Among the documents included alongside a bombshell court filing this week alleging misconduct by Fulton County’s top prosecutor were billing statements that caught the eye of former President Donald Trump’s legal team.
They showed contact between Nathan Wade, the special prosecutor spearheading Fulton’s elections interference probe, and members of the Biden White House and congressional Jan. 6 investigators.
Trump’s Atlanta attorneys on Wednesday requested information about the apparent meetings, which were listed in Wade’s invoices included Monday as exhibits to a shocking court filing that alleged he and Fulton DA Fani Willis were carrying on “an improper, clandestine personal relationship.” The filing claimed that Willis benefitted financially from the partnership. The allegations, from defendant and former Trump campaign operative Mike Roman, offered no concrete evidence of the relationship.
The subsequent filing from Trump’s attorneys shows they are deeply interested in connecting the Georgia probe and the Biden administration. And it also suggests how the new controversy surrounding Willis could have a ripple effect in the sprawling racketeering case.
According to the invoices, Wade charged the Fulton DA’s office $2,000 for a trip to Athens on May 23, 2022, for which he billed eight hours of work for “conf with White House Counsel.” He charged another $2,000 on Nov. 18, 2022, for what he described as “interview with DC/White House.” (As a private lawyer, Wade charges the Fulton DA’s office $250 an hour for his work on the Trump case.)
It’s unclear what the subjects of the meetings were, who Wade met with or where. Wade has not responded to requests for comment and Willis, through a spokesman, has said she’ll respond to allegations in an upcoming court motion. A White House spokeswoman referred The Atlanta Journal-Constitution to the Biden campaign, which did not respond to requests for comment.
Trump’s team also requested additional information about two line-items billed as “conf w/ Jan 6″ in mid-April 2022 and on May 31, 2022; an invoice labeled “conf call DC” in early September of that year; and “Jan 6 meeting and Atty conf” on Nov. 16, 2022.
Trump’s filing follows a request his attorneys made Monday seeking to compel prosecutors to produce correspondence with the chair of the House committee that investigated the events that led to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol before being disbanded in January 2023. Fulton Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee, who is overseeing the elections case, is scheduled to consider that motion during a procedural hearing on Friday.
Credit: Michael Blackshire
Credit: Michael Blackshire
Willis and the White House
The motions represent the latest effort by Trump and his allies to undermine the 41-count racketeering indictment Willis obtained against the former president and 18 others in August. The DA’s Republican critics have for months tried to tie her to President Joe Biden and the Jan. 6 committee to convince voters that the charges are politically motivated.
In recent months, the Republican-led House Judiciary Committee has demanded records of Willis’ communication with Justice Department and congressional investigators, suggesting she’s attempting to interfere with the 2024 vote. Willis in turn has accused the committee’s chairman of improperly interfering with a state criminal case and attempting to punish her for personal political gain.
On his social media platform Truth Social, Trump this week shared a post from another user that flagged Wade’s billings for his meetings with the White House. The former president added that “Crooked Joe Biden and the DOJ were totally involved in the persecution of his Political Opponent!”
Others have echoed his claims.
“Fani Willis’ alleged romantic partner/special prosecutor coordinated with the White House while building the political prosecution of Donald Trump,” U.S. Sen. Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., said in a post on X. “All on the taxpayer dime.”
Accessing old records
Former White House officials said it’s not improper or unusual for prosecutors to ask the White House for permission to access records from past administrations or to work through executive privilege claims from former officials.
“Given what the prosecution is about — President Trump when he was president of the United States — the records are held by the National Archives,” said Neil Eggleston, who served as White House counsel for President Barack Obama from 2014 to 2017. “The Fulton County DA doesn’t have any way to get to them without going through the White House Counsel’s Office.”
The special grand jury created to help Willis collect evidence for the Trump case was active both times that Wade purportedly met with the White House. Jurors ultimately subpoenaed several former Trump White House aides, including attorneys Pat Cipollone, Eric Herschmann and Cassidy Hutchinson, who worked closely with Chief of Staff Mark Meadows.
Norm Eisen, who served as Obama’s ethics czar until 2014, noted that it’s not unusual when there are White House staffers “implicated by grand jury subpoenas to have contact with current or former White House lawyers to negotiate subpoena compliance.”
“That includes with respect to information sought concerning a prior administration,” he said. “I had such contacts when I was a member of White House counsel and they are routine, even if this case is anything but.”
Jan. 6 committee’s work
Congressional Democrats, meanwhile, established the Jan. 6 committee in part to collect evidence that would be of use to federal and state prosecutors about Trump’s attempts to cling to power following the 2020 elections. They released thousands of pages of interview transcripts, including from Georgia witnesses, as the panel wrapped up its work.
Legal experts previously interviewed by the AJC believe that the panel uncovered valuable information for Fulton prosecutors about Trump’s state of mind as he pressed Georgia officials to overturn the state’s 2020 election results.
For her part, Willis has been cagey about her contact with the committee. Asked about it during an interview last month with the AJC, she said “we certainly read” the transcripts but did not elaborate further.
In Monday’s motion, Trump attorneys Steve Sadow and Jennifer Little cited a December 2021 letter Willis wrote to Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., who chaired the House Jan. 6 Committee. Willis sought access to “records that may be relevant to our criminal investigation.”
In December, Trump’s attorneys sought a copy of any response from Thompson. Monday’s motion indicates the DA’s office has refused to say whether he or his committee did reply. It seeks to compel the DA to disclose any response.
Credit: Nathan Posner for The AJC
Credit: Nathan Posner for The AJC
Meanwhile, in a separate push on Wednesday, U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene asked Gov. Brian Kemp and Attorney General Chris Carr to “order the immediate and formal criminal investigation into the alleged criminal misconduct” by Willis and Wade. Potential criminal offenses include violation of public oath, bribery, improper influence of a government official and racketeering, she said in a letter.
”This screams corruption and it also screams the possibility of many laws being broken,” the second-term Republican said in an interview. " … It needs serious attention from the governor’s office and the attorney general. It cannot be ignored.”
Staff writer Bill Rankin contributed to this article.