Former President Donald Trump is making plans to attend Thursday’s evidentiary hearing exploring whether Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis tainted her case against him by engaging in a romantic relationship with a subordinate, according to insiders familiar with Trump’s thinking.
The Washington Post reports that Trump’s possible trip would coincide with a scheduled appearance in New York for a pretrial hearing in a case alleging he falsified business records to pay hush money to an adult film star. The president has made a habit of voluntarily appearing at court hearings, elevating media coverage and drawing attention to legal proceedings he has labeled a “witch hunt” against him.
Thursday’s hearing will explore allegations by a Trump co-defendant that Willis improperly engaged in a romantic relationship with Nathan Wade, a special prosecutor she hired for the case and paid at least $728,000 for his services. The allegations were brought by Michael Roman, a former Trump campaign staffer facing racketeering charges related to Georgia’s 2020 election results.
After weeks of silence in the face of withering criticism, Willis admitted that she and Wade had been in a personal relationship for a period of time which is disputed. Ashley Merchant, the attorney for Roman, claims Willis contradicted herself in an affidavit claiming the relationship only began after her case against Trump was underway. However, whistleblowers have told the Georgia legislature they are “eager” to testify that Willis and Wade were personally involved months before she brought charges against Trump.
A spokesman for the Fulton County Sheriff’s Office told the Washington Post that it is not aware of any plans by the former president to arrive on Thursday, casting doubt on whether the local department is prepared to handle the security and staging logistics that come with a Trump campaign stop.
Fulton County Superior Judge Scott McAfee previously overruled Willis’ objections in the case, saying the evidentiary hearing would continue because of the appearance of a conflict of interest, or an actual conflict that would disqualify Willis from continuing the case against Trump. However, he will not entertain discussions of whether Wade was qualified to join her legal team, saying the DA’s office has the right to hire anyone with “a heartbeat and a bar card.”