• Washington Post

Prosecutor in Trump Georgia Case Settles Divorce Ahead of Testimony

Elijah Nouvelage for The Washington Post
Special prosecutor Nathan Wade speaks during a motions hearing in the election interference case on Jan. 12 in Atlanta.

The lead prosecutor in the Georgia election-interference case against former president Donald Trump and his allies settled a contentious divorce dispute on Tuesday, avoiding a hearing scheduled for Wednesday morning that could have included testimony about allegations of an improper relationship between him and Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis.

Nathan Wade was expected to be questioned under oath about his finances – including his income as a special prosecutor in the Trump case and his spending, such as his purchase of airline tickets for himself and Willis in October 2022 and April 2023.

The divorce garnered national attention after one of Trump’s co-defendants, former campaign aide Mike Roman, accused Willis and Wade of having an “improper, clandestine personal relationship” that has financially benefited them both, prompting calls for their removal from the criminal case in Fulton County, home to Atlanta. Both Trump and a third defendant adopted Roman’s motion to remove Willis and Wade from the case and dismiss the charges.

County records show Wade’s firm has been paid more than $653,000 for his work on the election case over the past two years.

The last-minute agreement, albeit “temporary” for now, allows Wade and Willis to avoid testimony that could have been embarrassing or given Trump and his co-defendants new evidence or ammunition to undermine the criminal case. Attorneys for the defendants had planned to closely follow Wednesday’s hearing as they prepare for a separate Feb. 15 hearing in Fulton County on whether the allegations warrant disqualification or dismissal.

But the settlement does not eliminate scrutiny of alleged actions by the two prosecutors. Nor does it assure that the criminal case against Trump and his allies will continue. Last week, Republicans in the Georgia Senate established an investigatory committee with subpoena power to probe whether Willis (D) was in a romantic relationship with Wade when she appointed him as a special prosecutor. And Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) filed a complaint with the State Ethics Commission seeking an investigation.

In addition, Steve Sadow, Trump’s lawyer in the Georgia case, accused Willis of violating Georgia’s rules of professional conduct earlier this month when she accused her critics of “playing the race card” in a fiery speech at an Atlanta church. The rules state that the prosecutor in a criminal case shall “refrain from making extrajudicial comments that have a substantial likelihood of heightening public condemnation of the accused.” In a filing seeking to remove Willis and dismiss the indictment, Sadow noted that the maximum penalty for such a violation is disbarment.

Attorneys for Joycelyn Mayfield Wade, Wade’s estranged wife, had also sought to question Willis in the case, arguing she has “unique knowledge” about Wade’s finances and his marriage. But Cobb County Superior Court Judge Henry Thompson, who oversaw the divorce case, stayed that subpoena during a hearing last week, saying he first wanted to hear testimony from Wade.

Thompson issued a temporary consent order shortly before 5 p.m. Tuesday, explaining that the hearing has been removed from the calendar with the consent of both parties, because they have agreed “to all issues presently before the court.”

Their agreement will not be filed in court, Thompson noted – meaning it may not ever be public. Last week, Wade’s divorce lawyer asked the judge to reconsider a motion to seal the divorce case, which would have required a public hearing. It was not immediately clear whether the divorce agreement would stop the disclosure of any other information potentially damaging to Willis or Wade, including discovery material.

Ashleigh Merchant, Roman’s defense lawyer, has said she plans to issue subpoenas for witnesses and documents in coming days that she says will back up her client’s claims of an improper romantic relationship between Willis and Wade. She has suggested she could subpoena documents filed as discovery in the Wades’ divorce case that have not been made public.

That trove of discovery material includes Fulton County records as well as bank and credit card statements that Joycelyn Wade had obtained about Nathan Wade’s individual law practice, including his clients and earnings, describing it in court filings as a “marital asset.” Incorporation records for Nathan Wade’s law firm list her as a “director” alongside Wade. She has not been removed from that role, according to public records.

“We are happy the parties were able to settle their dispute,” Merchant said. “We look forward to litigating our issue on the 15th.”

Merchant also sued the Fulton County district attorney’s office on Tuesday, accusing the agency of “intentionally withholding information” she sought under Georgia’s open records law – including records tied to Nathan Wade’s employment and the hiring of other outside attorneys on the election case.

In recent days, Wade’s estranged wife also issued subpoenas directly tied to alleged trips taken by Willis and Wade – including requests for documents and testimony from travel agents. Records emerged this month showing that Wade has paid for at least two airline trips for himself and Willis, to California and Aruba, since he was hired in November 2021 to lead the Trump prosecution. It’s unknown whether Willis paid him back.

Joycelyn Wade repeatedly accused her estranged husband of refusing to share a complete picture of his finances. In August – just days after the sweeping indictment in the Trump case was made public – Thompson agreed with Joycelyn Wade’s request that he hold Nathan Wade in contempt of court for stonewalling his wife on financial records and other discovery.

Nathan Wade’s attorney, Scott Kimbrough, has declined to comment.

Records in the divorce case that were recently made public reveal that Wade did not immediately disclose his appointment as a special prosecutor in the Trump case or his income from that position to his wife or the court. Wade filed for divorce in November 2021 – a day after he was appointed by Willis to lead the election-interference investigation. Joycelyn Wade countersued that month and issued the first of what would be dozens of demands for access to Wade’s financial statements and other records.

Wade’s initial divorce claim said the couple separated in August 2021. It did not list any specific assets, except for the couple’s longtime home in Marietta, a suburb of Atlanta. On Jan. 18, 2022, Wade signed a sworn financial affidavit in the case that listed his monthly income as $14,000 a month – with assets of roughly $1.1 million and total monthly expenses of $6,000.

The document was filed four days after Fulton County processed the first payments to Wade’s law firm for hours he had billed on the election case: Two payments of $15,000 each on Jan. 14, 2022, covering Wade’s work in November and December 2021.

In recent days, a flurry of court filings suggested Wade was moving to settle the case. His attorney twice filed notice of updated answers by his client to written questionnaires as well as a sworn affidavit filed by his client – a legal maneuver often applied to avoid testimony in open court. Wade also filed an updated financial disclosure form that listed his monthly income as roughly $9,000 a month.

On Tuesday, word of the settlement came in a written order from Thompson, who noted the scheduled hearing had been canceled – less than 24 hours before it was to begin.