Judge Unseals Records in Divorce Case That Entangled Trump’s Prosecutors

A Georgia judge on Monday unsealed the divorce case that embroiled the Atlanta district attorney who prosecuted former President Donald J. Trump, but halted plans to compel testimony from prosecutor Fannie T. Willis.

One of the parties to the divorce, Nathan Wade, is a lawyer hired by Ms. Willis to lead an election interference case against Mr. Trump and his allies.

Earlier this month, Michael Roman, a former Trump campaign official who is one of Trump’s co-defendants, said in a filing that the two prosecutors were romantically involved and that Ms. Willis may have violated laws and ethics rules by hiring Mr. Wade.

On the same day, Ms. Willis received a subpoena from Mr. Wade’s wife, Joycelyn Wade, to testify in the divorce case.

While Mr. Roman initially offered no evidence of a relationship, a filing last week in the Wade divorce case included credit card statements showing that Mr. Wade purchased airline tickets for himself and Ms. Willis on April 25, 2023, for a trip from Atlanta to San Francisco, and on October 4, 2022, for a trip to Miami.

The disclosure of the case means that many of Mrs Wade’s ongoing efforts to provide evidence of the relationship between her estranged husband and Mrs Willis will now be public. This could include new subpoenas for documents, such as financial statements and witnesses.

The allegations did not change the underlying facts of the Trump impeachment. A Georgia grand jury has already indicted Mr. Trump and 18 others on racketeering charges for their roles in a conspiracy to overturn the state’s 2020 election results. Four defendants have pleaded guilty, including some of Mr. Trump’s staunchest defenders in 2020, attorneys Sidney Powell and Jenna Ellis.

But the charges could complicate the case considerably. In a letter to Ms. Willis on Friday, the Fulton County commissioner who chairs the audit committee requested the documents in an effort to determine whether county funds paid to Mr. Wade “were converted to your personal benefit in the form of subsidized travel or other gifts.”

Mr. Wade was paid $250 an hour for his work on the case and has earned more than $650,000 to date. Mr. Romano’s lawyer raised questions about all the trips that Mr. Wade paid and conducted with Mrs. Willis, since county officials are prohibited from accepting anything of value from people doing business with the county.

The most immediate challenge to the Trump case, however, is that the presiding judge, Scott McAfee of Fulton County Superior Court, will have to rule on Mr. Romano’s request to disqualify Ms. Willis. In theory, he could disqualify not only Ms. Willis but her entire office.

Clark D. Cunningham, a law professor at Georgia State University, said the latter outcome would be “a disaster for the case, an absolute disaster.”

“Everything has been put on hold because there are no more lawyers,” he said.

Although the case could then be assigned to another district attorney in Georgia, that process could take years. In July 2022, Ms. Willis was disqualified from prosecuting Burt Jones, now the lieutenant governor of Georgia, as part of Trump’s prosecution, due to a conflict of interest. A year and a half later, no substitute prosecutor has been appointed.

Judge McAfee has so far been cautious in his handling of the Trump case, seeking a middle ground in many of his rulings. Regardless, other potential obstacles arise. Among them are calls for a new state board, created to oversee district attorneys, to review Ms. Willis’ conduct. The committee, which has been fiercely opposed by Ms. Willis and other Democrats, is likely to decide once it is fully up and running.

On Monday, Mr. Romano’s lawyer argued during a brief hearing in suburban Cobb County that the Wade divorce papers, sealed since February 2022, were not properly sealed. Cobb County Superior Court Judge Henry R. Thompson agreed, unsealing the divorce file.

The unsealed records show a lengthy and contentious divorce proceeding that began on November 2, 2021, the day after Mr. Wade began working as a special prosecutor in Mrs. Willis’ office. Numerous documents show that Ms. Wade’s attorney was frustrated that Mr. Wade did not file documents in the divorce case.

In September, Ms. Wade’s lawyers said in a filing that she “recently learned” that Mr. Wade took a job at the district attorney’s office and that he earned more than half a million dollars doing it. But there was no proof of income, nor “where the funds went,” the filing said.

Other records show that in August Mr. Wade was held in contempt for failing to turn over documents in the divorce case, including some related to his finances.

Ms Willis’s lawyer, Cinque Axam, argued at Monday’s hearing to keep her out of the divorce case. He said his client “doesn’t share any accounts” with Mr Wade and added that Ms Willis did not have unique insight into the case and therefore should not be deposed.

Andrea Dyer Hastings, Ms Wade’s lawyer, called Ms Willis “my client’s husband’s alleged lover”.

“I want to know how he spent his money,” Ms Hastings told the judge. “I have reason to believe that he is spending it on another woman. It’s my client’s money. And I want to ask questions about that.”

The judge said that since the Wades’ two children were grown, the only question to be determined was how to divide the couple’s money. “What we have is a math problem,” he said.

He dropped Ms. Willis’ testimony, which had been scheduled for Tuesday, saying he wanted to hear from Mr. Wade first.

Mr and Mrs Wade have been ordered to appear in court in their divorce proceedings on January 31. In a statement on Monday, Ms Hastings said she expected “Mr. Wade will be forced to answer more questions about both his conduct and his finances.”

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