MARIETTA, Ga. — The future of the election interference case against former president Donald Trump in Georgia could hinge on a bitter divorce case playing out here in the suburbs of Atlanta involving the Trump case’s lead prosecutor, his estranged wife, and the testimony she is seeking from her husband’s boss and alleged “paramour,” Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis.

In an emergency court hearing Monday, a judge temporarily stayed a decision on the question of whether Willis can be called as a witness in the divorce case of Nathan Wade – the outside attorney she appointed to lead the criminal racketeering case against Trump and his allies. One of Trump’s co-defendants has accused the two of having an “improper, clandestine personal relationship” that has financially benefited them both, prompting calls for their removal.

But Cobb County Superior Court Judge Henry Thompson said he would revisit a requested subpoena for Willis after a hearing in the divorce case scheduled for next week that is expected to feature testimony from Wade. His sworn remarks could result in more embarrassing, if not legally damaging revelations. Neither Willis nor Wade has denied or directly addressed the accusations, which allies of Willis fear have already imperiled the case against Trump and 14 others who are accused of illegally conspiring to try to overturn Trump’s 2020 election loss in Georgia.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis speaks during a news conference in Aug. 2023 in Atlanta. Standing next to her is Nathan Wade, an outside attorney hired to lead the racketeering case against former president Donald Trump and more than a dozen of his allies. Joshua Lott/The Washington Post

Regardless of whether the judge in the Trump case disqualifies the prosecutors, Trump and his allies have seized on the allegations and are not likely to ease off their attacks. On Monday, Republicans in the Georgia Senate introduced a resolution that would establish a new investigatory committee with subpoena power to probe whether Willis was in a romantic relationship with Wade when she appointed him as a special prosecutor.

The resolution has not come up for a vote yet, but enough senators have already signed onto it to assure its passage. The resolution states that such a relationship “would constitute a clear conflict of interest and a fraud upon the taxpayers of Fulton County,” and that it would warrant Willis’s recusal 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 those possible outcomes.

Wade is likely to be questioned under oath next week about airline tickets he bought for Willis after he was hired as a special prosecutor and allegations an attorney for Willis made in a recent court filing that claimed Wade’s marriage was “irretrievably broken” after Wade’s estranged wife, Joycelyn Mayfield Wade, “confessed to an adulterous relationship with (Nathan Wade’s) longtime friend.”


Andrea Dyer Hastings, an attorney for Joycelyn Wade, strongly rebutted Willis’s claim about her client in court Monday, describing it as “false.” She said it was “the first time in the 783 days that this case has been pending” that allegations of adultery had been raised against her client, and it came in a motion from Willis to block her subpoena. “I have questions,” she said.

Hastings told the judge that Willis’s claim that Wade’s wife had cheated on him undermined Willis’s main legal argument seeking to avoid testimony in the divorce case: that she had no “unique knowledge” about the breakup of Wade’s marriage.

“She knows detailed facts, allegedly, about their relationship,” Hastings said. She accused Willis of “trying to hide under the shield of her position” to avoid testimony in the case. “We’re not seeking her deposition as the district attorney of Fulton County. We’re seeking a deposition in her individual capacity as the alleged paramour of my client’s husband. So whatever her job is has nothing to do with whether or not she should have to sit for this deposition.”

But Cinque Axam, an attorney for Willis, insisted “the knowledge that she may or may not have” about Wade and his marriage “is not unique.” “You’ve got two parties in the case, one that is alleged to have some extramarital affair with Ms. Willis,” Axam said. “If that is the case, if that is true, (Nathan Wade) has that information.”

Addressing a crowded courtroom packed with dozens of local and national reporters, Thompson said he did not have “sufficient information” to determine whether Willis should testify in the case. “It seems to me that Mr. Wade would be the first and best source of information on what his income has been and how he’s been spending it, and that he would have firsthand knowledge of whether he’s engaged in an extramarital affair,” Thompson said.

But Thompson ordered records in the divorce file to be fully unsealed – granting a motion by Ashleigh Merchant, an attorney for one of Trump’s co-defendants, Mike Roman, a longtime Republican operative and former Trump aide.


Merchant claimed that the records will back up her client’s allegations of an improper personal relationship between Willis and Wade that she has argued should disqualify them from the election case and lead to charges dropped against her client. The records unsealed Monday did not appear to include any documents that would substantiate claims of inappropriate behavior between Wade and Willis, but the docket did not include records obtained in discovery that have yet to be made part of the public record.

In an interview, Merchant said she was still going through the material and planned to issue subpoenas – including for records in the case that may not yet be public. “And we are looking 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 motion to unseal the records. On Monday, Hastings said her client did not oppose making the full records public. But Scott Kimbrough, an attorney for Nathan Wade, had urged the judge to keep the filings sealed for privacy. “What has happened since Jan. 8 of this year clearly shows the harm that is done,” Kimbrough said, referring to the day Roman filed a motion containing the explosive accusations but no evidence to back them up.

Thompson overruled the request, ruling that a previous judge broke Georgia law by not holding a public hearing on a February 2022 request by Wade and his estranged wife to seal the case.

After the 30-minute hearing, the Cobb County clerk began making dozens of filings in Wade’s divorce case public – including records previously reported by The Post that detailed the increasingly contentious back-and-forth between Wade and his estranged wife over his failure to meet discovery requests related to his finances. But the records did not include Wade’s detailed financial statements or other records Joycelyn Wade subpoenaed last fall from Fulton County and the Fulton County district attorney’s office related to her estranged husband’s hiring as a special prosecutor in the Trump case.

The records, uncovered as part of discovery, could emerge in future motions or be made public as part of the Jan. 31 evidentiary hearing in the divorce, where Nathan Wade is expected to testify. It’s unclear how quickly Thompson might rule on Wade’s wife’s request to question Willis – and whether a transcript or video of that potential deposition would be made public.


It has been two weeks since Roman alleged that Willis might have broken the law by appointing Wade as a special prosecutor and allowing him to pay for “vacations across the world” with her that were unrelated to their work on the case. On Friday, records emerged in Wade’s divorce case showing he paid for at least two airline tickets for Willis since he was hired in November 2021 to lead the Trump prosecution. It is unknown whether Willis paid him back. Over the past two years, the district attorney’s office has paid Wade’s firm more than $653,000. Roman is asking for the prosecutors to be disqualified and for the charges against him to be dismissed.

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

In her motion to quash the subpoena in the divorce case, Willis accused Joycelyn Wade of using the divorce case “to harass and embarrass” her and of colluding with others to disrupt the racketeering case against Trump and his allies. Willis’s motion pointed out the close timing between the subpoena and the filing from Roman.

“Joycelyn Wade is using the legal process to harass and embarrass District Attorney Willis, and in doing so, is obstructing and interfering with an ongoing criminal prosecutions,” Axam, the attorney for Willis, wrote.

On Monday, Thompson told lawyers for both Willis and Joycelyn Wade that he did not want to take up Willis’s claim of obstruction – which is against the law in Georgia. “Stay away from that,” Thompson told Hastings, when she brought up the topic. “I don’t want to hear that today.”


Gardner reported from Washington.

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