- Washington Post
Georgia Prosecutor in Trump Case Paid for Flights with Fani Willis, Filing Shows
13:53 JST, January 20, 2024
The lead prosecutor in the election interference case against former president Donald Trump paid for at least two airline trips with embattled Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis (D) while the investigation was underway, according to bank statements filed in his divorce case Friday.
The bank statements may corroborate an accusation leveled against Willis and prosecutor Nathan Wade by one of Trump’s co-defendants that they have been engaged in an improper personal relationship. The statements were part of a filing by lawyers for Wade’s estranged wife, Joycelyn Mayfield Wade, in an effort to compel Willis to testify in the divorce proceeding, which the district attorney sought to avoid in a separate filing on Thursday.
Nathan Wade purchased tickets for himself and Willis on two occasions, according to the statements – a trip to Miami purchased in October 2022 on American Airlines, and a second trip purchased in April 2023 to San Francisco on Delta Air Lines.
Former Trump campaign aide Mike Roman, who is charged alongside Trump in the Georgia case, has argued that Willis improperly benefited from hiring Wade as a special prosecutor by receiving free travel from him. Wade, who is an attorney in private practice, has earned more than $650,000 from Willis’s office for his work.
In addition to seeking to disqualify Willis and Wade, Roman also seeks to have the entire case dismissed. In his filing this month, he argued that in addition to violating rules of professional conduct, Willis may be guilty of fraud if she accepted gifts from an employee whom she hired.
Neither Wade nor Willis have directly addressed the allegations, and a spokesman for Willis said any response to court filings will happen in court. It is unknown whether Willis reimbursed Wade for the travel, or what the purpose of it was. Attorneys for Willis and Joycelyn Wade did not immediately respond to requests for comment. An attorney for Wade declined to comment.
The judge in the Wades’ divorce case has scheduled a hearing for Monday to listen to arguments on Willis’s subpoena and Roman’s motion to unseal the case file. The Washington Post is part of a media coalition that is also seeking to unseal the record.
It is unclear is whether other defendants, including Trump, might sign onto Roman’s motion in the criminal case now that evidence has emerged that Willis and Wade appeared to have traveled together. Trump’s lawyer, Steve Sadow, asked Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee this month for more time to decide whether to adopt the motion. On Friday, he posted the latest filing on his LinkedIn profile with the comment: “PROOF – look at pages 12-15: Travel and hotel records of Special Prosecutor Wade and DA Willis.”
Reached by telephone, Sadow declined to say whether he will join the motion now.
Either way, the bombshell accusations have rocked the criminal case – one of four Trump faces this year as he also seeks a second term in the White House. Trump blasted Willis and Wade over the allegations again on Friday, calling the prosecutors “the lovebirds” and accusing them of targeting him “to ENRICH themselves, and to live the Lifestyle of the Rich and Famous!” In posts on his social media platform, Trump called for the prosecutors to “face appropriate consequences” and for charges against him to be dismissed.
Trump was charged in August along with 18 co-defendants of criminally conspiring to try to overturn Biden’s 2020 victory in Georgia. Four of the defendants have since accepted lesser plea deals. Trump has regularly characterized the criminal charges against him as part of a partisan witch hunt orchestrated by President Biden, his likely opponent if he secures the GOP nomination. That argument appears to have benefited him, as his standing in public polls has only risen since the criminal charges started coming.
In addition, a member of the Fulton County Board of Commissioners weighed in with a letter to Willis on Friday demanding an explanation of the allegations and indicating plans to investigate the potential misuse of county funds. Bob Ellis, who chairs the commissioners’ audit committee, said in the letter: “I must reasonably inquire about allegations contained in a recent court filing asserting that you misused county funds and accepted valuable gifts and personal benefits from a contractor/recipient of county funds.”
Willis’s motion filed Thursday sought to quash a subpoena for her to sit for a deposition in the divorce case Tuesday. In the motion, Willis accused Joycelyn Wade of using the divorce case “as a vehicle to harass” her and of colluding with others to disrupt and even obstruct the racketeering case against Trump and his allies.
“The subpoena for the deposition of District Attorney Willis is being sought in an attempt to harass and damage her professional reputation,” Cinque Axam, an attorney representing Willis, wrote in the motion. “On further information and belief, defendant Joycelyn Wade has conspired with interested parties in the criminal election interference case to use the civil discovery process to annoy, embarrass and oppress District Attorney Willis.”
In her response Friday that included the travel receipts, Joycelyn Wade vehemently denied Willis’s accusations. “Contrary to Ms. Willis’s belief, the Defendant is not utilizing the deposition to harass her but rather to seek pertinent information from her husband’s paramour regarding her relationship with Plaintiff and the extent of the Plaintiff’s financial involvement in the same,” Joycelyn Wade’s attorney wrote. “These answers are relevant to the equitable division of the marital estate, dissipation of marital assets and the Plaintiff’s capacity to provide spousal support.”
Willis’s motion pointed out the close timing between the subpoena and the filing from Roman, which claimed without proof that Willis and Wade had been engaged in an improper relationship. Willis’s filing also said Fulton County and the district attorney’s office had complied with Joycelyn Wade’s subpoena for records related to her estranged husband.
Willis also claimed the subpoena was improper because it is “unlimited in scope” and does not specify what information is being sought.
“Willis cannot provide unique personal knowledge of any matter that is relevant to Defendant Wade’s divorce,” Axam wrote. “Because the parties agree that the marriage is irretrievably broken and the concept for fault is not at issue, there is no information that District Attorney Willis could provide that might prove relevant to granting or denying the divorce.”
The credit card statements do not note the dates of travel, but a receipt search of the ticket numbers on the American Airlines website shows that the trip to Miami was on Oct. 28, 2022. The receipts show the tickets for Wade and Willis were changed to fly from Miami to Aruba.
Wade also purchased a ticket for his mother, Clara Bowman, from her home in Houston to Miami with the same travel date. The statements also show the purchase of two cruise tickets on Royal Caribbean but it’s not clear whether the tickets were for him and his mother, or him and Willis.
The tickets to California were not searchable on Delta’s website, but two other line items on one of the statements show payments to the DoubleTree Napa Valley hotel on May 14 of last year, one month after Wade purchased the tickets to San Francisco.
Although the divorce case is under seal, the filing was obtained by lawyers representing the media coalition that includes The Post.
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