Trump trial DA Fani Willis defends "secret relationship" in heated courtroom drama

Atlanta, Georgia – Georgia prosecutor Fani Willis, who is leading a racketeering case against Donald Trump, provided dramatic courtroom testimony on Thursday as she defended against efforts to throw her off the case for "inappropriate behavior" and a consensual relationship with her colleague.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis during a hearing on Thursday in the case of State of Georgia v. Donald Trump in Atlanta, Georgia over her relationship with special prosecutor Nathan Wade.
Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis during a hearing on Thursday in the case of State of Georgia v. Donald Trump in Atlanta, Georgia over her relationship with special prosecutor Nathan Wade.  © POOL / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

Things got heated and very personal at the hearing in Atlanta, where everything is at stake for the criminal case against Trump.

The former president and several other co-defendants have asked Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee to disqualify District Attorney Fani Willis following revelations she had a romantic relationship with the man she hired to work as the special prosecutor on the case, Nathan Wade.

A defensive Willis took the witness stand on Thursday amid questions from Trump's team that got deeply personal about her finances and romantic preferences. Amid taking the heat, she emphatically denied that her relationship with Wade began before she hired him to work on the high-profile case in November 2021.

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Willis accused attorneys for Trump and the other co-defendants seeking her disqualification of spreading "lies."

"It's extremely offensive," she said, and she threw jabs back at Trump's camp.

"These people are on trial for trying to steal an election in 2020," Willis said. "I'm not on trial, no matter how hard you try to put me on trial."

Willis took the stand after a former friend and colleague in the district attorney's office, Robin Bryant Yeartie, testified that to her knowledge Willis and Wade began a "personal and romantic" relationship in late 2019.

Asked about Yeartie's statements, Willis said she had not spoken to her for more than a year and "I certainly do not consider her a friend now."

"I think that she betrayed out friendship," she said.

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Special Prosecutor Nathan Wade testified during a hearing into "misconduct" allegations against Georgia prosecutor Fani Willis at the Fulton County Courthouse in Atlanta, Georgia, on Thursday.
Special Prosecutor Nathan Wade testified during a hearing into "misconduct" allegations against Georgia prosecutor Fani Willis at the Fulton County Courthouse in Atlanta, Georgia, on Thursday.  © ALYSSA POINTER / POOL / AFP FILE SIZE/PIXELS/DPI

Wade, who was going through a contentious divorce, also testified on Thursday and said his personal relationship with Willis began "around March" of 2022.

"Let's be clear, 2022 was the start of any intimate sexual relationship with the district attorney," Wade said. "Our relationship wasn't a secret, it was just private."

Trump, in a court filing, alleged that Willis and Wade had an "improper intimate personal relationship" and that some of the $650,000 Wade was paid to work on the case was used to take Willis on "lavish vacations" including a Caribbean cruise and Napa Valley tour.

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Willis said they each paid their own share for the vacations and she would usually reimburse Wade with cash, which she said she keeps a lot of in her home.

"I don't need anybody to foot my bills," Willis said. "The only man who's ever foot my bills completely is my daddy."

The 77-year-old Trump, the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, did not attend the hearing. He was in New York for a pretrial hearing in a case in which he is accused of paying pre-election hush money to hide extramarital affairs.

The allegations of misconduct against Willis have threatened to disrupt the Georgia case against Trump, who is also facing federal charges of conspiring to overturn the results of the November 2020 election won by Democrat Joe Biden. That case had been scheduled to start on March 4 but has been frozen as the Supreme Court mulls whether to hear a challenge by Trump to a lower court ruling that he does not enjoy immunity from prosecution as a former president.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to charges of involvement in a criminal conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election result in Georgia, where Biden won by some 12,000 votes. Willis has asked for the trial of the former president and his 14 co-defendants to begin on August 5, three months before the November presidential election.

Four co-defendants, including three former Trump campaign lawyers, have pleaded guilty already to lesser charges in deals that spared them any prison time.

Others indicted in Georgia include former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, Trump's former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, John Eastman, a constitutional lawyer, and Jeffrey Clark, a mid-level Justice Department official.

Cover photo: POOL / GETTY IMAGES NORTH AMERICA / Getty Images via AFP

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