Watch Live: Special prosecutor Nathan Wade takes stand in hearing on whether to disqualify D.A. Fani Willis from Trump Georgia 2020 election case

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Nathan Wade, the special prosecutor with whom Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis had a romantic relationship, is testifying in a hearing on whether Willis and her office should be disqualified from prosecuting the Georgia election interference case against former President Donald Trump.

A former friend and aide of Willis testified during a hearing in Atlanta that Willis’ romantic relationship with Wade began after they met at a judicial conference in the fall of 2019, contesting assertions the prosecutors made in court filings about the timeline of their relationship.

The revelation from Robin Bryant-Yeartie came during separate questioning from defense lawyers Ashleigh Merchant and Steven Sadow about what she observed and knew about Willis’ relationship with Wade. 

Appearing before Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee via Zoom, Yeartie said Willis and Wade may have begun dating in October or November 2019, shortly after the two met at a municipal court conference that year.

During questioning from Sadow, who is representing Trump in the racketeering case brought by Willis’ office, Yeartie testified that Willis told her she was engaged in a romantic relationship with Wade in 2020 and 2021, and said she witnessed “hugging, kissing,” and “just affection” between the two before November 2021, when Wade was hired by Willis.

Yeartie’s testimony appears to contradict claims from Wade made in an affidavit, in which he claimed his relationship with Willis began in 2022, after he was hired as a special prosecutor to assist in the case against Trump and 18 co-defendants in November 2021.

Anna Cross, a special prosecutor in the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office, sought to raise doubts about Yeartie’s credibility, asking her several questions about her performance while working for the district attorney and whether she was ever disciplined for poor performance.

Yeartie said she was written up once, and referenced a “situation” in which she was informed that she was either going to be terminated or had to resign. Yeartie said she has not spoken with Willis since her departure from the district attorney’s office in 2022.

McAfee is presiding over the evidentiary hearing to consider a Trump co-defendant’s motion to disqualify Willis and her office from prosecuting the 2020 election interference case in Georgia. The co-defendant, Michael Roman, a former Republican National Committee staffer, alleged that Willis had an improper relationship with special prosecutor Wade, paid him more than $650,000 for his work for the D.A.’s office and then benefited financially from the relationship when Wade allegedly took her on cruises and trips. 

A filing by the Fulton County D.A.’s office earlier this month confirmed there had been a romantic relationship between Willis and Wade but stated that it began long after Willis hired him. In the affidavit, Wade also denied that he had any financial interest in the outcome of the Georgia election interference case.

Terrence Bradley, Wade’s former law partner, was called to testify by Roman’s attorney, Merchant. Bradley’s attorney, however, objected when Merchant began asking him about the relationship, citing attorney-client privilege because Bradley had for a time represented Wade in his divorce case.

“I was advised by the bar,” Bradley said. “I cannot reveal anything that I saw or learned.” McAfee commented, “That’s a broader representation of attorney-client privilege than I’ve ever heard.”

McAfee said earlier this week that the evidentiary hearing had to proceed because it’s “possible that the facts alleged … could result in disqualification” and “to establish the record on those core allegations.” 

He listed these issues for the hearing: Whether a relationship existed, whether it was romantic, when it formed, whether it continues and any personal benefit conveyed as a result of the relationship. McAfee has also said that some of the arguments made by Roman’s attorney are not relevant, like Wade’s alleged lack of experience in handling racketeering cases like the Trump case.

“As long as a lawyer has a heartbeat and a bar card,” that lawyer’s appointment is within the D.A.’s discretion, McAfee said Monday. McAfee has not found violations of Fulton County case law code, which would be relevant to a motion to disqualify a prosecutor for a pending criminal case. 

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