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Trump co-defendant alleges ‘improper’ relationship between Fani Willis and Georgia prosecutor

One of Donald Trump’s co-defendants in his election subversion case in Georgia is accusing, without direct evidence, that Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis was “engaged in an improper, clandestine personal relationship” with a special prosecutor hired to lead the sprawling racketeering case.

In a last-minute filing to try to have his charges dismissed, defendant Michael Roman – a former Trump campaign official – alleges that Ms Willis and prosecutor Nathan Wade have “violated laws regulating the use of public monies, suffer from irreparable conflicts of interest, and have violated their oaths of office.”

The filing from attorney Ashleigh Merchant does not provide any concrete evidence to support the claims but cites “sources with knowledge” to allege they had “an ongoing, personal relationship” that should disqualify them from prosecuting the case.

Mr Roman, who is charged alongside more than a dozen remaining co-defendants in the Fulton County case, is accused of coordinating a fake elector scheme to fraudulently certify Mr Trump’s victory in the state after the 2020 presidential election.

He is charged under the state’s RICO Act and faces a count of conspiracy to impersonate a public officer; two counts of conspiracy to commit first-degree forgery; two counts of conspiracy to commit false statements and writings; and conspiracy to commit filing false documents. He has pleaded not guilty.

A spokesperson for the district attorney’s office said a response to the allegations will be made in a court filing.

Ms Merchant, who said she is relying on documents from Mr Wade’s ongoing divorce proceedings, alleges that Mr Wade and Ms Willis were romantically involved before his appointment as a special prosecutor in the case in late 2021.

She alleges that they traveled together to California’s Napa Valley and Florida and took cruises on Norwegian and Royal Caribbean cruise lines. The filing does not include documentation of the allegations.

“Wade is being paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to prosecute this case on her behalf,” according to the filing. “In turn, Wade is taking Willis on, and paying for vacations across the world with money he is being paid by the Fulton County taxpayers and authorized solely by Willis.”

The motion – filed on the deadline for pretrial motions to the court – asks a judge to “dismiss the indictment against Mr Roman, and disqualify Willis, Wade and their respective offices and firms from … participating in this matter any further.”

It also repeats an accusation that because Mr Wade’s two oaths of office were not filed in court prior to his work on the case, he is not a duly authorised special prosecutor.

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee has already rejected that argument, stating that such requirements do not apply to contractors working on single cases, and that the defendants didn’t establish any constitutional violations or other issues in the grand jury process that would warrant the case’s dismissal.

Georgia State University College of Law professor Anthony Michael Kreis said that the allegations, “if true, it’s a big political problem – more so than a constitutional one that implicates defendants’ rights.”

Stephen Gillers, a professor emeritus at New York University Law School, told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that if the allegations are substantiated, Ms Willis could be considered “conflicted in the investigation and prosecution of this case” and “independent professional judgment” her position requires.

But “that does not mean that her decisions were in fact improperly motivated,” he added.

On Monday, Mr Trump’s legal team filed three fresh motions to have his case thrown out, claiming that he has “presidential immunity” from actions while in office, that he was already acquitted for similar allegations in his second impeachment trial, and that he was never told that what he was doing in the state – where he is charged as part of an alleged racketeering scheme to unlawfully subvert the state’s election results – could be prosecuted.