Allegations of an “improper, clandestine personal relationship” between Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis and Nathan Wade, a private attorney she hired as special prosecutor, have threatened to upend her high-profile racketeering case against Donald Trump and his allies.
Here’s a timeline of what we know so far:
Jan. 1, 2021: Willis takes office as Fulton County district attorney after defeating her former boss in the Democratic primary and running unopposed in the November election.
Feb. 10, 2021: In a letter to top Georgia officials, Willis says she’s opened a criminal investigation into interference in the state’s 2020 general election and instructs them to preserve evidence.
Nov. 1, 2021: Willis hires Wade as special prosecutor in the investigation. She reportedly offered the job to several other Georgia attorneys, including former Gov. Roy Barnes, but they declined.
Nov. 2, 2021: Wade files for divorce against his wife, Joycelyn Wade, in Cobb County Superior Court.
May 2, 2022: A special grand jury is empaneled to investigate attempts by former President Donald Trump and his supporters to overturn his loss in Georgia. Over the next eight months, Wade takes the lead in presenting information to the special grand jury, signing subpoenas and questioning witnesses on behalf of the DA’s office.
October 2022: On Oct. 4, Wade spends more than $1,300 to buy three American Airlines tickets to Miami for himself, Willis and Wade’s mother, according to credit card statements. There are also more than $8,000 in charges on the card during roughly the same time period to Royal Caribbean Cruises, Vacation Express, the Hyatt Regency in Aruba and Norwegian Cruise Line.
Jan. 9, 2023: Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney, who oversaw the special grand jury, says the panel has completed its work and submitted a final report to him.
April-May 2023: On April 25, Wade spends $817 on Delta Air Lines tickets to San Francisco in both his and Willis’ names, credit card records show. Additionally, on May 14, Wade spent $840 for what appears to be a stay at the DoubleTree hotel in Napa Valley.
Aug. 14, 2023: Trump and 18 supporters are charged in a 41-count indictment alleging they acted as “criminal enterprise” in an attempt to subvert the election results in Georgia.
Jan. 8, 2024: An attorney for defendant Michael Roman files a motion seeking to disqualify the DA’s office from the case because of an alleged romantic relationship between Willis and Wade. The court filing says that because Wade paid for trips they took together, Willis benefitted financially from the arrangement. Roman’s lawyer, Ashleigh Merchant, asks for the Wades’ divorce records to be unsealed and also wants the charges against her client dropped. The DA’s office says they will reply in a court filing but don’t indicate when that will be. Willis is also served a subpoena seeking to depose her in the ongoing divorce proceedings of Nathan Wade and his estranged wife, Joycelyn.
Jan. 9, 2024: At the state Capitol, Republicans say the allegations bolster their argument that an oversight panel is needed for prosecutors. They ramp up efforts to strengthen the law governing the state’s newly formed Prosecuting Attorneys Qualifications Commission so that it will pass muster with the Georgia Supreme Court.
Jan. 14, 2024: Willis delivers a 35-minute speech at the historic Big Bethel AME Church in which she defends Wade as a “great friend” and a “legal superstar” but does not address whether they are romantically involved. She suggests racism is behind the accusations, noting that critics targeted Wade, who is Black, and not the two other special prosecutors on the Trump case, who are white.
Jan. 17, 2024: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and 14 other media outlets file a motion to unseal the Wades’ divorce records saying they are of major public interest.
Jan. 18, 2024: Willis seeks a protective order to shield her from having to give a deposition in the Wades’ divorce. In a blistering court filing in Cobb County Superior Court, Willis accuses Joycelyn Wade of “interfering” with the Trump prosecution and that her allegations are meant to harass and embarrass the district attorney.
Jan. 19, 2024: Joycelyn Wade’s attorneys fire back at Willis and attach some of Nathan Wade’s credit card records to their court filing. They show that he purchased plane tickets for Willis and himself. Calling Willis “her husband’s paramour,” Joycelyn Wade’s attorneys say Willis has unique personal knowledge of their relationship as well as his finances.
Jan. 22, 2024: In a hearing, Cobb County Superior Court Judge Henry Thompson says the Wades’ divorce records were improperly sealed and orders them to be made public. He rules that Willis does not have to give a deposition, at least not yet, suggesting Nathan Wade should be deposed first.
Jan. 25, 2024: Former President Donald Trump joins in on Roman’s motion to disqualify Willis. His Atlanta-based attorneys also accuse the DA of trying to “foment racial bias” into the case that could prejudice a jury, citing her comments at Big Bethel AME Church. In the coming weeks, other defendants also join the motion.
Jan. 30, 2024: Nathan Wade and Joycelyn Wade settle their divorce, cancelling an evidentiary hearing that was scheduled in Cobb Superior Court for the following day that could have led to embarrassing information being publicly disclosed about all parties.
Feb. 2, 2024: Willis and Wade acknowledge a “personal” relationship in a court filing. But they deny any improper behavior and say their relationship is not grounds to disqualify them from prosecuting the case.
Feb. 12, 2024: Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee defers a decision on whether Willis, Wade and others must testify about the relationship. (The DA’s office had wanted to quash the subpoenas from Merchant seeking their testimony.) McAfee said he will hear first from Terrence Bradley, Wade’s former law partner and divorce attorney. Merchant alleges Bradley can contradict Wade’s claim, made in an affidavit, about when his “personal relationship” began.
Feb. 15, 2024: Willis takes the stand and in emotional and combative testimony defends herself against allegations she committed misconduct. “I’m not on trial, no matter how hard you try to put me on trial,” Willis tells defense attorney Merchant. Wade also testifies. So does Robin Yeartie, an ex-employee of the DA’s office and Willis’ onetime friend. Yeartie contradicts the testimony of Willis and Wade, who each say their romantic relationship began in 2022. Yeartie says it started in 2019.
Feb. 16, 2024: Willis’ father, John Clifford Floyd III, takes the stand and says that while he lived with Willis in South Fulton ,Wade never visited and his daughter never mentioned they were dating. Floyd also says that he had encouraged Willis to always have cash on hand, bolstering her testimony that she often used cash to reimburse Wade or pay for activities on their trips together. Wade’s former law partner, Terrence Bradley, also testifies but he was barred by attorney client privilege from answering many questions.
Credit: Brynn Anderson/AP
Credit: Brynn Anderson/AP
Feb. 23, 2024: Trump attorneys Steve Sadow and Jennifer Little submit cellphone data to the court which purports to shows that in 2021 Wade visited the Hapeville neighborhood where Willis was living nearly three dozen times. In two of those visits, Wade’s cellphone arrives late at night and leaves in the predawn hours. (Both Wade and Willis had testified that they did not spend the night together at the Hapeville condo.) The DA’s office fires back that the evidence should not be admitted into evidence and doesn’t prove anything relevant.
Feb 27, 2024: Bradley, Wade’s former law partner and divorce attorney, again takes the stand after the judge determines that some things he could say are not shielded by attorney-client privilege. Under intense questioning by seven defense attorneys, Bradley testifies that he doesn’t know when the relationship between Wade and Willis began.
March 1, 2024: McAfee will hear closing arguments from attorneys on whether Willis and her office should be disqualified from the election interference case. Some of the defendants are also arguing the DA’s misconduct means charges against the should be dropped. The judge also is expected to decide whether to admit Wade’s cell phone records as evidence.