Defence attorney makes wild claims about White House and Fani Willis in Georgia Senate hearing

Ashleigh Merchant claimed prosecutor could have got January 6 information from Biden administration before charging Trump

Ariana Baio
Wednesday 06 March 2024 22:42 GMT
Moment Fani Willis slams down prosecution’s evidence in heated testimony

The defence attorney who brought forward complaints against Fulton County DA Fani Willis, testified before a Georgia Senate committee, speculating on the DA’s relationship with Nathan Wade and the alleged conflict of interest at heart.

For several hours on Wednesday, Ashleigh Merchant, the attorney representing Michael Roman – one of Donald Trump’s co-defendants in the Georgia case – shared all of her thoughts and “evidence” about Ms Willis’s relationship with Mr Wade.

That included speculating Ms Willis may have obtained information from the White House about January 6 which was used in an indictment against her client, that Ms Willis violated a Fulton County statute in hiring Mr Wade and that he was overpaid, among other things.

The committee asked Ms Merchant for more details in her “investigation” into Ms Willis’s relationship with Mr Wade and her opinion. Her testimony was a hearing for the committee in their effort to possibly enact or change legislation, it was not a legal proceeding nor was Ms Merchant’s testimony admissible in the court case.

It comes days after a judge in Georgia concluded hearing arguments in the official case in which Ms Willis is accused of engaging in an “improper, clandestine personal relationship” with Mr Wade, who she hired to oversee her case against Mr Trump and his co-defendants.

Ms Merchant first filed an official complaint regarding that in January. Those accusations are current at the hands of the judge who is expected to make a decision soon.

The state senate committee does not have the power to disqualify Ms Willis but they can subpoena people, as they did for Ms Merchant.

Attorney Ashleigh Merchant testifies in front of members of the Georgia State Senate during a Special Committee on Investigations meeting to discuss how Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis (REUTERS)

But Ms Merchant reiterated her desire to have the Fulton County DA disqualified from the case anyway, alleging that Ms Willis had a romantic relationship with Mr Wade before she hired him as an independent counsel in November 2021.

Ms Willis and Mr Wade have both denied that claim, saying their romantic relationship began in early 2022.

Ms Merchant said she learned of their relationship through Terrence Bradley, a former divorce lawyer and the ex-law partner of Mr Wade.

Text messages recently obtained by the Associated Press revealed that Ms Merchant and Mr Bradley corresponded for several months. Mr Bradley allegedly fed information and made suggestions to Ms Merchant.

Ms Merchant said via subpoenaing cellphone data she found that Ms Willis and Mr Wade interacted more than 12,000 times in 2021 and geolocating data showed Mr Wade possibly making late-night visits to Ms Willis’.

Ms Willis’ team said in a filing at the end of February that the cellphone data was inadmissible and that they did not prove anything relevant.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Ms Merchant also insinuated that Ms Willis could have received information from the White House in the Georgia election case because she, and the Atlanta mayor, met with Vice President Kamala Harris before Mr Trump and his co-defendants were indicted.

However, Ms Merchant could not provide any information regarding what the meeting may have been about.

Ms Merchant also raised concerns about Mr Wade’s salary, saying Ms Willis used county funding, approved to handle homicide cases backlogged due to Covid, to partially pay for Mr Wade’s salary. She also insinuated that Mr Wade was overpaid and claimed his invoices were kept purposefully vague.

The committee said they plan to subpoena more people and that their investigation will take time.

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