One of Donald Trump's co-defendants in the Georgia RICO case—Mike Roman, a Republican political operative—dropped a bombshell a few weeks ago when he announced that the lead prosecutor Fani Willis picked for the case is her boyfriend, Nathan Wade. He demanded that she drop out of the case. Wade is in the middle of a contentious divorce and we suspect Wade's wife is the source of the tidbit that Willis and Wade's relationship is not only professional.
Now Willis has confirmed that she has a "personal" relationship with Wade, but says it has no bearing on her handling of the case. She further said that Trump is using her relationship with Wade to derail the case and evade justice. On Friday, she entered a 176-page filing that disputed Roman's claim that she had a conflict of interest. The claim is that Wade used a tiny bit of the nearly $700,000 he has earned in the case to pay for two plane tickets for her, so she benefited personally from hiring him. Of course, if she had bought her own plane tickets, there would have been not even a tiny bit of conflict. That was her second mistake (after mixing business and pleasure in the first place).
In her filing, Willis made a counterclaim. She said that there are at least two personal relationships among the defense lawyers that would disqualify them if her relationship is disqualifying. Given that Trump's strategy is simply to delay the trial until after the election, he might be happy to have some of the defense lawyers disqualified too, since then the defense would need more time to find new lawyers. That would be fine with him. However, the defense lawyers in question aren't his, and their clients might not like Trump intervening in their choice of counsel.
According to an upcoming book by journalists Michael Isikoff and Daniel Klaidman, Willis picked Wade only after two prominent Atlanta lawyers refused to take the case. If true, that strengthens her case. It isn't that she picked her boyfriend to make him rich. She picked him because nobody else wanted the job. She also said that Wade wasn't her boyfriend when she hired him. She said she picked him because he had experience as a defense lawyer and as a judge. She became his girlfriend only after he joined the team and she got to know him better. She also said that racism is at the heart of the complaint. She actually hired three outside prosecutors to work on the case, which is not unusual, and Roman picked only on the Black one. However, she did refer to herself as a flawed and imperfect public servant.
The judge in the case, Scott McAfee, has scheduled a hearing on the matter for Feb. 15. If he rules that there is no reason the case can't continue, an August trial might still be achievable. If he rules that either Wade or Willis or both need to remove themselves from the case, the possibility of the trial being held before the election gets much smaller.
So circle Feb. 15 on your calendar. It is easy to find since it is the day after Valentine's Day. On that day Judge Merchan will listen to both sides in the NY cover-up case and Judge McAfee will listen to the arguments about removing Fani Willis and Nathan Wade from the Georgia RICO case. (V)