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The Guardian - US
The Guardian - US
Edward Helmore

Trump prosecutor visited Fani Willis’s locality 35 times before hiring, records show

man and a woman in suits walking
Fani Willis and Nathan Wade arrive for a news conference on 14 August 2023. Photograph: John Bazemore/AP

The Georgia election racketeering case against Donald Trump and his allies hit another potential stumbling block on Friday when the court was provided with cellphone records that appear to show the prosecutor Nathan Wade made at least 35 visits to the district attorney Fani Willis’s neighborhood before she hired him.

The documents, entered by attorneys for the former president, raise new questions about the timeline of the romantic relationship between the prosecutors, ties that defense lawyers claim create a conflict of interest that hangs over the entire case – as well as whether they were entirely truthful when testifying about their relationship while under oath.

Willis and Wade were questioned before a judge last week about their relationship, including whether several holidays and Caribbean cruises they took were paid for jointly, or by Wade alone after he had been hired by Willis, which could suggest a romance-incorporating kick-back scheme. Willis claims she repaid Wade in cash.

If defense lawyers can show that Willis and Wade were a couple before she hired him in November 2021 – they claim their relationship began in early 2022 – it may constitute a violation of state anti-nepotism rules and raise questions of whether they committed perjury during earlier testimony.

That could jeopardize the entire criminal case Willis is pursuing that accuses Trump and a number of codefendants of illegal election interference in Georgia’s 2020 elections. If Judge Scott McAfee, who is overseeing the case, decides that she and Wade should be removed, it would all but guarantee that the case will not go forward before the 2024 presidential election.

Trump and other defendants in the case contend that Willis and her office should be disqualified from pursuing the election interference case, which was filed under criminal racketeering statutes typically used for organized crime cases.

During her testimony last week, Willis claimed that the investigation into her relationship with Wade was distracting from her job prosecuting Trump.

“You’ve been intrusive into people’s personal lives. You’re confused. You think I’m on trial,” she told the court. “These people are on trial for trying to steal an election in 2020. I’m not on trial, no matter how hard you try to put me on trial.”

But on Friday, lawyers for the former president submitted cellphone data tracking Wade’s movements before he was hired by Willis. It appears to contradict Wade’s testimony that he visited her home no more than 10 times before that date.

The court submission also appears to show that that Wade twice arrived at Willis’s home late at night and left early the next morning before they say their relationship became intimate. Last week, both testified that they did not spend the night together at Willis’s home before he was hired.

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