Takeaways From the Hearing in the Georgia Trump Case

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It was one of the most striking developments yet in the Georgia election interference case against former President Donald J. Trump and his allies: The two lead prosecutors took the witness stand Thursday in a daylong hearing, with defense attorneys grilling them about their personal lives.

The defense is arguing that Fani Willis, the Fulton County district attorney, and her office should be disqualified and removed from the prosecution, accusing her of benefiting financially from a relationship with the lead prosecutor that she hired to manage the case, Nathan Wade.

If the judge removes them from the case, it would delay and potentially derail a proceeding that has major implications for the 2024 presidential election. Here are takeaways from the combative hearing:

In some of the sharpest questioning of the day, defense lawyers pressed Mr. Wade on his finances, attempting to raise doubt about his assertions that Ms. Willis had repaid him with cash for her share of expensive trips while they were dating, including to Belize, Aruba, Tennessee and California.

Mr. Wade called Ms. Willis an “independent strong woman” who insisted that “she is going to pay her own way.” Regarding a trip to California, he said, “everything we did when we got into Napa, she paid for.” But Mr. Wade also said she typically reimbursed him in cash, so there were no receipts available.

Ms. Willis forcefully rebutted suggestions that she had not paid her share of the trips, saying that she keeps thousands of dollars in cash secured at her home. “For many many years, I’ve kept money in my house,” she said.

Defense attorneys have said that the relationship between the two prosecutors started before Mr. Wade was hired in November 2021. Ms. Willis and Mr. Wade have disputed that, saying the relationship started in early 2022.

Their timeline was disputed Thursday by testimony from a former friend of Ms. Willis, Robin Bryant-Yeartie, who said she had “no doubt” that the two had started a romantic relationship earlier than they have claimed.

But Mr. Wade, who testified for several hours, stood firm in the assertion that the relationship began only after he was hired. He also revealed that it had ended in summer 2023.

The sparring between Ms. Willis and the defense lawyers grew so tense at various points that the presiding judge, Scott McAfee, warned the parties several times to limit their answers in order to preserve decorum.

Ms. Willis angrily accused defense lawyers of spreading lies about her and Mr. Wade.

“I’m not on trial, no matter how hard you try to put me on trial,” she told a defense attorney, Ashleigh Merchant, at one point. It is the defendants, she said, who are on trial for trying to steal an election.

If Judge McAfee determines that Ms. Willis has a conflict of interest, and that it merits disqualification, the case would then be reassigned to another Georgia prosecutor, who would have the ability to continue with the case exactly as it is, make major changes — such as adding or dropping charges or defendants — or to even drop the case altogether.

It would be up to a state entity called the Prosecuting Attorneys’ Council of Georgia to find someone else to take up the case. The council’s executive director, Pete Skandalakis, has been criticized for moving slowly in the effort to find a prosecutor to consider whether Georgia’s lieutenant governor, Burt Jones, should also face charges related to the Trump case.

But the case against Mr. Trump and the other defendants is a different circumstance, since a grand jury has already handed down charges. Mr. Trump and 18 of his allies were charged last August with racketeering in connection with a plot to subvert the 2020 presidential election results. Four of the defendants have already pleaded guilty.

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