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Monday, March 4, 2024

Turmoil Unfolds for Atlanta Prosecutor Leading Trump Investigation

Nearly three years into her investigation into former President Donald J. Trump and his associates, Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis is confronting a major challenge to her handling of the high-stakes election interference case. This week, allegations emerged accusing Ms. Willis of engaging in a romantic relationship with Nathan Wade, the lead prosecutor she appointed for the Trump case. The revelation, though lacking supporting documents or named witnesses, has energized Republicans, prompting questions about Ms. Willis’s conduct and judgment.

The accused prosecutor, Nathan Wade, has accumulated over $650,000 in legal fees, and the filing suggests that the alleged relationship influenced Ms. Willis’s choice of him for the case. The filing further claims that Ms. Willis benefited from Mr. Wade’s earnings, which included taxpayer funds, by joining him on vacations that he sometimes financed. The situation took a more complicated turn as Mr. Wade filed for divorce the day after he began working for the district attorney’s office in 2022, leading to a subpoena for Ms. Willis to appear in the ongoing divorce proceedings initiated by Mr. Wade’s wife.

While the court documents lack concrete evidence of the alleged relationship, they assert that the two prosecutors have been seen “in a personal relationship capacity” around Atlanta, with people close to them supposedly confirming their connection. Ms. Willis’s office has not denied the allegations, and its limited response has left several unanswered questions about potential consequences and legal repercussions.

Legal experts express skepticism that, even if true, the accusations will derail the case against Trump. However, they acknowledge the potential for significant problems for Ms. Willis, introducing distractions and casting doubt on her judgment. The allegations have triggered a political firestorm, with Trump and his allies accusing Ms. Willis of violating various county and state laws. Even some Democrats have expressed concern, with Robb Pitts, the chair of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners, stating that if the allegations are true, it is troubling and raises questions about this point in the trial.

The accusations emerged in a court filing from Michael Roman, a former Trump campaign staff member facing charges in the case. The filing alleges that the relationship influenced Mr. Wade’s appointment, raising questions about conflicts of interest and nepotism. Despite the lack of concrete proof in the court papers, they claim that witnesses have seen the two prosecutors together in a personal capacity.

The situation has prompted calls for investigations into potential violations of Georgia laws related to conflicts of interest and nepotism. Some have questioned the use of county funds earmarked to clear a backlog of cases during the pandemic, alleging that these funds were used to pay Mr. Wade. Trump has seized on the allegations to renew attacks on the Georgia prosecution, while Republican lawmakers are considering filing complaints with a new commission overseeing local prosecutors.

In response to the accusations, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, a fervent Trump supporter, has urged Georgia’s governor and attorney general to investigate Mr. Wade’s appointment, citing potential violations of state laws on bribery, improper influence, and conspiracy to defraud the government. The chairman of the Georgia Republican Party expects the new allegations to form the basis of a fresh complaint and expedite legislative efforts to enable the commission to start its work.

As the controversy unfolds, legal experts anticipate challenges for Ms. Willis, including potential scrutiny from a new Georgia commission established last year to oversee local prosecutors. The commission currently lacks authority due to a recent court ruling, but lawmakers are working on legislation to address this. Regardless, the timing of the Trump case’s trial remains uncertain, with Ms. Willis seeking an August 5 start date.

Ms. Willis’s next move involves filing a response to the allegations, and a potential evidentiary hearing may follow. The hearings, like most proceedings in the case, would be broadcast live. Amid the uncertainty, a hearing to unseal the Wade divorce papers is scheduled for January 31, offering a glimpse into the unfolding drama surrounding the Trump case.

Jonathan James
I serve as a Senior Executive Journalist of The National Era
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