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What We Know About the Relationship Between the Trump Prosecutors

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What We Know About the Relationship Between the Trump Prosecutors

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The allegations of a romance between Fani T. Willis, the Fulton County district attorney, and Nathan J. Wade first emerged in a January filing by Ashleigh Merchant, a lawyer for Michael Roman, one of former President Donald J. Trump’s co-defendants in Georgia.

In her filing, Ms. Merchant said that Ms. Willis and Mr. Wade, whom she hired to manage the Trump case, had been “profiting personally from this prosecution” at taxpayers’ expense. Ms. Merchant also said that Mr. Wade was underqualified, and argued that the entire indictment should be dismissed.

A torrent of court filings followed, as did a number of dramatic, televised public hearings that had little to do with the indictment charging Mr. Trump and some of his allies with conspiring to overturn his 2020 election loss.

Defense lawyers argued that Ms. Willis had engaged in “self-dealing” by hiring Mr. Wade to manage the Trump prosecution, and then going on vacations with him that he paid for, at least in part. Defense lawyers also accused Mr. Wade and Ms. Willis of lying to the court about some details of their relationship, including when it began.

In February, Ms. Willis herself took the witness stand, where, in fiery testimony, she accused Ms. Merchant of lying and described the disqualification effort as an attempt to distract the American public from her case against Mr. Trump.

“You think I’m on trial,” Ms. Willis said to Ms. Merchant. Looking toward the defense table, she added, “These people are on trial for trying to steal an election.”

She acknowledged the existence of a romantic relationship, but she said that it began in 2022, after Mr. Wade began working for the district attorney’s office, and that the physical element of the relationship ended before the indictment was handed up in August.

She also insisted that she had paid for roughly half of the vacations, often reimbursing Mr. Wade in cash.

During the hearings, Steven H. Sadow, a lawyer for Mr. Trump, assailed not only the romance and the trips, but also a speech that Ms. Willis, who is Black, gave at an Atlanta church. In the speech, she suggested that racism was motivating critics who were scrutinizing her hiring of Mr. Wade, who is also Black, and his qualifications.

Mr. Sadow argued that the speech created “a great likelihood of substantial prejudice towards the defendants in the eyes of the public in general, and prospective jurors in Fulton County in particular.”

Over the course of three hearings last month, defense lawyers heard not only from Ms. Willis, but also from Mr. Wade and his former law partner and divorce lawyer, Terrence Bradley. Mr. Bradley was billed by defense lawyers as someone who could establish that the romance began before Ms. Willis hired Mr. Wade.

But the information he offered was muddled. A text message thread was entered into evidence, in which Mr. Bradley told Ms. Merchant that he “absolutely” believed the romance predated Mr. Wade’s hiring. But on the stand, Mr. Bradley said he had no information about the start of the relationship, and that he had been speculating when he texted with Ms. Merchant.

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