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What to know about the Fani Willis allegations and the election subversion case


Elijah Nouvelage/Reuters/File

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis speaks at a news conference next to prosecutor Nathan Wade in Atlanta on August 14, 2023.



CNN
 — 

The allegations of an improper relationship between the Fulton County district attorney and a prosecutor she hired has roiled one of the major cases against former President Donald Trump.

The situation is another twist in the multiyear effort to punish those involved in attempting to subvert the 2020 presidential election won by Joe Biden.

Legally, the situation is unlikely to kill the case, but this could be a big political gift to Trump, who is seeking to discredit the Georgia charges as illegitimate and politically motivated.

Here’s what to know:

Fani Willis, as the Fulton County district attorney, hired Nathan Wade as an outside consultant to work as a special prosecutor on the election subversion case.

The hiring occurred while Willis and Wade were allegedly having an extramarital relationship, and Wade has received over $650,000 for his work on the case, according to court filings.

According to credit card records included in Wade’s divorce proceedings, he paid for Willis to accompany him on trips to Miami and San Francisco.

A Fulton County commissioner has launched an inquiry into whether Willis misused funds or accepted valuable gifts from a contractor in addition to their improper relationship. The commissioner has raised questions about Wade’s qualifications for this job.

The allegations have become public through two court cases: the divorce proceedings between Nathan and Joycelyn Wade and in a filing from election subversion defendant Mike Roman.

Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee, overseeing the election subversion case, has scheduled a hearing on Willis for February 15.

In a scenario in which Willis is disqualified (hypothetically) by McAfee from overseeing the Trump racketeering charges, the case would then go to the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia, which would decide what prosecutors the case could go on to next.

Peter Skandalakis, executive director of the group, told CNN earlier there is no indication of investigation by other groups aimed toward removing Willis at the time. Skandalakis and Georgia Republican Gov. Brian Kemp have both said this issue should be resolved in court first by McAfee.

Trump and 18 co-defendants were charged as part of a conspiracy stemming from the former president’s efforts to overturn his 2020 electoral defeat in the Peach State, including the use of “fake electors.” Four of the 19 have since pleaded guilty; the remainder have maintained their not-guilty plea.

The Georgia charges are key because as a state case, it’s not something that could be dismissed through a presidential pardon, which applies only to federal matters. Trump’s lawyers have long considered this case the most significant legal threat given the jury pool and the fact that it is beyond pardon powers.

It also includes alleged co-conspirators including former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, and Trump ally and attorney John Eastman, among others. Trump thus far is the only one charged in the election subversion efforts in the federal probe by special counsel Jack Smith.

While Trump has denied all of the charges and repeatedly attacked Willis, a Democrat, as partisan, he and allies have failed in efforts to throw the prosecution off track. As a state case, there is also no direct alleged nexus to Biden and the US Justice Department.

Meadows attempted to move his charges to federal court, where he might have a better opportunity to get them dismissed – as well as open up the future pardon lane – but failed (he is appealing that ruling).

Meanwhile, Trump is seeking to have the sweeping criminal conspiracy case against him in Georgia thrown out by arguing he is protected from prosecution under presidential immunity.

But the former president can now kick his attacks against Willis into overdrive, saying truthfully that she is facing allegations of adultery and corruption.

Willis and Nathan Wade have not directly addressed the accusations, but Willis told a church congregation on January 14 that her adversaries were targeting her and Wade because of race, asking, “Isn’t it them playing the race card?”

She also defended Wade’s credentials, saying, “The Black man I chose has been a judge more than 10 years, run a private practice more than 20, represented businesses in civil litigation, I ain’t done y’all … served as a prosecutor, a criminal defense lawyer, special assistant attorney general.”

The district attorney has until next week to respond to the allegations, McAfee ruled.

In the meantime, Willis is also fighting a subpoena to testify in the Wade divorce case.

Willis has suggested in court filings that Joycelyn Wade is using the divorce proceedings to harass the district attorney and damage her reputation and is “obstructing and interfering with an ongoing criminal prosecution.”



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