celebrating Martin Luther King Jr Day.

“They only attacked one,” she said, adding that the other two outside lawyers are white. Mr Wade is black.

A lawyer for Mr Roman has denied race was a factor in his accusations.

Who is Nathan Wade?

Once a municipal court judge, Mr Wade is a trial attorney who has “decades of experience helping clients facing divorce, separation, and child-custody issues”, according to his firm’s website.

Ms Willis has hailed Mr Wade as a “superstar” with “impeccable credentials”.

But his website and resume show little experience with complex criminal cases like Mr Trump’s and Mr Roman has sought to question the prosecutor’s CV in the wake of the allegations.

Still, Mr Wade was a “super competent judge” who was “timely, efficient with the docket and respectful”, Holly Waltman, a criminal defence lawyer who knows Mr Wade, told the BBC’s US partner CBS News.

Mr Wade has also been a “trusted friend” to Ms Willis, she said in 2022, describing him as her mentor when she worked as a magistrate judge in Atlanta in 2019.

How does Nathan Wade’s divorce case impact Michael Roman’s claims?

Ms Willis hired Nathan Wade as an outside contractor on the Trump case in November 2021. A day later, he filed for divorce from his wife of over two decades, leading to the acrimonious and ongoing legal battle.

The allegations contained within her court filing could serve to corroborate Mr Roman’s previously unsubstantiated claims of an improper relationship between the pair.

Ms Wade filed a subpoena for Ms Willis to testify in the divorce proceedings just hours before Mr Roman came forward with his allegations in January.

An attorney for Ms Willis has hit back at Ms Wade in a legal filing, saying the subpoena was “an attempt to harass and damage” Ms Willis’ credibility.

And the district attorney has insisted that she has no information “that might prove relevant to granting or denying the divorce,” noting that the couple have been living apart since 2021.

Mr and Ms Wade’s divorce proceedings were unsealed by a judge on Monday and the two are expected to appear at a court hearing on 31 January.

Mr Wade has not yet responded to the allegations himself.

Has Fani Willis addressed the relationship claims?

Ms Willis’ office has said she will respond directly to Mr Roman’s allegations in a legal filing.

She has until 2 February to respond to the allegations, before the judge hearing her case against Mr Trump will review evidence about Mr Roman’s claims on 15 February.

A member of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners has also written a letter demanding that Ms Willis explain herself.

“I must reasonably inquire about allegations contained in a recent court filing asserting that you misused county funds and accepted valuable gifts and personal benefits from a contractor/recipient of county funds,” said Bob Ellis.

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