Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has finally admitted she had a personal relationship with a special prosecutor in Donald Trump’s election interference case—but denies claims that the affair tainted the investigation.
In a Friday 176-page court filing, Willis’ office denied any financial conflict of interest that warrants her disqualification from the racketeering case. The filing also denies that she had any personal conflict of interest and calls the attacks on special prosecutor Nathan Wade “factually inaccurate, unsupported, and malicious.”
The motion also states that Wade and Willis did not have a personal relationship back in November 2021, when he was hired to oversee and investigate claims that Trump and his allies sought to interfere with the 2020 Georgia election. But, in Wade’s affidavit submitted in the filing, the special prosecutor admits that “attorney Willis and I developed a personal relationship in addition to our professional association and friendship.”
Wade said in his affidavit that he has never “cohabitated,” shared household expenses, or shared a joint financial account with Willis. He added that he has previously paid for travel for himself and Willis from his “personal funds” and that the DA has also paid for their trips.
The special prosecutor then provided a receipt of his billable hours and confirmation emails of flights to Miami that he said Willis purchased.
“While the allegations raised in the various motions are salacious and garnered the media attention they were designed to obtain, none provide this Court with any basis upon which to order the relief they seek,” the filing states.
The Friday filing is a formal response to a Feb. 15 hearing to review the misconduct allegations before Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee, who is handling Trump’s Georgia case. Trump aide Mike Roman’s attorney said in a Tuesday lawsuit that Willis and Wade were subpoenaed to testify at the hearing.
Roman’s attorney made the allegations against the DA and the special prosecutor public in a motion to dismiss the indictment against his client and remove them from the case, claiming they had an “improper” relationship and used Wade’s taxpayer-funded DA paycheck to fund their lavish vacations.
“To take this position, Special Prosecutor Wade resigned from three judicial appointments and largely stepped away from his private practice for long stretches,” the filing states. “There is simply no honest argument that Special Prosecutor Wade unduly benefited financially from his appointment.”
Willis’ filing states that Roman’s “motion relies on supposition and innuendo regarding the private relationship between District Attorney Willis and Special Prosecutor Wade.” It states that she and Wade do not have any “personal or financial interest” in the conviction of the defendants in the Trump case and that the special prosecutor was compensated for his work on the case like any other hired employee.
“Instead, the motions attempt to cobble together entirely unremarkable circumstances of Special Prosecutor Wade’s appointment with completely irrelevant allegations about his personal family life into a manufactured conflict of interest on the part of the District Attorney,” the filing states.
“Conflict arises when a prosecutor has a personal interest or stake in a defendant’s conviction—a charge that no defendant offers any support for beyond fantastical theories and rank speculation.”
Roman’s lawyer, Ashleigh Merchant, filed a response to Willis’ filing on Friday, arguing that the public only knows about the now-admitted personal relationship between the DA and Wade because her team sounded the initial alarm bell.
“That raises the obvious and important question: 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 states. “This highlights the very reason why this Court cannot just take their word for it.”
Merchant argues that the Feb. 15 hearing is essential to cross-examine Wade on several assertions in his affidavit. She argues that during the hearing, witnesses will testify that the special prosecutor “cohabitated” with Willis at a Hapeville Airbnb that allegedly served as a “safe house” for the couple.
The filing also said witnesses are expected to testify that the two lived at Willis' South Fulton home until her father moved in—then the couple allegedly moved to a friend’s apartment.
“Some of the individuals whom Mr. Roman has subpoenaed to testify have personal knowledge that Wade and Willis’ personal relationship began before his appointment as a special prosecutor,” the lawyer said in the filing. “In other words, they have knowledge that the assertion by Willis in the State’s response and in Wade’s affidavit are both false.”
And Merchant is not the only lawyer to question Wade and Willis' relationship. Attorneys for Joycelyn Wade, Nathan Wade’s wife, also filed a request to subpoena Willis, arguing that the DA has personal knowledge about the estranged couple’s finances. In another motion, the lawyer included Nathan Wade’s credit card statements, which showed he bought plane tickets for himself and Willis to Aruba and other destinations between 2022 and 2023.
“[Willis] is trying to hide under the shield of her position,” Joycelyn Wade’s attorney, Andrea Hastings, argued last week. “Whatever her job is has nothing to do with whether or not she should have to sit for this deposition.”
The Friday filing denies allegations that the personal relationship between Wade and Willis has ever financially benefited Willis. It states that personal travel between the two was “divided roughly evenly” and that all expenses were paid for with their personal funds.
The district attorney has sought to quash the subpoena, arguing that Joycelyn Wade is attempting to “damage her professional reputation” and harm the Trump investigation. The Wades have since entered into a temporary agreement in their divorce case, sparing Willis from the subpoena and Nathan Wade from answering questions in a deposition.
Since the scandal broke, Willis and Wade have faced calls for their removal, and Georgia Senate Republicans established a bipartisan committee panel to investigate allegations that Willis misused public funds and had a conflict of interest in hiring Wade.
Trump’s defense attorney for the Georgia case, Steve Sadow, said in a statement to The Daily Beast that Willis’ response “asks the Court to turn a blind eye to her alleged personal and financial misconduct” because her “sole objective” is to try to stop the Feb. 15 hearing. Trump joined Roman’s motion to dismiss the indictment and disqualify Willis and her office from the case.
“While the DA admits to an intimate relationship with her employee, Special Asst. DA Wade, she fails to provide full transparency and necessary financial details,” Sadow said. “Indeed, she says absolutely nothing about the so-called ‘coincidence’ of Wade filing for divorce the day after the DA hired him!”