Trump Co-Defendant Claims Fani Willis Lied About Her Affair With Colleague, Visited Tattoo Parlor With Him in Belize

One of Trump’s co-defendants alleges that the district attorney wants a conviction ‘to open doors to a new political future.’

Joe Raedle/Getty Images
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis and her special prosecutor, Nathan Wade, with whom Ms. Willis has admitted having a 'personal relationship,' arrive to speak at a news conference at the Fulton County Government building on August 14, 2023 at Atlanta. Joe Raedle/Getty Images

A Friday filing accusing the district attorney of Fulton County, Fani Willis, of lying about the timing of her romantic relationship with her special prosecutor, Nathan Wade, threatens to further submerge the case against President Trump  in scandal.

The 122 page tome comes from Ashleigh Merchant, who represents one of Mr. Trump’s co-defendants, Michael Roman, in the sprawling racketeering case against the 45th president and 18 others for allegedly conspiring to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Mr. Roman, along with Mr. Trump, wants Ms. Willis and Mr. Wade disqualified, and the charges in the indictment dismissed.

Ms. Willis has effectively confessed to a “personal relationship” with Mr. Wade — she enclosed an affidavit signed by him to that effect in a recent motion — whom she hired to lead a case that is one of the most highly anticipated in American history. He has since earned more than $700,000 from that commission, despite never having previously prosecuted a felony or racketeering case. The district attorney, though, maintains that their romance with Mr. Wade began only after he was appointed.

Not so, says Ms. Merchant. She writes that  Ms. Willis’s and Mr. Wade’s claim that their “relationship did not start until 2022 is patently false.” Accusing both of them of having “enriched themselves off this case,” she instead posits that “self-dealing” was a motivation to bring the case because the “more money the special prosecutor makes, the more the district attorney gets to reap the financial benefits.”

ATLANTA, GEORGIA - NOVEMBER 21: Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis appears before Judge Scott McAfee for a hearing in the 2020 Georgia election interference case at the Fulton County Courthouse on November 21, 2023 at Atlanta.
The Fulton County district attorney, Fani Willis, on November 21, 2023 at Atlanta. Dennis Byron-pool/Getty Images

Receipts have surfaced disclosing that Mr. Wade purchased plane — and cruise — tickets for both of them. Some of the details of those journeys are enclosed in this filing. There was a $3,581.58 Royal Caribbean cruise in October 2022 and then a trip to Aruba the next month, where Ms. Willis and Mr Wade “shared a room.” A trip to Belize in March resulted in the spending of “$74.15 at a tattoo parlor” and $1,723.33 for a joint stay at the Phoenix Resort

Of greater legal significance, though, is that for the first time, Ms. Merchant names a witness to support her contention that Ms. Willis and Mr. Wade are lying. He is an attorney, Terrence Bradley, who worked with Mr. Wade and served as his divorce lawyer during the prosecutor’s ongoing separation from his wife of 26 years, Joycelyn. Ms. Willis has accused Ms. Wade of conspiring with Mr. Roman.    

Mr. Bradley, Ms. Merchant wrote, “has non-privileged, personal knowledge that the romantic relationship between Wade and Willis began prior to Willis being sworn as the district attorney for Fulton County, Georgia in 2021.” Mr. Wade, in a sworn affidavit, claimed that the amorous connection only began in 2022. Lying on an affidavit can amount to the crime of perjury.

Fulton County Special Prosecutor Nathan Wade during a hearing at the Fulton County Courthouse October 20, 2023 at Atlanta.
Fulton County Special Prosecutor Nathan Wade during a hearing at the Fulton County Courthouse October 20, 2023 at Atlanta. Photo by Alyssa Pointer/Getty Images

If a hearing set for February 15 occurs — Ms. Willis wants it canceled, while Ms. Merchant relishes the prospect of it — the district attorney is likely to argue that whatever Mr. Bradley has to say is protected by attorney-client privilege. That’s why Ms. Merchant writes that Mr.Bradley “obtained this information in a personal capacity as Wade’s friend prior to Wade’s decision to file for divorce.”

Mr. Roman’s position is that if the hearing is scratched and he cannot present the information that Ms. Merchant has gathered, “we will all go over that constitutional cliff together.” Ms. Merchant writes that Ms. Willis’ “obvious, continued, strategic obfuscation and stonewalling” proves Shakespeare’s adage in ‘Hamlet’ that the lady doth protest too much, methinks.” 

Ms. Merchant’s position is that “the more work that is done on the case (regardless of what justice calls for),” the more Ms. Willis and Mr. Wade get paid. She argues that the arrangement is at “odds with the district attorney’s obligation to seek justice, which is why both the district attorney and special prosecutor will always labor under this conflict, regardless of when their relationship began.”

The defense lawyer also opens a new line of argument against Ms. Willis’ handling of the case, one centered on the publication of a book published last month. “Find Me the Votes: A Hard-Charging Georgia Prosecutor, a Rogue President, and the Plot to Steal an American Election,” is, Ms. Merchant alleges, the product of  “unprecedented media access” Ms. Willis gave to its two authors, Michael Isikoff and Daniel Klaidman. 

President Trump’s co-defendant, Mike Roman, made the initial accusation, of an inappropriate relationship, against the Fulton County District Attorney, Fani Willis. Fulton County Sheriff’s Office

That access, Ms. Merchant contends, is intended to taint the jury pool and make a conviction more likely. She alleges that Ms. Willis intends, in turn, to “use the conviction to open doors to a new political future.” The district attorney, it is claimed, “wanted her rise to fame documented for the world to see.”  

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