UNITED STATES NEWS

Prosecutor leaves Georgia election case against Trump after relationship with district attorney

Mar 15, 2024, 5:00 PM | Updated: 5:00 pm

A special prosecutor who had a romantic relationship with Fulton County District Attorney Fani Will...

A special prosecutor who had a romantic relationship with Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis formally withdrew Friday from the Georgia election interference case against Donald Trump after a judge ruled one of them had to leave or the case was dead. (AP Photo/Alex Slitz, Pool)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Alex Slitz, Pool)

ATLANTA (AP) — A special prosecutor who had a romantic relationship with Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis formally withdrew Friday from the Georgia election interference case against Donald Trump after a judge ruled he had to leave or Willis couldn’t continue to pursue the charges.

Attorney Nathan Wade’s resignation allows Willis to remain on the most sprawling of four criminal cases against the presumptive Republican nominee in the 2024 presidential election.

But the long-term damage to the public perception of the prosecution remains unclear, particularly in light of Trump’s relentless barrage of attacks on the pair who pledged to hold Trump accountable but found their own actions under a public microscope.

Wade offered his resignation in a letter to Willis, saying he was doing so “in the interest of democracy, in dedication to the American public and to move this case forward as quickly as possible.”

“I am sure that the case, and the team, will be in good hands moving forward and justice will be served,” Wade wrote.

Willis complimented Wade’s “professionalism and dignity” in a letter accepting his resignation, effective immediately. She said he had endured threats against himself and his family, as well as “unjustified attacks” in the media and in court on his reputation as a lawyer.

“I will always remember — and will remind everyone — that you were brave enough to step forward and take on the investigation and prosecution of the allegations that the defendants in this case engaged in a conspiracy to overturn Georgia’s 2020 Presidential Election,” Willis wrote.

Trump’s team felt differently.

In a social media post, Trump said the “Fani Willis lover” had “resigned in disgrace,” and Trump repeated his assertion that the case is an effort to hurt his campaign to reclaim the White House in November. Trump has denied doing anything wrong and pleaded not guilty.

An attorney for the former president said they respected the court’s decision but believe the judge “did not afford appropriate significance to the prosecutorial misconduct of Willis and Wade.”

“We will use all legal options available as we continue to fight to end this case, which should never have been brought in the first place,” Trump attorney Steve Sadow said.

Defense attorneys could try to appeal the ruling, but they would need the judge’s permission to do so.

In a separate criminal case against Trump in New York, a judge agreed Friday to delay the trial related to hush-money payments during Trump’s 2016 campaign until at least mid-April. The trial was supposed to begin later this month, but Trump’s lawyers said they needed more time to sift through evidence they only recently obtained from a previous federal investigation into the matter.

In Georgia, Wade’s resignation came hours after Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee said he had to be removed or Willis must step aside from the case. McAfee did not find that Willis’ relationship with Wade amounted to a conflict of interest but said the allegations created an “appearance of impropriety” that infected the prosecution team.

“As the case moves forward, reasonable members of the public could easily be left to wonder whether the financial exchanges have continued resulting in some form of benefit to the District Attorney, or even whether the romantic relationship has resumed,” the judge wrote.

“Put differently, an outsider could reasonably think that the District Attorney is not exercising her independent professional judgment totally free of any compromising influences. As long as Wade remains on the case, this unnecessary perception will persist.”

Friday’s extraordinary developments underscored the extent to which the case that began with allegations that a former president tried to undermine the will of the people who voted him out of the White House had become consumed by talk of the love lives of its top prosecutors. In accepting Wade’s resignation, Willis made clear her determination to turn the page from weeks of embarrassing headlines about romantic getaways, sex and stashes of cash that have dominated coverage of the case.

Willis hired Wade in 2021 to lead the team to investigate and ultimately prosecute Trump and 18 others on charges that they illegally tried to overturn his narrow loss to Democrat Joe Biden in Georgia in 2020. The case uses a statute normally associated with mobsters to accuse the former president, lawyers and other aides of a “criminal enterprise” to keep him in power.

Willis and Wade testified at a hearing last month that they had engaged in a romantic relationship, but they rejected the idea that Willis improperly benefited from it, as lawyers for Trump and some of his co-defendants alleged. Willis and Wade insisted they didn’t begin dating until after he became special prosecutor, though a former friend and employee of Willis’ testified that she saw the pair hugging and kissing before he was hired.

Willis and Wade said the relationship ended in the summer of 2023. They both said that Willis either paid for things herself or used cash to reimburse Wade for travel expenses.

McAfee wrote that there was insufficient evidence that Willis had a personal stake in the prosecution. And he said he was unable to “conclusively establish by a preponderance of the evidence” whether Willis and Wade began dating before or after he was hired as special prosecutor.

“However, an odor of mendacity remains,” the judge wrote. He said “reasonable questions” about whether Willis and Wade testified truthfully about the timing of their relationship “further underpin the finding of an appearance of impropriety and the need to make proportional efforts to cure it.”

Even so, he said, dismissal of the case was not the appropriate remedy to “adequately dissipate the financial cloud of impropriety and potential untruthfulness found here.”

An attorney for co-defendant Michael Roman was the first to ask McAfee to dismiss the indictment and prevent Willis and Wade and their offices from continuing to prosecute the case. The attorney, Ashleigh Merchant, alleged that Willis paid Wade large sums for his work and then improperly benefited from the prosecution of the case when Wade used his earnings to pay for vacations for the two of them.

Merchant said in a statement Friday that while Roman’s team maintains that the judge should have disqualified Willis’ office entirely, the judge clearly agreed with the defense that there is a “risk to the future of this case” if Willis “doesn’t quickly work to cure her conflict.”

____

Richer contributed from Boston. Associated Press reporter Eric Tucker in Washington contributed.

United States News

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich stands in a glass cage in a courtroom in Yekaterinbur...

Associated Press

U.S. reporter Evan Gershkovich appear in court in Russia for hearing on espionage charges

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich appeared in court in Russia on Thursday for the second hearing in his trial on espionage charges, the court said. Gershkovich, his employer and the U.S. government vehemently deny the charges against him. Gershkovich was accused by the Russian Prosecutor General’s office of “gathering secret information” on orders from […]

5 hours ago

FILE - A pedestrian traverses the rotunda inside the New Mexico Capitol, March 16, 2023, in Santa F...

Associated Press

New Mexico governor cites ‘dangerous intersection’ of crime and homelessness, wants lawmakers to act

SANTA FE, N.M. (AP) — Citing what she calls the “dangerous intersection” of crime and homelessness, New Mexico’s governor is calling on lawmakers to address stubbornly high crime rates as they convene Thursday for a special legislative session. In issuing her proclamation, Gov. Michelle Lujan Grisham talked about a vulnerable segment of society that falls […]

6 hours ago

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump arrives on third day of the Republi...

Associated Press

FACT FOCUS: Trump, in Republican convention video, alludes to false claim 2020 election was stolen

DONALD TRUMP, alluding that the 2020 vote was stolen: “Whether you vote early, absentee, by mail or in person, we are going to protect the vote. That’s the most important thing we have to do is protect the vote. Keep your eyes open because these people want to cheat and they do cheat. And frankly, […]

7 hours ago

Supporters cheer as Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump arrives for a c...

Associated Press

‘One screen, two movies’: Conflicting conspiracy theories emerge from Trump shooting

WASHINGTON (AP) — A former president is shot, the gunman quickly neutralized, and all of it is caught on camera. But for those who don’t believe their eyes, that’s just the start of the story. For some supporters of former President Donald Trump, the failure of the Secret Service to prevent the attempted assassination point […]

7 hours ago

Associated Press

Hundreds attend vigil for man killed at Trump rally in Pennsylvania before visitation Thursday

SARVER, Pa. (AP) — Hundreds of people who gathered to remember the former fire chief fatally shot at a weekend rally for former President Donald Trump were urged to find “unity” as the area in rural Pennsylvania sought to recover from the assassination attempt. Wednesday’s public event was the first of two organized to memorialize […]

7 hours ago

Follow @ktar923...

Sponsored Content by Sanderson Ford

3 storylines to get you revved up for the 2024 Arizona Cardinals

Arizona Cardinals training camp is just a couple weeks away starting on July 25, and Sanderson Ford is revved up and ready to go.

Sponsored Articles

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s how to be worry-free when your A/C goes out in the middle of summer

PHOENIX -- As Arizona approaches another hot summer, Phoenix residents are likely to spend more time indoors.

...

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Beat the heat, ensure your AC unit is summer-ready

With temperatures starting to rise across the Valley, now is a great time to be sure your AC unit is ready to withstand the sweltering summer heat.

...

Midwestern University

Midwestern University Clinics: transforming health care in the valley

Midwestern University, long a fixture of comprehensive health care education in the West Valley, is also a recognized leader in community health care.

Prosecutor leaves Georgia election case against Trump after relationship with district attorney