Trump’s co-defendant suggests Georgia prosecutors lied about the timing of the relationship

A lawyer for one of former President Donald J. Trump’s co-defendants in a Georgia election case suggested Friday that the two prosecutors leading the case lied when their romantic relationship began.

Defense attorney Ashleigh Merchant said a witness she hoped to put on the stand could testify that a romantic relationship between Fannie T. Willis, the Fulton County district attorney, and the special prosecutor handling the Trump case, Nathan J. Wade, started before Ms. Willis hired Mr. Wade.

That would contradict Mr Wade, who said in a recent affidavit that his relationship with Ms Willis did not begin until 2022, after his employment. The affidavit is attached to the court file prepared by Ms. Willis.

Ms. Merchant identified the witness as Terrance Bradley, an attorney who once worked at Mr. Wade and for a time served as a divorce attorney for Mr. Wade. “Bradley has unprivileged, personal knowledge that the romantic relationship between Wade and Willis began before Willis was sworn in as District Attorney of Fulton County, Georgia in 2021,” according to Ms. Merchant’s filing, which arrived late Friday afternoon.

Ms. Merchant, on behalf of her client Michael Romano, a former Trump campaign official, is requesting that Mr. Wade, Ms. Willis and Ms. Willis’ entire office are disqualified from the Trump case. Ms. Merchant claims that the romantic relationship, as well as vacations the plaintiffs took together, which were at least partially paid for by Mr. Wade, represent a conflict of interest.

“It is evident that the district attorney and her personally appointed special prosecutor have gotten rich off of this case,” Ms. Merchant wrote.

In court filings last week, Ms. Willis and Mr. The Wades admitted their romantic relationship after refusing to address the issue for nearly a month. But Ms. Willis also dismissed the effort to remove her from the Trump case as a publicity stunt with little legal merit. Last week, she asked the judge in the case to deny Ms. Merchant’s motion without an evidentiary hearing, which she said would affect her personal life and be “a ticket to the circus.”

That prompted Ms Merchant’s latest filing on Friday, in which she argued that such a hearing was necessary to clarify the facts of the relationship.

Jeff DiSantis, a spokesman for Ms. Willis’ office, declined to comment on the new filing Friday night. Mr. Bradley could not be reached for comment.

The judge, Scott McAfee of Fulton County Superior Court, scheduled a hearing on the charges for Thursday. Ms. Merchant called at least a dozen potential witnesses, including Mr. Bradley, Mr. Wade and Ms. Willis, and a number of other people in the district attorney’s office. Ms. Willis is seeking to quash those subpoenas, and a judge has scheduled a hearing on the matter for Monday.

A number of legal experts have argued that the details of the romantic relationship do not constitute a conflict of interest under Georgia law. If the judge agrees, he could reportedly decide to bar any testimony about the personal lives of the two prosecutors.

Ms Willis told the court she “disputes” the idea that Mr. Bradley has any information relevant to the case. She also argued that any information he might have would be protected by attorney-client privilege — given that he once served as Mr. Wade — and therefore inadmissible in court.

Ms. Merchant wrote Friday that Mr. Bradley “obtained information about the relationship between Wade and Willis directly from Wade when Wade did not seek legal advice from Bradley.”

She added: “Bradley received this information in his personal capacity as a friend of Wade’s before Wade decided to file for divorce.”

In her filing, Ms. Merchant cited a number of other reasons she believes Ms. Willis should be removed from the case, including statements and access Ms. Willis gave to the authors of a recent book on the Trump case. Ms. Merchant said the statements were part of an effort to “prejudge Mr. Roman and poison the jury.”

A number of other defendants also asked the judge to disqualify the prosecutors and dismiss the case. They include Mr. Trump, whose lawyers argued that Ms. Willis violated state bar rules when she gave a speech last month suggesting that racism was a factor in the questioning of her and Mr. Wade.

Mr. Trump also joined in with Mr. Romano’s suggestion of a romantic relationship.

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