Fani Willis Shocker: Fulton County DA Asks To Take The Stand

"It’s highly offensive when someone lies and says you slept with someone the first day you met them, and I take exception," she said.
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In a surprise move Thursday, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis volunteered to testify at an Atlanta hearing concerning her relationship with special prosecutor Nathan Wade, appearing to catch the defense attorneys off-guard.

Willis entered the courtroom as defense attorney Craig Gillen was urging Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee to bring Willis before them.

“We need her in here to go over all of this and to explain exactly what happened,” Gillen said, not noticing that Willis had already entered the room. “We ask the court that they allow Ms. Willis to be called and interrogated on these matters.”

“And I would, too, your honor,” Willis responded.

“OK, so the position of the district attorney at this point is she’s no longer contesting the subpoena,” McAfee noted as Willis walked to the witness stand.

After a brief recess, an emotional Willis proceed to lash out at defense attorney Ashleigh Merchant about her prior lines of questioning.

“I think you implied that I slept with [Wade] at that conference, which I find to be extremely offensive,” she said, referring to the conference where she and Wade first met.

“And you started dating shortly thereafter?” Merchant asked.

Willis fired back: “A lie. That’s one of your lies.”

“It’s highly offensive when someone lies and says you slept with someone the first day you met them, and I take exception,” she said.

Accused of acting like a hostile witness, Willis said, “I very much want to be here, so I am not a hostile witness.” She added that Merchant’s “interests are contrary to democracy.”

Fulton County special prosecutor Anna Cross, who is representing the Fulton County district attorney's office, watches as District Attorney Fani Willis appears in the courtroom Thursday.
Fulton County special prosecutor Anna Cross, who is representing the Fulton County district attorney's office, watches as District Attorney Fani Willis appears in the courtroom Thursday.
Alyssa Pointer-Pool/Getty Images

Willis has led a criminal case accusing former President Donald Trump of being involved in a widespread scheme to overturn the 2020 presidential election results in Georgia.

Trump and 18 co-defendants were indicted last August; Four of the co-defendants have pleaded guilty so far.

One of the co-defendants, former Trump campaign official Michael Roman, filed a motion against Willis in January, claiming her “improper, clandestine personal relationship” with Wade had tainted the election interference case. The motion also alleged that Willis benefited financially from Wade’s hire, accusing him of using the more than $650,000 he’s earned in legal fees to take Willis on vacations and other trips.

Willis testified that she and Wade were friends — not in a romantic relationship — when she hired him to assist with the case against Trump in November 2021.

They began dating in early 2022, she said, and generally split costs evenly between them.

She and Wade took their first vacation in April 2022, driving to Tennessee to celebrate his 49th birthday. She said the two started dating “right around then,” though the exact dates are murky.

“It’s not like when you’re in grade school and you send a little letter that says, ‘Will you be my girlfriend?’ And you check it. I don’t know the day that we started seeing each other, but early ’22 was my recollection.”

Other trips the pair took included two cruises that departed from Miami, Florida, and a trip to Belize to celebrate Wade’s 50th birthday following a cancer diagnosis.

Merchant then pressed Willis on her method of reimbursing Wade for her half of their vacation expenses, casting doubt on Wade’s claim that she paid him in cash.

Willis cited her upbringing for always having cash on hand.

“When you meet my father, he’s going to tell you as a woman you should always have six months in cash at your house at all times,” Willis said. “If you’re a woman and you go on a date with a man, you better have $200 in your pocket so if that man acts up you can go where you want to go.”

Willis lambasted Merchant for intruding into her personal life, filing records requests she deemed invasive.

“These people are on trial,” she said, pointing at the defense table, “for trying to steal an election in 2020. I’m not on trial no matter how hard you try to put me on trial.”

The district attorney said her relationship with Wade ended last year, raising her voice in response to Merchant’s questions about the end of their romantic involvement.

“This is what you’re really asking about, this is the salaciousness of all this, right?” Willis asked, rhetorically.

“So, he’s a man, he’d probably say June or July. I would say we had a tough conversation in August. Men end relationships at the end of physical intimacy, women end relationships when that tough conversation takes place.”

McAfee then moved the court into a brief recess, urging the parties to show more civility when the hearing resumed.

Willis retained an edge to her voice as she later pushed back against the suggestion that she benefited financially from Wade’s presence on the election case.

“We would have brutal arguments about the fact that I am your equal,” she said.

“I don’t need anything from a man. A man is not a plan. A man is a companion,” she went on. “There was tension always in my relationship, which is why I’d always give him his money back. I don’t need him to foot my bills.”

Leaning toward the microphone, Willis added, “The only man who has ever foot my bills completely is my daddy.”

Sara Boboltz contributed to this report.

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