A key witness says he doesn’t know when the romance between Trump’s accusers began

In a potential setback for former President Donald J. Trump and his co-defendants in the Georgia election meddling case, a key witness testified Tuesday that he did not know when the romantic relationship between the two prosecutors leading the case began.

Defense attorneys are seeking the disqualification of Fulton County District Attorney Fannie T. Willis, arguing that her romantic relationship with the attorney she hired to handle the case, Nathan Wade, created an unsustainable conflict of interest.

Ms. Willis and Mr. Wade said the relationship only began after she hired him in November 2021. Trump’s lawyer accused them of lying.

The defense has suggested for weeks that a key witness, Terrence Bradley, a former divorce attorney and law partner of Mr. Wade, could provide key testimony contradicting Ms. Willis and Mr. Wade. But Mr Bradley testified in court on Tuesday that “I don’t know when the relationship started” and that he “never witnessed anything”.

Lawyers for Mr. Trump and the other defendants attacked Mr. Bradley’s credibility on Tuesday, reading aloud from text messages he wrote in January that appeared to suggest he knew more about the prosecutors’ relationship than he was letting on. In an exchange of messages, Mr Bradley told defense barrister Ashleigh Merchant that the romance between the prosecutors began before November 1, 2021, when Ms Willis hired Mr Wade.

“Do you think that happened before she hired him?” Ms Merchant asked Mr Bradley in one text exchange, which was admitted into evidence. “Absolutely,” replied Mr. Bradley.

But on Tuesday, Mr Bradley insisted he was only “speculating” about the link in the texts and was not speaking from personal knowledge.

It was Mr. Bradley’s third time on the witness stand this month, in a series of hearings that threatened to overturn the prosecution of Mr. Trump and his allies for efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in Georgia. The defense claims that the two prosecutors engaged in “independent dealing”, because Mr. Wade spent money on vacations he took with Ms. Willis while being paid by her office.

Mrs. Willis and Mr. The Wades denied that there was any improper financial benefit and testified that they roughly split the cost of their vacations to places like the Caribbean and Napa Valley.

The extraordinary detour he took in the election interference case, forcing the chief prosecutors to fight charges of impropriety, may have fundamentally changed him. Even if the presiding judge allows Ms. Willis to stay the case, she is likely to face intense scrutiny in the future, including from new state commissions that can remove prosecutors and the Georgia Senate, which has opened an investigation.

And if the case is taken over by Ms. Willis and her team, more serious problems could follow.

The allegations first emerged in a filing last month by Ms. Merchant, a lawyer for Michael Romano, a former Trump campaign official who is among the defendants. Her effort to disqualify Ms. Willis, Mr. Wade and Ms. Willis’ entire office is heavily reliant on her recent communication with Mr. Bradley.

Mr Bradley has fallen out with Mr Wade in recent years as their business relationship soured. At the previous hearing, it turned out that Mr. Bradley was accused of sexually assaulting an employee of the company, which he vehemently denied.

Mr. Bradley apparently had no desire to testify about his former attorney and was a reluctant witness every time he took the stand.

At a court appearance this month, he declined to answer questions about what he knew about the romance, citing attorney-client privilege and other rules that protect attorneys from having to disclose communications with clients.

But Scott McAfee, the Fulton County Superior Court judge overseeing the case, said Tuesday that neither Mr. Wade nor Mr. Bradley “met his burden of establishing that the attorney-client privilege applies” to the extent that it would protect him from answering all questions.

Mr Bradley arrived in court on Tuesday afternoon wearing a plaid suit and looking somber to face hostile questions from a series of defense lawyers.

“I have no knowledge of what started or when it started,” he told Ms Merchant of the relationship between Mr Wade and Ms Willis, a claim he has made repeatedly. He also testified that he had not spoken to any of the prosecutors since the allegations surfaced, or at any time recently.

Steven H. Sadow, Mr. Trump’s lawyer, pressed Mr. Bradley on his text messages with Ms. Merchant, indicating that the relationship began before Mr. Wade accepted. “Why would you speculate and say that in the text?” Mr. Sadow asked, repeating the question several times.

“I don’t remember why I thought it started at the time,” Bradley replied, later repeating that he was only speculating.

Judge McAfee also appears to be examining the details of how the two plaintiffs split the cost of vacations they took together. Delta Air Lines submitted the records to the court, which were sealed, the judge said in an order filed Monday. Delta was among the airlines Ms. Willis and Mr. Wade used for their private trips, previously released records show.

Another hearing is scheduled for Friday. Judge McAfee said he would not rule from the bench, meaning a decision is likely to be made next week at the earliest.

Among the issues that could come up on Friday are phone records obtained through a subpoena, which Mr. Sadow said show “just under 12,000” calls and text messages between Ms. Willis and Mr. Wade in the first 11 months of 2021, before she hired him.

Mr. Sadow’s filing last week also said cellphone location data suggested Mr. Wade was in the vicinity of Ms. Willis’ residence from late at night until dawn on two occasions during that period.

However, such data is often limited in the extent to which it can pinpoint a person’s location. Ms. Willis’ office said the records “do not prove that Special Counsel Wade was ever at any particular location or address.”

At a previous hearing, witness Robin Yeartie, a former friend of Ms Willis and a former employee of the prosecution, said the romance began before Mr Wade was hired. As with Mr. Bradley, the judge will have to weigh the credibility of Ms. Yeartie, who left the prosecutor’s office on bad terms, ending her friendship with Ms. Willis.

Ms. Willis, in her dramatic testimony this month, said the romance ended before Mr. Trump was indicted in August and vigorously defended her behavior as well as her case.

“These people are on trial for trying to steal the 2020 election,” she told Ms Merchant. “Don’t judge me, no matter how hard you try to judge me.”

Leave a Comment