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Fani Willis defends prosecutor on Trump case after relationship claims

She indicated racism was at the heart of allegations against her

Maroosha Muzaffar
Monday 15 January 2024 07:56 GMT
Related: Donald Trump says he ‘hopes’ the US economy crashes

Fani Willis, the district attorney of Georgia’s Fulton County, seemed to acknowledge for the first time the allegations of an affair directed at her during her address to a church congregation. She also defended the special prosecutor she appointed for the election interference case involving former president Donald Trump, without directly naming him.

“I hope for y’all this week I don’t look like what I’ve been through,” she joked at the Big Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church during a service to celebrate Martin Luther King Jr Day on Sunday.

She thanked the leaders of the historically Black church in Atlanta who “didn’t care what they said about me” and told her “the invite was still good” to speak.

Last week, Ashleigh Merchant, who represents Michael Roman, a former Trump campaign staffer and onetime White House aide, filed a motion alleging that Ms Willis “engaged in a personal, romantic relationship” with a prosecutor — Nathan Wade — whom she brought in to work on the case, which allegedly resulted in financial gain for both of them.

In the court filing, Ms Willis was accused of having potentially committed “an act to defraud the public of honest services” based on her “intentional failure” to disclose the alleged relationship that she “personally benefitted from”.

On Sunday, during her live-streamed address, Ms Willis called herself “flawed” and “imperfect”.

She never mentioned Mr Wade by name and instead referred to him as a “great friend” and said that he had “impeccable credentials” for the job.

She suggested that racism was at the heart of claims against her.

Fani Willis (2024 Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

“They are going to be mad when I call them out on this nonsense,” Ms Willis said. “First thing they say, ‘Oh, she’s going to play the race card.’ But … isn’t it them playing the race card when they think I need someone in some other jurisdiction in some other state to tell me how to do a job I’ve been doing almost 30 years?”

She said: “I am a little confused. I appointed three special counsel, which is my right to do. Paid them all the same hourly rate. They only attack one.”

Ms Willis continued: “I hired one white woman: a good personal friend and great lawyer, a superstar, I tell you. I hired one white man: brilliant, my friend, and a great lawyer. And I hired one Black man, another superstar, a great friend, and a great lawyer.

“Isn’t it them playing the race card when they only question one?” she added. “Why are they surprised that a diverse team that I have assembled … can accomplish an extraordinary thing?”

During her emotional address, she also said: “I am tired of being treated cruelly.”

Ms Willis refrained from addressing the allegations of any relationship. She also did not speak to reporters after the church address.

At the church, she said she’s regularly called racial slurs. “They call me the N-word more than they call me Fani,” she said. She said that her home has been swept “multiple times for bombs” and that she now spends “most days and nights” in isolation.

Ms Merchant told ABC News that the claim the allegations brought against Ms Wiillis and the special prosecutor were motivated by race were not true. “This has nothing to do with the colour of his skin.”

She continued: “If anybody doubts our claim that [Nathan] Wade is inexperienced, ask him how many RICO [Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act] cases he has handled. Ask him how many felonies he has tried.”

Additional reporting by agencies

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