WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The Georgia prosecutor charged with trying to overturn former President Donald Trump’s 2020 election loss acknowledged on Friday having a personal relationship with another lawyer on the criminal case, but denied that. This did not taint the prosecution.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis said in a court filing that the claims threatening to overturn her office’s historic prosecution “have no merit.”
Trump and two co-defendants are seeking to disqualify Willis and dismiss the charges, alleging that Willis benefited financially from an “improper, secret personal relationship” with Nathan Wade, a lawyer he hired to lead the investigation. Was appointed to help.
Willis said in the filing, “Although the allegations made in the various motions are salacious and have received the media attention they were designed to receive, none provide this Court with any basis on which to base our findings.” But they can order relief.”
The case is one of four criminal trials facing Trump as he moves closer to the Republican nomination to challenge Democratic President Joe Biden in the November election. Trump has raised several challenges that could delay the start of any trial by weeks or months.
As he has done before, Trump attacked Willis in a post on his Truth social platform on Friday, saying, “This scandal is completely debunked and over!”
Steven Sadow, Trump’s lead defense attorney in the case, said Willis’ petition “asks the court to turn a blind eye to his alleged personal and financial misconduct.”
Willis said that his relationship with Wade did not give the prosecutor a personal or financial stake in the criminal case and said that claims of conflict of interest were based on “fanciful theories and rank speculation.”
In a sworn statement, Wade said the personal relationship with Willis began in 2022, when he was appointed as special prosecutor on the 2020 election investigation. His statement said Willis received no financial benefit from the relationship.
Citing unnamed sources and previously sealed court records, Trump’s co-defendant Michael Roman alleges in a court filing that Wade paid for vacations with Willis while she was under contract for her work on the investigation. He was being compensated by the office.
Trump and his co-defendants accused Willis of a conflict of interest and suggested that her relationship with Wade may run afoul of state ethics rules and U.S. law.
Records released as part of Wade’s divorce case show that he paid for airline flights with Willis on at least two occasions during the investigation.
Wade said in a sworn statement that personal travel expenses were divided “almost equally” between the two.
Trump’s legal team supported Roman’s allegations and said that Willis “inappropriately introduced race into the case” during a speech responding to Roman’s allegations.
Willis said during the speech that he appointed three special counsels to investigate election interference and said that only Wade, who like him is Black, has come under investigation.
In Georgia, Trump and 14 of his political allies face fraud and other charges in a sweeping indictment that accuses them of conspiring to overturn his narrow 2020 defeat in the state. Four defendants originally charged in the case have pleaded guilty after reaching agreements with prosecutors.
Willis asked the judge overseeing the case to reject efforts to remove his office from the case without a hearing.
Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee has already scheduled a Feb. 15 hearing focused on the charges.