Atlanta

Nathan Wade resigns from Trump Georgia case following judge’s ruling

ATLANTA — Either Fani Willis goes or Nathan Wade does – that was the ruling from Fulton County Superior Court Scott McAfee on Friday in the Georgia election interference case.

Channel 2 Action News confirms that Fulton County District Attorney’s Office has accepted special prosecutor Nathan Wade’s resignation from the election interference case.

In the letter obtained by Channel 2 investigative reporter Mark Winne, it says “Although the court found that ‘the defendants failed to meet their burden of proving that the District Attorney acquired an actual conflict of interest,’ I am offering my resignation in the interest of democracy, in dedication to the American public, and move this case forward as quickly as possible.”

In her acceptance letter from Willis, she told Wade, “I will always remember -- and will remind everyone -- they you were brave enough to step forward and take on the investigation and prosecution of the allegations that the defendants in this case engages in a conspiracy to overturn Georgia’s 2020 presidential election.”

“You are an outstanding advocate,” Willis wrote. “You have endured threats against you and your family, as well as unjustified attacks in the media and in court on your reputation as a lawyer.”

The move comes after Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee’s ruling Friday, saying Willis can stay on the case only if Wade withdraws due to “an appearance of impropriety” that infected the prosecution team.

The judge criticized Willis for a “tremendous” lapse of judgment and questioned the truthfulness of Willis and Wade’s testimony about the timing of their relationship.

Lawyers for former President Donald Trump and other defendants alleged Willis paid Wade large sums for his work and then improperly benefited when he paid for vacations for the two of them.

Willis and Wade’s relationship first came to light in a motion filed by an attorney for Trump co-defendant Michael Roman that sought to have the indictment dismissed and to bar Willis and Wade and their offices from continuing to prosecute the case.

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Throughout the last few months, Willis and Wade have acknowledged the relationship, which they said ended last summer, but they have argued it does not create any sort of conflict and has no bearing on the case. The pair said they didn’t begin dating until the spring of 2022, after Wade was hired, and that they split travel expenses.

“With seemingly full access to Wade’s Primary credit card statements, the defendants did not produce evidence of any further documentable expenses or gifts, nor were any revealed through testimony,” the ruling said. “After considering all the circumstances, the court finds that the evidence did not establish the District Attorney’s receipt of material financial benefit as a result of her decision to hire and engage in a romantic relationship with Wade.”

McAfee heard details of Willis and Wade’s personal lives and conflicting accounts of when they started dating. In his ruling, McAfee said while there was not sufficient evidence to show Willis benefited from the relationship, he did question her judgment.

“This finding is by no means an indication that the court condones this tremendous lapse in judgment or the unprofessional manner of the district attorney’s testimony during the evidentiary hearing,” the ruling said.

With Wade stepping aside, the case can now go forward without much of a delay. Had Willis stepped down, a special prosecutor would have to be named in the case, delaying it significantly.

Following the ruling Friday morning, Channel 2 Action News received a statement from Trump’s Georgia attorney, Steve Sadow, saying:

“While respecting the Court’s decision, we believe that the Court did not afford appropriate significance to the prosecutorial misconduct of Willis and Wade, including the financial benefits, testifying untruthfully about when their personal relationship began, as well as Willis’ extrajudicial MLK ‘church speech,’ where she played the race card and falsely accused the defendants and their counsel of racism. We will use all legal options available as we continue to fight to end this case, which should never have been brought in the first place.”

Ashleigh Merchant, who first made the accusations surrounding Willis and Wade’s relationship, said despite the case not being thrown out, McAfee’s ruling was “vindication.”

“While we believe the court should have disqualified Willis’ office entirely, this opinion is a vindication that everything put forth by the defense was true, accurate and relevant to the issues surrounding our client’s right to a fair trial. The judge clearly agreed with the defense that the actions of Willis are a result of her poor judgment and that there is a risk to the future of this case if she doesn’t quickly work to cure her conflict.

“While we do not agree that the courts suggested cure is adequate in response to the egregious conduct by the district attorney, we look forward to the district attorney’s response to the demands by the court. We will continue to fight for our client.”

Attorney Chris Anulewicz, who represents defendant Robert Cheeley, also sent us a statement, saying:

“The Court correctly found that an appearance of impropriety and a pall exists over this case requiring the recusal of either the District Attorney or Mr. Wade. We believe the finding of impropriety requires the disqualification of the entire prosecution team and are assessing next steps.”

Channel 2 Action News has also received a statement from Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens, saying:

“Now, DA Willis and her team can get back to the matter at hand—prosecuting Donald Trump and those involved in a concerted effort to steal an election. These people need to know that they cannot come to our state and overturn the will of the people, and voters in Atlanta and Georgia deserve to see justice served.”

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