Everything We Know So Far About the Fani Willis Scandal

Everything We Know So Far About the Fani Willis Scandal
(Illustration by The Epoch Times, Getty Images, Freepix)
February 14, 2024
February 15, 2024

The high-profile racketeering case that names former President Donald Trump and 14 others as defendants has taken an increasingly personal turn toward the woman who brought the charges, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis.

Ms. Willis may testify on Feb. 15 about her relationship with a special prosecutor she appointed to take the lead on the case alleging 2020 election interference. The judge will hear from other witnesses first, and Ms. Willis may not need to testify if he determines he can make a ruling without it. The hearing has been scheduled to continue on Feb. 16.

Several allegations have been made about Ms. Willis over the past month, from misuse of public funds to prejudicial behavior at odds with ethics guidelines.

But the Feb. 15 hearing will focus on only one point: the extent and timeline of her relationship with special prosecutor Nathan Wade. Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee has said the issue could be grounds to disqualify Ms. Willis from the case.

Timeline Disputed

Mr. Wade, an attorney with his own Atlanta-area law firm, was contracted on the Georgia election case since it was in the investigation stage.

The allegations of an inappropriate relationship first emerged on Jan. 8, when attorney Ashleigh Merchant, who is representing defendant Michael Roman, charged that the married Mr. Wade had been romantically involved with Ms. Willis before she hired him onto the case.

Allegations that Mr. Wade doesn’t have the experience required to prosecute a racketeering case or that he wasn’t appointed via the proper procedures were dismissed by the judge.

Ms. Merchant alleged that since Mr. Wade was hired, he has been paid about $650,000 by the state, retained his private practice, and spent thousands on “lavish” vacations with Ms. Willis, including a cruise.

In an affidavit submitted to the court in the racketeering case, Mr. Wade has disputed Ms. Merchant’s timeline, saying that he met Ms. Willis in a professional capacity at a conference in 2019, but it wasn’t until 2022, after he was hired, that he began a “personal relationship” with her. He also said that Ms. Willis split expenses equally with him, and there were other trips during which she paid for travel and lodging for him.

Ms. Merchant argued that Mr. Wade had lied and said she had witnesses who could testify that the two had had a personal relationship since as early as 2019, shortly after meeting at the conference.

(L–R) Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, Asst. Prosecutor Daysha D. Young, and Asst. Prosecutor Will Wooten appear before Judge Scott McAfee for a hearing in the 2020 Georgia election case at the Fulton County Courthouse in Atlanta on Nov. 21, 2023. (Dennis Byron-Pool/Getty Images)
During a hearing on Feb. 12 in which the judge said Mr. Wade and Ms. Willis would be required to testify, Ms. Merchant confirmed that the source of these claims is the attorney who represented Mr. Wade in his divorce.

Mr. Wade was appointed special prosecutor by Ms. Willis on Nov. 1, 2021, and filed for divorce from his wife the next day.

In a court filing for Mr. Wade’s divorce case, his wife, Joycelyn Wade, had made public bank statements and receipts that showed that flight tickets were booked for Mr. Wade and Ms. Willis together.

Ms. Willis sought to discredit Ms. Wade, and in a strongly worded court filing in the divorce case, alleged that Ms. Wade had an extramarital affair that was the cause of the divorce. Ms. Willis claimed that the only reason that Ms. Wade was seeking to depose her in the divorce case was to “embarrass” and “harass” Ms. Willis and interfere with her high-profile case.
Ms. Wade’s attorney disputed this charge in a response filing, explaining that Ms. Wade was seeking information about Mr. Wade’s finances, because Mr. Wade had provided “nearly nothing” for the “support and survival” of Ms. Wade, who had been a stay-at-home mom for 26 years. If he had been paid some $650,000 as a contractor and was spending thousands on vacations, it was relevant to the equitable settlement of marital assets, Ms. Wade’s attorney argued.

Mr. Wade had been making $700 biweekly payments to an account in Ms. Wade’s name, but the account was a shared one that he also drew from, according to Ms. Wade. Her attorney said the allegations that Ms. Willis made about Ms. Wade having an affair were false and uncalled for.

Half of the Trump co-defendants have since joined Mr. Roman’s motion, with several adding their own reasons as to why Ms. Willis should be disqualified from the case. They include President Trump, attorney Robert Cheeley, former Georgia GOP chair David Shafer, Republican elector Cathy Latham, former Department of Justice official Jeffrey Clark, former Black Voices for Trump director Harrison Floyd, and former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows.

President Trump has called for Ms. Willis’s disqualification via his social media platform.

“Fani Willis, the D.A. of Fulton County, just admitted to having a sexual relationship with the prosecutor she, in consultation with the White House and DOJ, appointed to ‘GET PRESIDENT DONALD J. TRUMP,’” he wrote on Truth Social.

“By going after the most high level person, and the Republican Nominee, she was able to get her ‘lover’ much more money, almost a Million Dollars, than she would be able to get for the prosecution of any other person or individual. THAT MEANS THAT THIS SCAM IS TOTALLY DISCREDITED & OVER!”

Fulton County special prosecutor Nathan Wade speaks during a hearing in the case of the State of Georgia v. Donald John Trump at the Fulton County Courthouse in Atlanta on Feb. 13, 2024. (Alyssa Pointer-Pool/Getty Images)

Divorce Attorney a Key Witness

According to court records, Mr. Wade was held in contempt of court for failing to meet his discovery obligations and not disclosing to his wife how much he was being paid in his special prosecutor position.

He had also immediately filed to keep the divorce proceeding records sealed, but they were unsealed in January when the affair allegations ballooned into multiple investigations into the district attorney’s office.

Last month, a day before Mr. Wade would have been forced to testify about his relationship with Ms. Willis in divorce court, he reached a settlement with Ms. Wade, ending the divorce proceedings.

Attorney Terrence Bradley represented Mr. Wade in the divorce case.

According to Ms. Merchant, Mr. Bradley has information about when Mr. Wade began his relationship with Ms. Willis. Ms. Merchant claims that she has other witnesses whom she plans to call, including Ms. Willis’s executive assistant, to speak to the fact that the two were seeing each other earlier than Mr. Wade claims, and that they lived together at one point. If these witnesses say otherwise, Mr. Bradley’s testimony will impeach them, Ms. Merchant told Judge McAfee.

Last week, the district attorney’s office filed a motion to quash not just the subpoenas for office staff, but also the subpoena served to Mr. Bradley, arguing that Ms. Merchant was going too far by digging into Mr. Wade’s private life.

However, Mr. Bradley didn’t file his own motion to quash the subpoena, and the district attorney’s office had no standing to prevent him from testifying. State attorneys admitted that they hadn’t been able to reach him, and Ms. Merchant said during the Feb. 12 hearing that many people had been trying to contact Mr. Bradley ahead of the evidentiary hearing, and he requested that they stop.

It is likely that Mr. Bradley will play a prominent role in the hearing on Feb. 15, testifying early to allow Ms. Merchant to present the full timeline of events and allegations.

Fulton County Superior Judge Scott McAfee speaks during a jury questionnaire hearing at the Fulton County Courthouse in Atlanta on Oct. 16, 2023. (Alyssa Pointer/Getty Images)

What Disqualification Means

If the judge disqualifies Ms. Willis and her team is removed from the case, a state board will need to appoint a new prosecutor.
A new prosecutor could pursue the same set of charges, drop or add charges, or drop the case entirely. A change in the indictment would result in renewed pretrial motion proceedings, setting the case back by months after the appointment is made—which could also take months.
The district attorney had initially demanded a trial start date as early as October 2023, then March, and most recently, August.
Prosecutors are expected to take three to five months to present their case, and additional weeks need to be allocated for the defense attorneys to present their cases.
If the trial begins in August, it would be guaranteed to run through the general election, putting jurors in a position of having to convict or acquit President Trump after voting for or against him. 
Trump attorney Steve Sadow told the judge that this would be clear election interference. 
When the judge asked what would happen if President Trump were to be reelected, Mr. Sadow said that he would then have presidential immunity, and the case couldn’t move forward while he was in office.