Sometimes, the best defense is a good offense. And sometimes, it’s just a desperate ploy.
Fani Willis and Nathan Wade faced a deadline today to respond to the disqualification motion filed by RICO defendant Michael Roman that alleges a personal conflict of interest. According to CBS News, Willis and Wade will acknowledge a “personal relationship” started in 2022 after Willis hired Wade to prosecute Georgia v Donald Trump et al. However, Willis’ filing rebukes Ashleigh Merchant for ‘incredibly inappropriate” intrusions on her personal life, while Wade denies that Willis benefited from the funds she paid him:
Lawyers for Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis are preparing to formally acknowledge in a court filing that she had a romantic relationship with lawyer Nathan Wade, whom she appointed to lead the Georgia prosecution of Donald Trump, but they will vigorously push back against allegations of financial conflicts and the contention she should be disqualified from the case.
In an affidavit by Wade that is expected to be submitted Friday with Willis’ court filing — both obtained by CBS News — Wade states, “In 2022, District Attorney Willis and I developed a personal relationship in addition to our professional association and friendship. I have no financial interest in the outcome of the 2020 election interference case or in the conviction of any defendant. No funds paid to me in compensation for my role as Special Prosecutor have been shared with or provided to District Attorney Willis.”
In the filing, Willis’ attorneys responded to the allegations by saying, “This is not an example of zealous advocacy, nor is it a good faith effort to develop a record on a disputed legal issue—it is a ticket to the circus.” And the filing condemns the “incredibly inappropriate efforts to intrude into opposing counsel’s personal life with little to no evidentiary value.”
Why 2022? Willis hired Wade in 2021; if the relationship started after that, Willis and Wade can claim that the hiring decision had nothing to do with a romantic relationship or a plan to benefit from the contract funds. Techno Fog has the receipts thus far that connect Willis and Wade on a personal level, and the earliest of those travel receipts goes back to October 2022. That would have been a year after Willis hired Wade.
However, this raises a couple of other issues. Even if the relationship started after that, continuing Wade’s contract employment still would be inappropriate, at the least. Most organizations would require such relationships to either end or that the workplace arrangement to end, especially when one party is an outside contractor. That becomes even more inappropriate given the thousands of dollars Wade was spending on his boss from monies he received from her via his billing. And this explanation still does not address how the relationship and Wade’s gifts to his client appear to violate Georgia State Bar rules:
Gifts from Clients
 A lawyer may accept a gift from a client, if the transaction meets general standards of fairness. For example, a simple gift such as a present given at a holiday or as a token of appreciation is permitted.
According to the bank and travel records, Willis received a number of gifts from the attorney she hired, amounting to thousands of dollars in travel expenses. Those seem a lot more substantial than “a token of appreciation,” especially since they appear to have come from the massive amount of funds that Willis paid her ‘attorney.’
The precise start of their relationship has no bearing on this issue. And
Let’s take a closer look at the claim that the relationship started in 2022 rather than before Willis hired Wade. Can that be proven false? Maybe not, but the circumstances around Wade’s hiring certainly suggests that it might be. For instance, Wade filed for divorce from Jocelyn Wade the day after Willis hired him. That could just be a coincidence, but there’s also the question of why Willis chose Wade at all. He had never prosecuted a felony, ever, and had specialized in personal-injury law.
That brings us to Willis’ attempt to play the victim card. CNN legal analyst Elie Honig ripped Wade and Willis in an essay at New York Magazine for that tactic, as well as her other strange choices. Nathan Wade, Honig notes, is among the strangest:
First: Why did Willis hire Wade to lead the Trump case? Rather than picking any of the dozens of deeply experienced trial prosecutors in the Fulton County DA’s office, Willis instead hired Wade and two other outsiders. This kind of thing happens sometimes if the prosecutor’s office doesn’t have the right people to handle the case or needs some specific expertise. But Wade is conspicuously underqualified for this particular assignment. According to his own website, he has primarily practiced personal-injury and family law. Well, his defenders note, the man was a judge and a prosecutor. With all due respect: not really, or not in any way that would prepare him for the task at hand. Wade held those titles only at the municipal level, handling petty misdemeanors or less. He has never — repeat, never — tried a single felony criminal case. Yet Willis selected him to lead the most complex and important racketeering case in Georgia history? Something’s up.
Question two: Why has Wade been paid so much money? Like the other two outside attorneys working the Trump case, Wade earns a set hourly rate of $250. Over the past two years, the other contract lawyers have billed the DA for about $73,000 and $90,000, respectively. Now let’s do a little exercise. What dollar amount paid to Wade would cause you to gasp? Got your number? Okay.
The answer: over $653,000. Perhaps he has worked more hours than his colleagues, but seven to nine times more? Willis herself, as the top prosecutor in the county, makes about $198,000 annually, but Wade brings down over $300,000 a year? Wade once billed the DA’s office for 24 hours in a single day in November 2021. If he actually did work around the clock without pause for sleep, food, or the bathroom, my hat’s off to him. If not, then somebody’s bilking the taxpayers.
All of this stinks, Honig notes at NY Mag, and it gets worse with Willis’ attempt to go on offense earlier at Ebenezer Baptist Church. By publicly declaring the defense team racists for challenging her ethics, Honig argues, Willis clearly tainted the jury pool — another issue that Judge Scott McAfee will have to consider in the February 15 hearing. Willis’ equally offensive attempt to call this nothing but an intrusion on her private life likely won’t sit well with Judge McAfee either, but that’s small potatoes in comparison:
These public comments by the district attorney are anathema to prosecutorial ethics and fair practice. Willis, who is enormously popular in Fulton County — she received over 71 percent of the Democratic primary vote in 2020, then ran unopposed in the general election — publicly calls the defense teams in her highest-profile case racist. What could outrage a potential jury pool more than that? Various judges have slapped pretrial gag orders on Trump in his other cases to prevent him from making inflammatory public statements outside of court that could prejudice the jury pool. Now Willis has done exactly that.
Indeed. And now that Willis and Wade have made clear that they intend to force McAfee to rule on this, Honig suggests the possibility that Willis’ politicking as well as her ethics might just push McAfee into dismissing the case, and not just removing Fulton County as a party to it.
In other words, this defense isn’t a good offense. It’s just offensive. Pass the popcorn and mark your calendars for the February 15 hearing!