live icon
Feb 15

Day 1 of Hearing Concludes, Fani Willis to Continue Testimony Friday

| Published
Feb 15, 2024
| Updated
Feb 15, 2024
Day 1 of Hearing Concludes, Fani Willis to Continue Testimony Friday
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis testifies during a hearing in the case of the State of Georgia v. Donald John Trump at the Fulton County Courthouse in Atlanta, Ga., on Feb. 15, 2024. (Alyssa Pointer-Pool/Getty Images)

Day 1 Ends

Ms. Willis will continue testifying on Feb. 16 at 9 a.m. with questioning by an attorney from her office.

Ms. Cross said they will call witnesses to impeach Ms. Yeartie.

“I’m not ruling on this tomorrow,” Judge McAfee added. “My hope is we can close the evidence tomorrow and we can take it from there.”

Willis: ‘I Did Not Take Gifts From Him’

Ms. Willis said she did not disclose gifts from Mr. Wade because she did not take any. If they went out to lunch or dinner, one or the other would have paid, but they did not keep track and she did not reimburse those. But she made a point to pay him for trips, she added.

“I never thought about the money until y'all brought it up, and I would be less than honest if I said I was giving him the money back because I was the district attorney,” Ms. Willis said. “I did not take gifts from him, for a lot of personal reasons.”

Harry MacDougald, attorney for Jeffrey Clark, tried to press the fact that Ms. Willis did not report these expenses or gifts and the judge told him he was done. Mr. Gillen was also interrupted by the judge when he tried to ask the same questions, asking him to move on to “new ground.”

Giuliani Attorney Questions Willis

Attorney Allyn Stockton, representing Rudy Giuliani, asked Ms. Willis whether they went on trips to New York and Australia. She said they did not but she went to New York separately.

Mr. Stockton argued that Mr. Wade’s two law partners had also been contracted by the district attorney’s office and Mr. Wade had a financial interest in this as the three of them were bringing in income to the same law firm, which was then split three ways.

Ms. Willis confirmed Mr. Wade would have made money off those contracts in that case.

“That contract didn’t last long. I was aggressively hiring, hiring, hiring. As soon as I had enough lawyers for that, I let them go,” Ms. Willis said. She said that when she first took the district attorney’s office she found it short-staffed.

She added that she was a “tough negotiator,” and doesn’t pay any contractor more than $250 an hour and caps the monthly hours, whereas other departments she knew of paid up to $1,000 an hour.

Trump Attorney Asks About Relationship in 2020

Ms. Willis said they did meet, including to go to lunch, in 2020.
“It did not happen much,” she said.

Trump Attorney Tries to Ask About Race Comments

Mr. Sadow tried to ask about Ms. Willis’s church speech in which she suggested her critics were playing the “race card.” She said she would “love to answer” those questions, but the judge ended the line of questioning.

Relationship Ended Around Time of Indictment as Coincidence

Ms. Willis said she had “brutal” arguments with Mr. Wade about being equals, and that she had given him his money back because she didn’t need a man to pay her bills, suggesting it was ironic this was now the subject of the hearing. This contributed to the end of the relationship.
She gave the answer after Mr. Sadow asked whether the relationship ended before or after the indictment. Ms. Willis said she couldn’t remember when they had had the conversation, but the physical relationship ended before the indictment in June or July and had nothing to do with the indictment.

Willis Did Not Tell Team About Relationship

Mr. Sadow said there were credibility issues with the timeline of the relationship.

Ms. Willis confirmed she hired Mr. Wade in November 2021 and began dating him between February and April of 2022, but did not tell anyone on the team that they began dating.

“We were friends, we hung out prior to November 2021,” she said. “I never tell people at work who I’m dating.”

Mr. Sadow asked if they traveled to Washington, D.C., together. Ms. Willis said no.

She clarified that they had both separately traveled to Washington multiple times.

Trump Attorney Questions Willis

Mr. Sadow asked if Ms. Willis moved to Ms. Yeartie’s condo because of safety concerns.

Ms. Willis said her father urged her to, with examples of people showing up at 5 in the morning. When she first moved out, her father still lived at home because he was worried about COVID-19.

She and Mr. Sadow argued briefly, talking over each other, prompting the judge to warn the parties again.

“I was very concerned for my father still living at the house. However, if you have dealt with an older gentleman, I was urging him to leave the house,” she added.

Ms. Willis said no one else lived with her at Ms. Yeartie’s condo, but her daughters might have stayed a night.

“That was a very lonely period in my life,” she said. She had spent her 50th birthday alone that year.

She confirmed Mr. Wade visited her when she lived at that condo, including one time they picked up dinner and ate in the condo.

“Let’s say more than 10 [times] but I’m not sure that’s even accurate,” Ms. Willis said, that would include times he came just to pick her up at the condo to go out to eat.

Ms. Yeartie was no longer living there at the time and there were no witnesses, she confirmed.

Willis Did Not Disclose Relationship

Ms. Willis said she did not disclose her relationship with Mr. Wade with the Fulton County Board of Commissioners or her office.

Ms. Merchant asked if Ms. Willis was aware of any Fulton County rules that would require her to disclose her relationship with Mr. Wade. She said no.

The judge prevented lines of questioning about statements about race or county laws.

Willis Asked About Book Interview

Ms. Willis is quoted in a book that said that she was in a bad financial situation.

She started to give background, saying she had a comfortable judgeship and made money in private practice as well.

“Eventually I prayed, I believe I was the appropriate person for that,” Ms. Willis said. She said the “sacrifice” referred to her campaigning, not the district attorney position itself, in which she is paid $200,000.

“I did not want to go through the finance expense of running for office,” Ms. Willis. She had spent $50,000 running for the judge’s seat and knew campaigning for district attorney would cost money.

Ms. Merchant asked if the book’s representation that she was “broke” and had a hard time making it month to month was accurate. Ms. Willis said no.

Willis Says No Record of Cash Payments

Ms. Willis said she had paid for dinners or expenses, and only gave cash to Mr. Wade very few times, “probably four.”

These were larger expenses like the cruise; the smallest amount of cash was probably around $2,500, the highest $25,000, she explained.

Ms. Merchant pressed Ms. Willis for a record of the cash payments.

“The testimony of one witness is enough to prove a fact,” Ms. Willis said. “Are you saying I’m lying? Is that what you’re intimating?”

Willis Says Wade Never Lived With Her

Ms. Merchant asked whether Mr. Wade ever visited Ms. Willis, prompting Ms. Willis to say that Ms. Merchant had lied about them living together in multiple court filings “if we want to talk about professionalism.”

“He has never been to my residence in 2019, not once,” Ms. Willis said. “In 2020 he never came to my house much less live with me.”

She affirmed that Mr. Wade did visit the condo under Ms. Yeartie’s name.

Ms. Merchant and Ms. Willis argued for some length and the judge interrupted, warning them to stay on relationship and financial benefit, with specific questions and answers.

Judge Chastises Parties

The judge reminded parties not to talk over each other.
“Being a room mostly full of lawyers, in a courtroom, we all know what professionalism looks like, what decorum looks like,” he said.

Willis Accuses Attorney of Lying

Ms. Merchant asked when Mr. Wade visited Ms. Willis’s home, prompting Ms. Willis to ask for a more specific question, before picking up Ms. Merchant’s three motions and accusing her of lying.

She got heated, and raised her voice while shaking the stacks of papers.

“This is a lie. This is a lie!” Ms. Willis said. The judge interrupted and called for a five minute break.

Willis Describes End of Romantic Relationship

Ms. Willis said Mr. Wade had been her friend since 2020. He started as a mentor and personal colleague, and became a very close friend.

“I feel indebted to Mr. Wade for taking this job on,” she said.

But the romantic relationship ended “late summer of 2023.”

“He’s a man, he would probably say June or July. I would say we had a tough conversation in August,” she said.

Willis: ‘I’m Not on Trial’

Ms. Willis said she had objected to Ms. Merchant obtaining personal records for the motion and said she had been “very intrusive.”
“I’m not on trial,” she said. “These people are on trial ... for trying to steal the 2020 election.”

Willis: ‘I Keep Cash at the House’

Ms. Merchant asked for a record of the cash Ms. Willis used for reimbursement.

Ms. Willis said that her father has always cautioned her to keep cash in the house, at least six months of paychecks. He kept three safes in the house growing up, and Ms. Willis said she always kept cash in the house but not to that extent.

“I keep cash at the house,” she said, adding that it could vary anywhere between $500 and $15,000 depending on her financial situation.

Ms. Merchant asked whether that meant she didn’t know where the cash came from.

“I do know where it came from, it came from my sweat and tears,” she said.

She detailed a few other trips they went on.

Willis Testifies About Vacations With Wade

Ms. Willis said the first time she went on a vacation with Mr. Wade would have been April 2022, a museum trip to Tennessee a little after his birthday.

She said it was a “stretch” to call it a vacation because it was a short trip but she was trying to be inclusive.

“It was right around then” that they started dating, she said. “It was around ‘22 is my recollection.”

She said she paid for this trip, and one of two trips to Miami. One of those preceded getting on the cruise with his mother, but she could not remember. That was the first time she met his mother.

Ms. Willis said Mr. Wade is a “world traveler” with both a travel agent and cruise agent and that was why he did the booking.

“And to be clear, when we’re talking about just because he booked it doesn’t mean, I don’t consider him having taken me anyplace,” she added.

“Let me just be honest. The only point that’s ever taken somebody someplace is for his 50th birthday. I consider that I took him to Belize,” she said. “I took him to Belize because you know, I don’t want to discuss his business, but I’m thankful that he is still with us.”

Belize was “50 big,” Ms. Willis said. “Very big.”

Willis Contradicts Witness Testimony

Ms. Merchant asked if Ms. Willis began a personal relationship with Mr. Wade shortly after the conference.

“That’s one of your lies,” Ms. Willis said.

Ms. Willis said she met Ms. Yeartie in college, not because they went to the same college but because they were in the same group of girls who partied together.

She said she did not ask to take over Ms. Yeartie’s lease. She said Ms. Yeartie was getting married and wanted to leave her condo but needed someone to take it over. At the same time, Ms. Willis was living with her 79-year-old father who urged her to move out because Ms. Willis was being threatened at the location because she was prosecuting gang crimes.

Ms. Willis said she moved out late January or early February 2022.

She said now no one lives at the house she previously stayed in with her father and two daughters, because the threats have only increased since she took on the election case. She pays the mortgage but no one lives there.

Judge Suggests Defense Treat Willis as Hostile Witness

Ms. Willis gave long, explanatory answers to Ms. Merchant’s questions, prompting defense attorneys to object.

The judge suggested that if she wanted concise answers to ask yes or no questions, and state attorneys objected to treating Ms. Willis as a hostile witness.

“I want to be here,” Ms. Willis said. “So I’m not a hostile.”

“Ms. Merchant’s allegations are contrary to democracy,” Ms. Willis said.

Willis ‘Anxious’ to Testify

Ms. Willis said she had been pacing in her office and when someone told her Mr. Wade had finished testifying, she “raced” to the courtroom because “it only made sense” that she would be the next witness called.

“I’ve been anxious to this have this conversation with you,” she said.

She said she had no “substantive” conversations with Mr. Wade specifically about the the hearing or allegations. She said Mr. Wade was a “southern gentleman,” and had sent her some sermons after the motion was filed. She, meanwhile, had some “choice words” after the allegations were made.

Ms. Willis said Ms. Merchant implicated that she “slept with” Mr. Wade the day she met him at the 2019 conference that was “highly offensive.”

“I take exception to it,” she said.

Fani Willis Takes Witness Stand

While Mr. Gillen argued that Ms. Willis needed to testify, Ms. Willis entered the courtroom and said she was ready to take the witness stand. The state withdrew its motion to quash.
The court took a brief break to make copies of Ms. Merchant’s motions for Ms. Willis.

Defense Tries to Call Fani Willis, State Objects

Ms. Merchant tried to call Ms. Willis next, and Ms. Cross objected, renewing the motion to quash.

Ms. Merchant said there was now a conflict in evidence as to the reimbursements. The judge said that was a question, not a conflict.

“A lot of things [Mr. Wade] couldn’t remember,” Ms. Merchant said.

Ms. Yeartie and Mr. Wade also provided conflicting timelines of the relationship.

Mr. Gillen said that Ms. Willis filed a false affidavit and needs to testify on that point as well as the cash. He said her financial filings show no gifts over $100 from prohibited sources, and “she needs to go on the record.”

Wade Won’t Let Attorney Testify

Ms. Merchant pressed Mr. Wade for records corroborating the cash reimbursements from Ms. Willis again, and Mr. Wade could not provide them. This makes for a tenuous argument that Ms. Willis was splitting expenses with Mr. Wade equally.
She then asked Mr. Wade if he would waive attorney-client privilege to allow Mr. Bradley to testify. He said he would not.

Wade Reveals Cancer Battle

Ms. Cross asked if there was a period during the COVID pandemic when Mr. Wade was particularly “vulnerable.”

Mr. Wade said he was battling cancer in 2020.

“That prevented me from pretty much leaving environments that aren’t sterile,” he said. Then in 2021, “health was on my mind.”

He said did not date anyone in 2021 either.

Mr. Sadow cited several meetings Mr. Wade testified he had in 2021, which did not suggest he tried to stay in sterile environments that year. Mr. Wade confirmed he was not unable to date in 2021.

Wade Cross-Examined

Anna Cross, one of three attorneys hired by the district attorney on the election case, questioned Mr. Wade after the defense attorneys finished.

She asked the percentage of his time spent on Fulton County versus other work during the special counsel grand jury.

“99 percent of the time here in this building working on this case,” he said.

Wade Explains Why He Changed Divorce Answers

Mr. Sadow asked what about Mr. Wade’s answers that he didn’t have an affair in his divorce affidavits warranted pleading statutory privilege.

Mr. Wade said that after the allegations were made in the election case, “I then started to understand the bigger picture, which was that all the attorneys in the election interference case were colluding with Joycelyn’s divorce lawyer. And because of that, I said, privacy.”

Mr. Sadow asked what his answer to those questions would be now.

“The answer is still privilege,” Mr. Wade said.

Mr. Sadow told the judge this was “bogus privilege” that could be pierced because it was material to this criminal case. The judge said he didn’t see the value in pushing this line of questioning forward and did not compel Mr. Wade to answer.

Wade Says Divorce Date ‘Purely Coincidental’

Mr. Wade explained that the reason his divorced was filed one day after he was hired by Ms. Willis the first time in 2021 was because that was when his wife was in town.

“She had been in Texas taking care of her ailing mother and aging father,” Mr. Wade said. “It had nothing to do with, it was purely coincidental, the contract.”

In October 2021, Ms. Wade was back and forth between Texas and Georgia, but they were working through a consent agreement, Mr. Wade said.

Wade Never Questioned Thousands in Cash From Willis

Mr. Sadow said the bank records submitted into court records work out to about $10,000 spent on Ms. Willis.

“You would have received thousands of dollars in cash from Ms. Willis, is that correct?” Mr. Sadow asked.

“Yes,” Mr. Wade said. She would take it out of her pocketbook.

“You never said, why do you have this amount of cash?” Mr. Sadow asked.

Mr. Wade said people came into his law firm with cash payments all the time.

“We’re not talking about people coming into your law firm, we’re talking about the district attorney,” Mr. Sadow said.

Mr. Wade said he assumed it was from her paycheck.

Wade Said He Went to Willis’s Condo Before 2021

Mr. Sadow asked if Mr. Wade had been to Ms. Willis’s Hapeville condo before Nov. 1, 2021, before he was first contracted by the state.

He said yes, more than once. This was before they began a romantic relationship, and Mr. Sadow asked why he would have gone.

“Maybe went to talk about a document that I received,” Mr. Wade said.

Trump Attorney Questions Wade About End of Relationship

Steve Sadow, defense attorney for President Trump, asked Mr. Wade when his relationship with Ms. Willis ended.

“Summer 2023,” Mr. Wade said. “I would say June, maybe.”

Mr. Sadow asked if he had any personal relationship with Ms. Willis after the summer 2023.

“Are you asking me if I had intercourse with the district attorney?” Mr. Wade asked.

Mr. Sadow said he had tried to use the phrasing in his court filing, but essentially yes.

“No,” Mr. Wade said.

“We’re very good friends, probably closer than ever because of these attacks,” Mr. Wade said.  “But if you think about specific intercourse, the answer is no.”

“How about if I change it from intercourse to romantic?” Mr. Sadow said.

“No,” Mr. Wade said.

He also said that as far as he knew, no one in the district attorney’s team knew about the relationship.

“Why?” Mr. Sadow asked.

“There are some people who are in the public eye who just don’t like it, don’t wish to be there,” Mr. Wade said. People would “accost” them at restaurants. “We don’t want the world asking questions, or interrupting that time.”

Wade, Willis Went to Aruba 11 Days Before Contract

Mr. Wade had a state contract on Nov. 1, 2021, and signed a new one with Ms. Willis on Nov. 15, 2022.

Mr. Gillen said this was less than two weeks after he and Ms. Willis went on a trip to Aruba together on Nov. 4, 2022.

“You make an excellent point,” Mr. Wade said. “The contract was not in existence then [during the trip].”

Mr. Gillen asked whether they spoke about a contract on the trip, and Mr. Wade said they did not.

Willis Financial Situation Questioned

Mr. Gillen brought up the book “Find Me the Votes” by authors Michael Isikoff and Daniel Klaidman, about Ms. Willis’s investigation into and prosecution of President Trump.

In interviews with the authors, Ms. Willis said she was financially destitute during the time she was running for district attorney.

Mr. Gillen asked whether Mr. Wade knew about Ms. Willis’s financial situation when she was giving him thousands of dollars in cash as reimbursement for these vacations.

“Ms. Willis made it clear that her financial business was her business,” Mr. Wade said.

Mr. Gillen expressed skepticism that Ms. Willis would tell book authors about this but not Mr. Wade.

“I don’t know, sir,” Mr. Wade said. “I haven’t talked to any media, none. I'd like to, though.”

Wade Has No Record of Willis Reimbursements

Mr. Gillen asked about records corroborating the cash reimbursements Mr. Wade said Ms. Willis gave him.

Mr. Wade said he had none, as he did not deposit this money into an account.

“Did you have a little place in your house where you stack up all this cash that you apparently got repaid to you for these benefits you bestowed on her?” Mr. Gillen said. “Would you just carry it around with you when you spent it around town?”

Mr. Wade did not answer specifically, saying if he was in town, he could have spent it there, or if it was during a trip he could have put it in the hotel safe. If he gifted that money, it would be to his children, he added.

Mr. Gillen asked if he and Ms. Willis had discussed their answers, including the cash reimbursements, as that was not something he specified in his affidavit to this court.

Mr. Wade said he and Ms. Willis talked about “five, ten minutes” in an office conference room, and she did not tell him what she would say in her testimony.

The judge overruled several objections, saying the line of questioning pertained to bias in the testimony.

Wade Asked About Sexual Relations

Craig Gillen, attorney for defendant David Shafer, pointed out that the divorce affidavit asked whether Mr. Wade had “sexual relationships with a person other than your spouse during the course of the marriage, including during the separation.”

Mr. Wade had qualified his negative answer by stating that his the marriage was “irretrievably broken,” or ended, in 2015.

The period of separation would have extended up to the end of this January.

“Did you or did you no, by May the 30th, 2023, have sexual relations with Ms. Willis. Yes or no?” Mr. Gillen asked.

“Yes,” Mr. Wade said.

Mr. Gillen asserted that Mr. Wade answered falsely in the divorce court affidavits, and Mr. Wade maintained he did not because he answered honestly regarding the period of “marriage.” The judge asked them to move on.

Mr. Gillen pointed out that this affidavit was submitted just two months after Mr. Wade and Ms. Willis went on a trip to Belize together, which he paid for via credit card and said Ms. Willis reimbursed him in cash.

‘Our Relationship Wasn’t a Secret, It Was Just Private’

Ms. Merchant asked if Mr. Wade ever discussed his relationship with Ms. Willis in social settings, and he said they never did. He never spoke with Ms. Yeartie about the relationship.

“We’re private people,” Mr. Wade said. “Our relationship wasn’t a secret, it was just private. I wouldn’t have discussed my relationship with Ms. Yeartie or anyone else publicly.”

Ms. Merchant had alleged in one court filing that the secretive nature of the relationship could be construed as the parties being aware of wrongdoing.

The court then went on break.

—Catherine Yang

Wade ‘Never’ Spent Night at Willis’s Condo

“I’ve never gone to her house in South Fulton County,” Mr. Wade said. “I’ve never even seen that house.”

Ms. Merchant asked him about visiting other properties with Ms. Willis.

“I have gone to a condo in Hapeville,” he said.

Ms. Merchant asked if he ever spent the night there.

“Never,” he answered.

—Catherine Yang

Willis ‘Very Independent, Proud Woman’

Mr. Wade said that sometimes Ms. Willis would reimburse him in cash, sometimes she would pay for trip expenses if he paid for travel.

“The expenses balanced out,” Mr. Wade said. “In relationships, ma'am, especially men, you’re not keeping a ledger.”

“She’s a very independent, proud woman,” Mr. Wade said. “She’s going to insist that she carries her own weight. It was actually a point of contention between the two of us.”

Catherine Yang

Wade’s Taxes Scrutinized

Ms. Merchant is now digging into Mr. Wade’s taxes as to the “veracity of his statements” about expenses being split between Mr. Wade and Ms. Willis.

Disqualification would require the defendants to show there was a financial benefit for Ms. Willis.

Catherine Yang

Defendant Warned by Judge

Judge McAffee had to issue a warning to defendant David Shafer when he broke out in laughter amid Mr. Wade’s testimony.

While being questioned by Ms. Merchant, Mr. Wade confirmed that Ms. Willis reimbursed him for travel they shared together.

Having previously said that he had “no receipts” of travel, Mr. Wade told Ms. Merchant that Ms. Willis reimbursed him in cash.

“She paid you cash for her share of all these vacations,” Ms. Merchant asked.

“Yes ma’am,” he said.

It was this reaction that caused one of the defendants, identified as Mr. Shafer, to break out in laughter.

“Mr. Shafer, you'll step out if you do that again,” the judge warned.

T.J. Muscaro

Willis Paid Wade in Cash For Vacation

In an affidavit, Mr. Wade had also submitted a statement that showed Ms. Willis paid for one flight for a trip the two went on.

Ms. Merchant asked if this was the only flight Ms. Willis paid for, and Mr. Wade said “our travel was split evenly.”

He explained that the statements showing him purchasing flights and hotels for the two of them had been reimbursed by Ms. Willis.

Ms. Merchant asked where this was deposited and whether there was a record.

“It was cash, she didn’t give me any checks,” Mr. Wade said.

Catherine Yang

Wade: Spoke ‘Often’ on Telephone With Willis in 2020

“When did your relationship with Ms. Willis begin?” Ms. Merchant asked.

“Early 2022,” Mr. Wade said.

He said he was appointed onto the case around March 2022.

In 2019, Mr. Wade was teaching a course at a judicial conference. He was introduced to Ms. Willis at the time.

“That meeting was probably three minutes,” he said.

He said it was months before they spoke again, “maybe” in November, by phone.

“She would have questions. I was the district rep,” he said. “She was outside my district but she felt comfortable calling me asking me questions. I don’t know if you know the racial makeup of certain benches but it wasn’t very diverse.”

Ms. Willis was starting her private law practice at the time and Mr. Wade already had one, and “we talked about balancing the private practice with the bench.”

He said they talked two or three times in 2019.

“2020 was more frequent than ‘19,” he said. “We spoke on the telephone often.”

Ms. Willis campaigned for district attorney in 2020.

Catherine Yang

Wade Says Wife Had Affair in 2015

In a May 2023 sworn affidavit in divorce court, Mr. Wade stated he did not have any affairs during his marriage. In a February affidavit submitted in this case, he said his relationship with Ms. Willis began in 2022. Ms. Merchant asked about the contradiction.

Mr. Wade said that in 2015 his wife had a divorce, and the couple agreed at the time the marriage was irretrievably broken, but they would put off divorce until their children were of age.

“In 2015, my marriage was irretrievably broken,” Mr. Wade said.

Catherine Yang

Wade: ‘Never Purchased a Gift for Ms. Willis’

Mr. Wade said the divorce forms asked about “gifts,” when Ms. Merchant asked about his answers related to receipts for trips, dining.

“I never purchased a gift for Ms. Willis,” he said. “I do not have any receipts, I never had any receipts.”

He said he traveled with Ms. Willis in 2022 and 2023.

“That’s what I recall,” he said. “2022 and 2023 is what I recall.”

“Not recalling any travel in 2021,” he said.

Ms. Merchant pressed him to answer whether he didn’t or did not recall, he shook his head and the judge asked that they move on.

Catherine Yang

Wade Changed Divorce Answers After Motion to Disqualify

Mr. Wade was also asked in divorce proceeding forms if he had any tangible evidence of a sexual relationship with someone other than his wife, and in September 2023 he said he had no evidence.

After Ms. Merchant filed the Jan. 8 motion to disqualify in the election case, Mr. Wade updated his responses in his divorce court proceedings, asserting a privacy privilege.

“I then figured you were in talks with my former wife’s divorce lawyer,” Mr. Wade said. “I didn’t want the proceedings in my divorce case to bleed over into this case.”

Catherine Yang

Attorney Shows Wade’s Divorce Affidavits

In September 2021, he submitted a sworn affidavit in which he didn’t have any documents about gifts given to romantic relationship partners outside of his marriage.

Ms. Merchant clarified after a lengthy search for documents that the forms specified no documentation of dining, bars, or otherwise entertaining the other sex. Mr. Wade had answered yes, there were no documents of this.

Then she showed he had been held in contempt by the divorce court.

“I’m offering it toward his credibility, judge.” Ms. Merchant said.

The judge said failure to produce discovery was not the same as a record of lying in court.

Catherine Yang

Nathan Wade Takes Witness Stand

Mr. Wade began by answering questions about his divorce and sworn affidavits submitted in that case.
Catherine Yang

Judge Denies Motion to Quash Wade’s Testimony

Anna Cross, representing the district attorney, renewed the motion to quash Mr. Wade’s subpoena, based on Ms. Merchant “misrepresenting” the testimony that would precede his.

The judge denied the motion, calling Mr. Wade to the witness stand.

—Catherine Yang

Trump Attorney Asks for Relationship Details

Steve Sadow, attorney for President Trump, asked Ms. Yeartie what she recalled about early conversations with Ms. Willis about Mr. Wade. She could not recall specific things Ms. Willis said.

The defense released Ms. Yeartie but the state asked that she be recalled later. The judge informed her she may be asked to testify again today or tomorrow.

—Catherine Yang

Yeartie Testifies She Had Not Seen Willis and Wade Living Together

Anna Cross, an attorney representing Fulton County, Georiga, District Attorney Fani Willis, asked Robin Yeartie, a friend of Fani Willis, if she had ever lived at a so-called south Fulton address with Ms. Willis. Ms. Yeartie said no.

Ms. Cross then asked Ms. Yeartie if she had ever observed or had information that Ms. Willis and Nathan Wade were living together.

Ms. Cross then asked if Mr. Wade ever paid the rent at that address. Ms. Yeartie testified that only Ms. Willis paid the rent on the address.

Austin Alonzo

Witness Confirms ‘Hugging, Kissing’ Between Wade And Willis

Ms. Yeartie confirmed to the defense council that was told and observed proof that Ms. Willis and Mr. Wade were in a romantic relationship together.

She said that Ms. Willis told her that she was in a romantic relationship with Mr. Wade in 2020 and 2021–specifically before November 1, 2021, and she observed the two of them doing things that, the questioning attorney said, were “common among people having a romantic relationship.

When asked for examples, she said, “Hugging. Kissing. Just affection.”

T.J. Muscaro

Witness Had Falling Out With Willis

Ms. Yeartie had worked as a press aide in the district attorney’s office, and had resigned because of “a spiral of things.”

She was put in a new department she didn’t like, she said, and it coincided with a falling out with Ms. Willis.

“We never spoke after that,” Ms. Yeartie said.

Catherine Yang

Witness Says Willis, Wade Started Dating ‘Shortly After’ Meeting

Ms. Yeartie said that Ms. Willis and Mr. Wade began a romantic relationship “shortly after” they met at the municipal conference in 2019, but she did not know the date.

Ms. Yeartie was a “good friend” of Ms. Willis’s at the time and had a close relationship where she saw her regularly, so she saw Ms. Willis and Mr. Wade together on multiple occasions.

She confirmed she had “no doubt” they were in a romantic relationship from 2019.

In April 2021, Ms. Willis moved out from living with her father, taking on the lease to Ms. Yeartie’s condo.

Catherine Yang

Yeartie Shares Info About Willis Relationship

Robin Yeartie, a friend of Fani Willis, was called to the stand by Ashleigh Merchant.

Ms. Merchant asked Ms. Yeartie who confirmed she met Fulton County, Georiga, District Attorney Fani Willis in either 1990 or 1991. The pair last spoke in March 2022, Mr. Yeartie said.

Ms. Yeartie said the two regularly shared personal information and that Ms. Willis stayed at Ms. Yeartie’s condo in April of 2021.

Austin Alonzo

Judge Says Yeartie Can Testify

The state argued to quash Ms. Yeartie’s testimony at length, saying this wasn’t what Ms. Merchant represented during the hearing on Feb. 12.

Ms. Yeartie is a personal friend of Ms. Willis’s and they met in college in the early 1990s.

The judge allowed the testimony.

Catherine Yang

Bradley Says Bar Advised Supreme Court Review of Confidentiality Rule

Mr. Bradley said he spoke with the state bar yesterday, and was advised not to share anything he saw or learned. This appeared to frustrate the judge, who asked Mr. Bradley whether he was qualified with anything, such as Mr. Wade’s communications. Mr. Bradley said that was all he was told, and would rather not risk his law license.

State attorneys are arguing anything relevant Mr. Bradley has to share is covered by attorney-client privilege and confidentiality between Mr. Bradley and Mr. Wade is private.

The judge said he recognized there are privilege issues, but there are parameters to it, trying to figure out what Mr. Bradley can still share.

“Judge, I’m going to refer to what I was told by the bar, that rule 1.6 confidentiality applies, and that I would be asking for an immediate review by the Supreme Court, but applies to what any communications is what the person at the bar told us,” Mr. Bradley said.

State attorneys asked for Mr. Bradley’s testimony to end.

Ms. Merchant said Ms. Yeartie was back on Zoom, and she could then call Mr. Wade onto the stand, and then Mr. Bradley could testify without breaking privilege if Mr. Wade shares that information first.

Catherine Yang

Witness Shares How Willis, Wade Met

Mr. Bradley confirmed that Mr. Wade and Ms. Willis had met at a municipal court conference, which was something Mr. Wade stated in a court filing. This was after Ms. Willis became district attorney, and Mr. Wade was teaching a class at the time.

State attorneys are interrupting Ms. Merchant with objections to every question.

Catherine Yang

Witness Outlines Professional Relationship with Wade

Terrence Bradley took the stand and answered questions about his personal relationship with Nathan Wade as a former colleague.

Mr. Bradley shared that he had known Mr. Wade since 1998 and began a professional relationship in 2010, incorporating their own firm together sometime after that—although he did not remember the exact date.

Mr. Bradley said the professional relationship ended in August or Septemeber of 2022, but Ms. Merchant pointed out that Mr. Wade had filed for divorce before that.

“it was probably December 2018,” Mr. Bradley said. “I remember specifically because I was building a house and I noticed that he wasn’t wearing his ring.

“I asked him about it. I had invited him to the house. Because I was having a not a housewarming but people over. He wasn’t wearing his ring. I inquired about it. From there. We discussed what would happen and we discussed the divorce.”

T.J. Muscaro

Key Witness Denies Texting Attorney About Relationship

Mr. Bradley was the first to take the witness stand, and said it “wasn’t my choice” after Ms. Merchant thanked him.

Ms. Merchant asked about their history of communicating about Ms. Willis and Mr. Wade, and he denied any.

Mr. Bradley said Ms. Merchant had that information by way of a third party, and though it originated from him he had never spoken or texted with her about Mr. Wade and Ms. Willis’s relationship.

The two have been texting, and Mr. Bradley says that text chain is mostly about his health, and her asking if he was OK.

Catherine Yang

Terrence Bradley, Former Colleague of Nathan Wade, Called To Stand

Ashleigh Merchant, attorney for defendant Michael Roman, called Terrence Bradley to the stand after the first witness called to the stand did not answer their phone.

Mr. Bradley is a former law partner of Nathan Wade. Mr. Wade is the special prosecutor accused of having a romantic relationship with Fulton County, Georgia, District Attorney Fani Willis.

Austin Alonzo

First Witness Called

State attorneys quickly tried to stop the hearing, arguing for the motion to quash to be renewed.

They argued that any information shared by Terrence Bradley—assumed to be the key witness—wouldn’t be admissible in court because it would be covered by attorney-client privilege. Mr. Bradley was a business partner of Mr. Wade’s and represented him during his divorce proceedings, and in a Feb. 12 hearing it was understood that he was the source of Ms. Merchant’s claims.

Ms. Merchant quickly asked the judge to allow testimony to begin, arguing the state would try to disqualify each witness and prevent any testimony. She said she would like to begin by calling Ms. Yeartie, then Mr. Wade, then Mr. Bradley.

She said she spoke to Ms. Yeartie yesterday, and that Ms. Yeartie has direct personal knowledge that Mr. Wade and Ms. Willis began a personal relationship in October 2019.

“She’s terrified, but she’s going to take the stand and tell the truth,” Ms. Merchant said.

However, after the judge agreed to hear Ms. Yeartie, she could not be found on Zoom or in the courtroom.

Ms. Merchant called Mr. Bradley to the witness stand which led to renewed arguments from the state, which the judge dismissed.

Catherine Yang

Hearing Begins

Ashleigh Merchant, attorney for defendant Michael Roman, is leading arguments for the defense.

Also present was legal counsel for about half the defendants, including Rudy Giuliani, President Trump, Mark Meadows, Jeffrey Clark, Robert Cheeley. Defendant Harrison Floyd attended the hearing in person with his attorneys.

Special prosecutor Nathan Wade is sitting far to the side of the prosecutors present. District Attorney Fani Willis was not seen in the courtroom livestream.

Catherine Yang

What to Know About Today’s Hearing

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee has scheduled a two-day hearing on a motion to disqualify Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis from prosecuting the racketeering case against former President Donald Trump and 14 others accused of a criminal conspiracy in their actions to challenge the 2020 election results.

Last month, the case took a personal turn when counsel for one of the defendants alleged Ms. Willis was having an affair with a married special prosecutor she appointed to take the lead in the case. Nathan Wade, an attorney who also has a private law practice, has since finalized his divorce amid intense public and media scrutiny.

Ashleigh Merchant, attorney for defendant Michael Roman, had obtained the information primarily through Terrence Bradley, an associate of Mr. Wade’s, who is expected to play a key role in the evidentiary hearing.

Since Ms. Merchant made the allegations in a Jan. 8 filing to disqualify the district attorney, her team, and the indictment, about half the defendants have joined the motion. 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.

The defendants have made other allegations as well, but the judge says the hearing will focus only on the nature of the relationship in relation to “the existence and extent of any financial benefit, again if there even was one.”

The district attorney’s office has said the allegations are without merit, and Mr. Wade has submitted an affidavit stating his relationship with Ms. Willis began only in 2022, after he had already been hired on the case, and that they split expenses equally so the appointment should not be construed as benefitting Ms. Willis financially.