It’s even prompted paparazzi to stake out Wade’s office, selling grainy photos of the attorney gripping his handgun to a New York tabloid.
Some of that would have undoubtedly been unavoidable in today’s simmering political climate. But perhaps more critically, Willis’ silence has provided an opening for Georgia’s most powerful Republicans, some of whom had previously offered a cautious defense of Willis’ conduct, to change their tune — and open the door to a more formal rebuke.
Gov. Brian Kemp recently called the allegations against the DA “deeply troubling” and asked for evidence to be presented quickly so Georgians could have confidence in the probe. And House Speaker Jon Burns told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution in an interview that an oversight board created by a Republican-backed law to sanction “rogue” prosecutors should have the final say.
“If they decide to make that decision,” Burns said, “that’s fine with me.”
Both Kemp and Burns had previously condemned efforts from within their own party to weaponize state law against Willis.
A Willis spokesman previously said the DA would respond to Roman’s allegations – which did not include evidence but suggested that at least some proof was sealed in Wade’s ongoing divorce proceedings – in a formal court filing but offered no timetable for doing so.
During a hearing on Friday, Fulton Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee, who is overseeing the case, offered Wade and other members of the DA’s team the chance to respond, but they declined. McAfee said he would eventually schedule a hearing on the matter but that he’d wait for Willis to weigh in formally. Roman is seeking to have the charges against him dismissed and for Willis and the entire Fulton DA’s office removed from the case.
Willis broke her silence about some of Roman’s claims during an impassioned speech at Atlanta’s Big Bethel AME Church on Sunday. Without naming Wade directly, the Democrat called him a legal “superstar” who was more than qualified to lead the case. She said the attacks were racially motivated because they targeted Wade, who is Black, but not two other white attorneys she hired as special prosecutors.
“First thing they say, ‘Oh, she’s gonna play the race card now,’” Willis said. “But no God, isn’t it them that’s playing the race card when they only question one? Isn’t it them playing the race card when they constantly think I need someone from some other jurisdiction in some other state to tell me how to do a job I’ve been doing almost 30 years?”
Credit: Miguel Martinez/AJC
Credit: Miguel Martinez/AJC
Willis did not confirm or deny the relationship allegations or address whether she inappropriately benefited financially. Her silence on those matters has fueled concerns among Democratic allies.
“I think all Georgia political observers are awaiting DA Willis’ response to Mr. Roman’s motion with great interest,” said Democratic state Sen. Elena Parent, one of the chamber’s party leaders.
Still, top Democrats also warn Republicans and others not to jump to conclusions about the claims. They note that the filing offers no concrete proof.
State Rep. Billy Mitchell, one of the Georgia House’s top Democrats, drew a line between the frenzy of conspiracy theories and election fraud lies promoted by Trump and his allies during the 2020 race and the accusations this month against Willis.
“The better course of action is to reserve judgment,” he said, “and let our judicial system do its work.”
That hasn’t stopped many Republicans from capitalizing on the moment.
GOP lawmakers are aiming to bolster the law governing the state’s newly formed Prosecuting Attorneys Qualifications Commission, which provides means to punish prosecutors whom critics believe aren’t doing their job. The U.S. House Judiciary Committee, meanwhile, launched a probe of Wade.
And Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Rome, asked Kemp and Attorney General Chris Carr to “order the immediate and formal criminal investigation into the alleged criminal misconduct” by Willis and Wade. (Carr’s office said it has yet to receive Greene’s request, while Kemp indicated that Prosecuting Attorneys Qualifications Commission was set up to handle such complaints.)
John Porter, a veteran Republican strategist, said Willis “has managed to do something no other Georgia politician has done in the Trump era: unite every faction of the Georgia GOP leadership.”