A bitter divorce dispute could determine the future of Trump's case in Georgia

MARIETTA, Ga. (AP) — The future of former President Donald Trump's election interference trial in Georgia could hinge on a bitter divorce case unfolding here in suburban Atlanta involving the lead prosecutor in the Trump case, his estranged wife and their testimony She asks her husband's boss and alleged “mistress,” Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis.

In an emergency hearing on Monday, a judge temporarily suspended a decision on whether Willis could be called as a witness in Nathan Wade's divorce case. One of Trump's co-defendants accused the two of an “inappropriate, secret personal relationship” that benefited them both financially, leading to calls for their removal.

But Cobb County Superior Court Judge Henry Thompson said he would reconsider a requested subpoena for Willis after a hearing in the divorce case scheduled for next week that is expected to include Wade testifying. His sworn statements could lead to even more embarrassing, if not legally damaging, revelations. Neither Willis nor Wade have denied or directly addressed the allegations. Allies of Willis fear they have already jeopardized the case against Trump and 14 others accused of illegally conspiring to try to overturn Trump's 2020 election loss in Georgia.

Regardless of whether the judge in the Trump case disqualifies prosecutors, Trump and his allies have seized on the allegations and are unlikely to let up in their attacks. On Monday, Republicans in the Georgia Senate introduced a resolution that would create a new investigative committee with subpoena powers to investigate whether Willis had a romantic relationship with Wade when she appointed him special prosecutor.

The resolution is not yet up for a vote, but enough senators have already signed it to ensure its passage. The resolution states that such a relationship would “constitute a clear conflict of interest and fraud against the taxpayers of Fulton County” and that it would warrant Willis' dismissal from the election interference case and possible disciplinary action by the Georgia State Bar. It's not clear what authority the Senate has to enforce any of these possible outcomes.

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Wade is expected to be questioned under oath next week about airline tickets he purchased for Willis after he was hired as a special prosecutor and allegations a Willis lawyer made in a recent court filing that Wade's marriage was following his separation Woman “irretrievably broken,” Joycelyn Mayfield Wade, “confessed to an adulterous relationship with (Nathan Wade's) long-time boyfriend.”

Andrea Dyer Hastings, an attorney for Joycelyn Wade, strongly denied Willis' claim about her client in court Monday, calling it “false.” She said it was “the first time in the 783 days this case has been pending” that allegations of adultery had been made against her client and that it came in a request by Willis to block her subpoena. “I have questions,” she said.

Hastings told the judge that Willis' claim that Wade's wife cheated on him undermined Willis' main legal argument for avoiding testimony in the divorce case: that she had no “unique knowledge” about the breakdown of Wade's marriage.

“She supposedly knows detailed facts about their relationship,” Hastings said. She accused Willis of “attempting to hide under the shield of her position” to avoid testifying in the case. “We are not demanding her testimony as Fulton County District Attorney. We are demanding a statement in her personal capacity as the alleged mistress of my client's husband. So whatever her job is has nothing to do with whether or not she has to attend this deposition.”

But Cinque Axam, a lawyer for Willis, insisted that “the knowledge she may or may not have” about Wade and his marriage is “not unique.” “You have two parties in the case, one of whom is said to be having an extramarital affair with Ms. Willis,” Axam said. “If that’s the case, if that’s true, (Nathan Wade) has that information.”

In front of a packed courtroom with dozens of local and national reporters, Thompson said he did not have “sufficient information” to decide whether Willis should testify in the case. “It seems to me that Mr. Wade would be the first and best source of information about what his income was and how he spent it, and that he would know firsthand whether he was having an extramarital affair,” Thompson said.

But Thompson ordered the complete unsealing of documents in the divorce file, granting a request from Ashleigh Merchant, a lawyer for one of Trump's co-defendants, Mike Roman, a longtime Republican operative and former Trump adviser.

Merchant claimed that the records would support her client's allegations of an inappropriate personal relationship between Willis and Wade, which she said should result in their disqualification from the election process and the charges against her client being dropped. The records unsealed Monday did not appear to contain any documents that would support allegations of inappropriate behavior between Wade and Willis, but the file did not include any documents obtained in discovery that have not yet been included in the public records.

In an interview, Merchant said she is still reviewing the material and plans to issue subpoenas, including for files in the case that may not yet be public. “And we look forward to next week’s hearing where Mr. Wade will have to testify under oath,” she said.

A coalition of media organizations, including the Washington Post, also filed a request to unseal the records. On Monday, Hastings said her client had no objection to the full documents being made public. But Scott Kimbrough, a lawyer for Nathan Wade, had asked the judge to keep the files secret for privacy reasons. “What has happened since January 8 of this year clearly shows the damage that has been done,” Kimbrough said, referring to the day Roman filed a motion that made the explosive allegations but no evidence to support them contained.

Thompson denied the motion, ruling that a previous judge violated Georgia law by failing to hold a public hearing on a February 2022 motion by Wade and his estranged wife to seal the case.

After the 30-minute hearing, the Cobb County clerk began releasing dozens of files related to Wade's divorce case — including records previously reported by The Post detailing the increasingly contentious back-and-forth between Wade and his estranged wife over his lack of divorce The meeting detailed disclosure requests related to his finances. However, the documents did not include Wade's detailed financial reports or other documents that Joycelyn Wade subpoenaed last fall from Fulton County and the Fulton County District Attorney's Office related to her estranged husband's hiring as special prosecutor in the Trump case.

The records uncovered in the disclosure could appear in future filings or be released as part of the Jan. 31 divorce evidentiary hearing, where Nathan Wade is expected to testify. It's unclear how quickly Thompson might decide on Wade's wife's request to question Willis – and whether a transcript or video of that possible testimony would be released.

It's been two weeks since Roman claimed that Willis may have broken the law by appointing Wade as a special prosecutor and allowing him to take her to pay for “vacations around the world” that had nothing to do with her work on the case had to do. Documents in Wade's divorce case surfaced on Friday showing that he has paid for at least two plane tickets for Willis since he was hired to lead Trump's prosecution in November 2021. It is unknown whether Willis paid him back the money. Over the past two years, prosecutors have paid Wade's office more than $653,000. Roman requests that the prosecutors be disqualified and the charges against him be dropped.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee, who is overseeing the election interference case, has ordered Willis to respond in writing to the claims by Feb. 2 and has scheduled an evidentiary hearing for Feb. 15.

In her motion to quash the subpoena in the divorce proceedings, Willis accused Joycelyn Wade of using the divorce proceedings to “harass and embarrass her” and of collaborating with others to disrupt the extortion proceedings against Trump and his allies. Willis' motion noted the close time lag between the subpoena and Roman's filing.

“Joycelyn Wade is using the court proceedings to harass and embarrass District Attorney Willis, thereby hindering and disrupting the ongoing prosecution,” wrote Axam, Willis’ attorney.

On Monday, Thompson told attorneys for Willis and Joycelyn Wade that he did not want to pursue Willis' disability claim – which is against the law in Georgia. “Stay away from it,” Thompson told Hastings when she broached the subject. “I don’t want to hear that today.”

Gardner reported from Washington.