A Georgia judge considering bombshell complaints about Fulton County DA Fani Willis says an evidentiary hearing will go ahead Thursday where a judge will weigh claims to disqualify her from the case of a Trump associate.
The lawyer plans to call a series of witnesses who will speak to allegations of an ‘inappropriate’ relationship between Willis and a lawyer on her team, in a conflagration set to draw Trump inside yet another courthouse. Among witnesses the lawyer plans to call are the DA’s father, who would testify remotely from his home in California.
On the table will be claims about the nature of the evidence and whether any of it could disqualify Willis from overseeing the the Trump cases now that she has acknowledged a personal ‘relationship’ with a member of her team.
‘The state has admitted a relationship existed,’ said Fulton County Superior Court Scott McAfee
‘So what remains to be proven is the existence and extent of any financial benefit, again if there even was one. Because I think it’s possible that the facts alleged by the defendant could result in disqualification. I think an evidentiary hearing must occur to establish the record on those core allegations,’ he said.
FILE PHOTO: Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis speaks at a press conference next to prosecutor Nathan Wade after a Grand Jury brought back indictments against former president Donald Trump and his allies in their attempt to overturn the state’s 2020 election results, in Atlanta, Georgia, U.S. August 14, 2023. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage./File Photo
The hearing remained on track following a stunning court filing last week by the attorney of Donald Trump associate Michael Roman, which prompted a filing by Willis acknowledging a ‘personal relationship’ with fellow prosecutor Nathan Wade.
Roman’s lawyer Ashleigh Merchant claims the relationship was inappropriate and undermines charges against her client related to Trump’s election overturn effort in the state.
Attorney’s in Willis’ office said in court Monday that many of Merchant’s claims are inaccurate and blasted what they called a ‘fishing expedition’ for bank records and testimony about Willis, who Donald Trump regularly assails as part of a ‘witch hunt’ against him.
Merchant in her filing purports to have information that might knock down some of Willis’ claims.
Lawyer Ashleigh Merchant wants to call a series of witnesses to back up her filing about details of Willis’ ‘relationship’ with Nathan Wade
Among the people she is calling to testify are Terrance Bradley, Wade’s former law partner, who will testify that the personal relationship preceded Wade’s hiring as a special prosecutor in Willis’ office.
Gabe Banks, a former federal prosecutor who has been subpoenaed to appear, answered questions from Fulton County Superior Court Scott McAfee after Merchant said Bradley had received calls ‘that he believed were trying to keep him from testifying.’
Banks acknowledged calling Bradley but said ‘I called him on a personal level because One, he’s my friend, and Two, he’s my fraternity brother,’ he said.
‘I was concerned about him being emotional given his prior relationship with Mr. Wade,’ he said.
Merchant wants witnesses to establish that the affair Willis acknowledged began before she hired Wade to act as a special prosecutor in her office. She also claims she benefitted financially during lavish vacations the two shared.
‘In Paragraph 17 of your affidavit, you swore that you met Ms. Willis in October of 2019 at a Municipal Court training,’ she wrote in response to an affidavit by Wade that is cited in Willis’ filing.
‘Isn’t it true that you began more than just a friendship at that conference?’ Merchant asked.
Merchant’s filing says ‘witnesses will testify that you cohabitated with Ms. Willis at her home in South Fulton until her father moved in with her and you then began to cohabitate at the apartment of a friend of hers in East Point.’
Anna Cross, who is representing the DA’s office in the case, said Monday that ‘of course that is untrue,’ and said she wished for Willis’ father to participate in Thursday’s hearing remotely from his California home.
‘I will be shocked if Ms. Merchant is able to support that statement,’ she said. ‘There was no cohabitation,’ she continued, adding that ‘DA Willis and Nathan Wade never lived together.’
‘The defense is not bringing you facts, the defense is not bringing you law, the defense is bringing you gossip,’ she said.
Willis’ team also appeared ready to battle contentions that the two romantic partners used what Merchant called an AirBNB ‘safe house’ in Hapeville, outside Atlanta.
Former federal prosecutor Gabe Banks, who has been subpoenaed to appear Thursday, spoke in Monday’s hearing to his own ‘lack of knowledge concerning any romantic relationship’.
‘I do think it’s a fishing expedition,’ he said.
Merchant said one of her key witnesses has received calls trying to ‘keep him from testifying.
Raising the stakes even further, Trump is planning to attend the trial in person, the Washington Post reported, just a day after attending a closed hearing in Florida related to his classified documents case.