The judge overseeing one of the criminal cases against former President Donald Trump now says he will hear testimony about an alleged affair between the district attorney and one of her subordinates.
On Monday, Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee said he will hear witness testimony later this week about allegations that district attorney Fani Willis is financially benefiting from the case through an alleged affair with special prosecutor Nathan Wade.
“What remains to be proven is the existence and extent of any financial benefit. Again, if there even was one,” McAfee said during a hearing.
“I think it's possible that the facts alleged by the defendant could result in disqualification,” McAfee said.
The allegations about Willis’ personal relationship, which Wade has acknowledged in court papers, came to light in filings last month by Ashleigh Merchant, a veteran Atlanta defense attorney representing former White House aide Michael Roman.
Willis and Wade have insisted in court papers that everything has been aboveboard, albeit unusual, and that their personal relationship started after Wade was already working for Willis on the Trump case.
McAfee ruled Monday that a hearing scheduled for Thursday, which he estimated could go on two days or even longer, is needed before he can decide whether as a result of her relationship with Wade, Willis is improperly profiting from the case against the former president and several codefendants charged with attempting to illegally interfere with the certification of Georgia’s election results in the 2020 presidential race.
The accusations against Willis and Wade have raised the possibility that the case against Trump could at least temporarily unravel.
Should Willis — the elected district attorney of largely Democratic Fulton County — be disqualified from the case, the head of the Prosecuting Attorneys' Council of Georgia would name a new prosecutor. It’s not clear how long that would take or who would be appointed.
Willis and Wade have claimed the personal relationship began after Wade was hired, that the two never lived together and that the cost of personal trips they took together was split “roughly” equally.
Merchant claims the two “cohabitated” at a friend’s former apartment, and raised questions about whether the trips — paid for at least partially by Wade’s law firm — were funded with county money.
McAfee gave a small win to Willis and Wade, saying that Merchant could not call them nor most of the other witnesses she has subpoenaed unless he is satisfied with the testimony of Wade’s former law partner, who Merchant says has personal knowledge of the extent of the relationship.
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