Nathan Wade, the special prosecutor in the Georgia racketeering case against former President Donald Trump, testified Thursday that he was reimbursed with cash for vacations he took with his boss, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis—with whom he admitted having an affair. 

“It was cash,” Wade said. “She didn’t give me any checks.”

In a surprise, Willis herself took the stand to assert that she keeps large amounts of cash in her home. The district attorney didn’t identify the source, testifying at one point: “When I took out a large amount of money on my first campaign, I kept some of the cash of that.”

Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee heard arguments in Atlanta about whether Willis should be disqualified from the Trump case because of a conflict of interest.

The Willis-Wade romantic relationship isn’t in doubt, as both now have admitted it. But McAfee’s task is to determine whether Willis hired Wade for reasons of personal gain. 

Key to answering that question is when that intimate relationship began, before or after Willis hired Wade as special prosecutor in November 2021. (She took office as Fulton County’s elected district attorney on Jan. 1, 2021.)

Wade testified that the romantic relationship began around March 2022. However, a former Willis friend who used to work in the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office, Robin Yeartie, said under oath in video testimony that there was “no doubt” the Wade-Willis relationship began in 2019, before Willis was elected district attorney. 

To the surprise of many observers, Willis took the stand to testify Thursday after fighting a subpoena to do so, asserting that she wanted to correct “lies.”

Willis, a confrontational witness while on the stand, testified that Yeartie had “betrayed our friendship.” 

The drama, with both Wade and Willis testifying about details of their personal lives, came a little over a month after a legal motion from Michael Roman, one of Trump’s co-defendants in the racketeering case, exposed the affair.

Roman, a former Trump White House aide who directed Election Day operations for Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign, was among the 19 persons indicted Aug. 15, 2023, by a Fulton County grand jury for conspiracy to attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential race in Georgia. Willis, Wade, and their prosecution team brought the criminal case to the grand jury.

Roman’s lawyer, Ashleigh Merchant, filed the motion to disqualify Willis from the Trump case because of a conflict of interest. Wade billed $250 an hour for his work for the Fulton County District Attorney’s Office, amounting to over $650,000.

Merchant pressed the district attorney on the stand on the source of the cash she paid to reimburse Wade for her share of their expenses together, and whether it came from Fulton County funds. 

“Cash is fungible. I can’t tell you the source of where it came from,” Willis said, adding, “I have cash in my house. I don’t have as much today as I would normally have, but I’m building back up now.”

“The money you paid Mr. Wade in cash in October 2022, do you not know where that money came from?” Merchant asked. 

“I do know where that money came from. It came from my work, sweat, and tears,” Willis answered. 

“Do you know which job it came from? Did it come from the county or from a private job?” Merchant asked. 

“It could have come from a private job because before I was DA, I was in private practice,” Willis answered. 

Merchant: “You don’t know where that cash came from?”

Willis: “I am not going to allow you to mischaracterize my testimony. The amount of money I gave to Mr. Wade, it was never that serious. I don’t think I ever handed him more than $2,500 for a reimbursement.”

On the stand, Willis also said Merchant’s “interests are contrary to democracy” by trying to disqualify her from prosecuting Trump and the others. 

“I am not a hostile witness,” Willis said. “I very much want to be here. Ms. Merchant’s interests are contrary to democracy, Your Honor, not to mine.”

Willis recounted the couple’s trips abroad to Aruba and Belize, as well as to South Carolina, Miami, Tennessee, and California, specifically Napa Valley. 

Her first trip with Wade was to Tennessee in April 2022 for his 49th birthday, and she paid for it, Willis testified. The district attorney said she didn’t remember who paid for the flight to Miami, where the couple caught a cruise ship together.

She covered the cost of their travel for his next birthday as well, Willis testified. 

“For his 50th birthday, I took him to Belize,” Willis said. “I did 50 big.”

During his earlier testimony Thursday, Wade said he used a business credit card to book the vacations with Willis, but that she reimbursed him with cash. 

“You’re saying she reimbursed you?” asked Merchant, Roman’s lawyer. 

Wade responded, “She did.”

“Where did you deposit the money she reimbursed you?” Merchant asked. 

“It was cash,” Wade said. “She didn’t give me any checks.”

Merchant later followed up by asking: “And you purchased all of these vacations on your business credit card, correct?”

“Yes, ma’am,” Wade answered. 

Asked later where Willis got the cash to pay him back, he said, “I didn’t ask her.”

Asked whether he ever talked to others about his romantic relationship with Willis, Wade replied: “Our relationship wasn’t a secret, it was just private.”

At one point, Wade testified that his relationship with the district attorney began in “early 2022.”

Merchant asked: “So you were appointed in November 2021, and your relationship started early. What’s early?”

He replied, “Around March.”

However, when Merchant asked whether the two took vacations together in 2021, Wade said he couldn’t remember. 

“And you traveled with her in 2021, correct?” Merchant said. 

Wade at first replied, “No.” 

But as Merchant continued to follow up, he slightly altered his answer, saying, “I’m not recalling any traveling in 2021.”

Earlier, Merchant had asked Yeartie, Willis’ old friend, about Wade and Willis: “Do you understand that their relationship began in 2019 and continued until the last time you spoke with her?

“Yes,” Yeartie answered. 

In her sworn testimony by video, Yeartie said that she and Willis were friends until a falling out that, by 2022, led Yeartie to resign from the DA’s office because she didn’t want to be fired first. The two haven’t spoken since, she said. 

“You have no doubt their romantic relationship was in effect from 2019 until the last time you talked to her?” Merchant asked Yeartie.

“No doubt,” Yeartie replied.

Terrence Bradley, a former law partner of Wade’s who also has represented him, declined to answer questions and cited attorney-client privilege. He said the State Bar of Georgia advised him against answering questions. 

“I’m not here to misrepresent to the court or to say anything inappropriate or anything; I am here because I also have a law license and I’m not trying to lose that,” Bradley said.

Eventually, McAfee said of Bradley: “He’s taking the position that he’s not willing to share any information that Mr. Wade ever told him. That’s a broader representation of attorney-client privilege than I’d ever heard.”

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