Deadline arrives for Fani Willis to respond to ‘improper’ affair allegations: what we know so far

Embattled Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has until the end of the day on Friday to respond to allegations of an “improper” relationship she had with special prosecutor Nathan Wade, whom she hired to work the case against former President Trump. 

According to court documents filed earlier this month by Michael Roman, a Trump co-defendant, Willis, who brought election interference-related charges against Trump, has been having an “improper” affair with Wade, whom she hired to help prosecute the 2024 GOP frontrunner. Roman and his lawyers say the alleged impropriety should disqualify her from the case. 

According to the court documents, Wade, who has no Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) and felony prosecution experience, billed taxpayers $650,000 at a rate of $250 an hour since his hiring.

Willis and Wade were both subpoenaed by Roman’s lawyer, Ashleigh Merchant, to testify at an evidentiary hearing on Feb. 15 before Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAffee, who is presiding over the Trump case.  

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Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, who brought charges against former President Trump for election interference, is taking heat from all sides. (AP Photo/John Bazemore, File)

Roman’s filing alleges that Wade billed Fulton County for 24 hours of work on a single day in November 2021, shortly after being appointed as a special prosecutor, and that Willis financially benefited from her alleged lover’s padded taxpayer-funded salary by taking lavish vacations together to Napa Valley, Florida and the Caribbean together on his dime. 

Merchant filed a separate lawsuit on Tuesday against the Fulton County DA’s office for failing to turn over records in compliance with the Georgia Open Records Act, accusing Willis and her team of apparently “intentionally withholding information” ahead of the hearing. 

Merchant said she had to repeatedly file certain requests after they were prematurely closed, and she was incorrectly told certain records did not exist, the lawsuit states.

On Friday morning, the House Judiciary Committee subpoenaed Willis related to the misuse of federal funds and allegedly firing a whistleblower in her office over the same issue. 

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Fani Willis and Nathan Wade

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis and special prosecutor Nathan Wade. Wade has reached a temporary divorce settlement with his estranged wife. (Getty Images)

The subpoena requires Willis to turn over “all documents and communications referring or relating to the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office’s receipt and use of federal funds, including but not limited to, federal funds from the Department of Justice’s Office Programs, Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, and Office of Community Oriented Policing Services.”

Additionally, she is being asked to turn over all documents from the same offices “referring to or relating to any allegations of the misuse of federal funds.” 

Willis’ office responded to the subpoena in a statement Friday saying, “These false allegations are included in baseless litigation filed by a holdover employee from the previous administration who was terminated for cause.”

“Any examination of the records of our grant programs will find that they are highly effective and conducted in cooperation with the Department of Justice and in compliance with all Department of Justice requirements. Our federal grant programs are focused on helping at-risk youth and seeking justice for sexual assault victims who were too long ignored,” her office said. 

“Our federal grant-funded Sexual Assault Kit Initiative has been cited by the United States Attorney General as a model program. We are proud of our grant programs and our partnership with the Department of Justice that makes Fulton County a safer, more just place,” the statement said.

Willis was scheduled to testify during the divorce proceedings of Wade and his estranged wife this week but narrowly avoided doing so. Just a day before that hearing was scheduled, the judge in that case announced that Nathan and Jocelyn Wade came to a temporary agreement, canceling Wednesday’s divorce proceeding. 

On Jan. 14, Willis addressed the allegations for the first time at Big Bethel AME Church in Atlanta, and she seemed to insinuate she believed the allegations to be race-based.

“They only attacked one,” she said. “First thing they say, ‘Oh, she’s gonna play the race card now.’

“But no God, isn’t it them that’s playing the race card when they only question one,” Willis asked.

“You cannot expect Black women to be perfect and save the world,” Willis said, adding that “we need to be allowed to stumble. We need grace.” 

In the Georgia state legislature, two bills have been voted out of the House and Senate that would empower separate commissions to investigate Willis’ office. 

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Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis poses for a portrait

“You cannot expect Black women to be perfect and save the world,” Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis said, adding that “we need to be allowed to stumble. We need grace.” (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson, File)

Last week, Georgia’s GOP-controlled senate voted to form a special committee that would have subpoena power to investigate Willis. Republican Sen. Greg Dolezal, who introduced the measure, said that “the multitude of accusations surrounding Ms. Willis, spanning from allegations of prosecutorial misconduct to questions about the use of public funds and accusations of an unprofessional relationship, underscores the urgency for a thorough and impartial examination.”

On Monday, the Georgia House members passed a bill to revive the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Qualifications Commission with powers to discipline and remove prosecutors, which Republicans could potentially use to target Willis.

Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp signed legislation last year creating the commission last year, but after the state Supreme Court refused to approve the rules governing the committee’s conduct, it was unable to begin operating. The new measure passed by the House that now advances to the Senate, removes the requirement for Supreme Court approval.

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John Malcolm, a former assistant U.S. attorney in Atlanta, told Fox News Digital in an interview that the allegations against Willis are “serious.”

“They ought to be looked into, and it has certainly imperiled this prosecution and given a black mark, not only to Fulton County, but potentially to the entire state, so I can understand why the Georgia legislature is up in arms about this,” he said.

Malcolm, who currently serves as the director of the Meese Center for Legal and Judicial Studies, said “this is a difficult moment” for Willis, who he says could ultimately decide to recuse herself from the case. 

The trial date for the sweeping racketeering case against the former president has not yet been set, and it’s not clear that should Willis and her team be removed or recused, that a new prosecutor would pursue some or all of the charges against Trump. 

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