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Georgia judge sets a hearing on misconduct allegations against Fani Willis in Trump election case

The allegations that the District Attorney has been romantically involved with a special prosecutor she hired for the case have been seized upon by Trump

Judge Scott McAfee listens as an attorney speaks during a motions hearing for former president Donald Trump's election interference case, in Atlanta, Georgia, January, 12 2024.
Judge Scott McAfee listens as an attorney speaks during a motions hearing for former president Donald Trump's election interference case, in Atlanta, Georgia, January, 12 2024.ELIJAH NOUVELAGE / POOL (EFE)

The judge presiding over the Georgia prosecution of former President Donald Trump and others for efforts to overturn the 2020 election has set a hearing on a motion alleging Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has been romantically involved with a special prosecutor she hired for the case.

In an order Thursday, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee set a Feb. 15 hearing and ordered prosecutors to file their response by Feb. 2. The allegations have been seized upon by Trump and other critics of the prosecution, who have argued that the case is tainted and should be tossed out.

Defense attorney Ashleigh Merchant, who represents former Trump campaign staffer and onetime White House aide Michael Roman, made the allegations in a motion filed last week. She alleged that Willis was involved in a romantic relationship with attorney Nathan Wade that created a conflict of interest and led to Willis profiting personally from the prosecution. The motion seeks to have the indictment thrown out and to have Willis and Wade removed from the case.

Willis defended her hiring of Wade and his qualifications during an address at a church in Atlanta on Sunday but has not commented publicly on the allegation of a romantic relationship.

Merchant has not provided any solid proof to support the alleged intimate relationship. She mentioned “information obtained outside of court filings” and “sources close” to Willis and Wade.

Merchant’s filing also mentions that filings in Wade’s pending divorce are sealed but that she has filed a motion to unseal them. A coalition of news organizations, including The Associated Press, filed a motion Tuesday to gain access to those filings.

Merchant wrote that Wade has been paid large sums and has used some of his earnings to take Willis on vacation to Napa Valley, Florida and the Caribbean. She said that amounts to the pair “profiting significantly from this prosecution at the expense of the taxpayers.”

Merchant said she can find no evidence that Wade — whose law firm website touts his experience in civil litigation, including car accident and family law cases — has ever prosecuted a felony case. She questioned his qualifications to try this case.

Trump and Roman were indicted by a Fulton County grand jury in August along with 17 others. They’re accused of participating in a wide-ranging scheme to try to illegally overturn the 2020 presidential election in Georgia. Four of those charged have already pleaded guilty after reaching deals with prosecutors. Trump, Roman and the others who remain have pleaded not guilty.

Roman was the director of Election Day operations for the Trump campaign and also had worked in the White House.

Prosecutors say he helped coordinate an effort to contact state lawmakers on Trump’s behalf to encourage them to “unlawfully appoint presidential electors.”

He is also alleged to have been involved in efforts to have Republicans in swing states that Trump lost, including Georgia, meet on Dec. 14, 2020, to sign certificates falsely saying Trump had won their states and that they were the electors for their states. He was in touch with local Republican officials in several states to set up those meetings.

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