DA Fani Willis, prosecutor Nathan Wade subpoenaed to testify in misconduct hearing, per lawsuit

ByOlivia Rubin ABCNews logo
Wednesday, January 31, 2024
Fulton County DA Fani Willis defends special prosecutor
One of former President Trump's co-defendants in his Georgia election interference case is seeking to dismiss the indictment against him and disqualify DA Willis.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis and Nathan Wade, one of her top prosecutors in the Georgia election interference case against former President Donald Trump and 18 others, have been subpoenaed to testify at an upcoming evidentiary hearing set to examine allegations that they were involved in an improper relationship while investigating the former president, according to a new lawsuit filed in Georgia this week.

The video is from a previous report.

The claim that Willis and Wade had been subpoenaed to testify was contained in a copy of the lawsuit, obtained by ABC News, that was filed by the attorney for one of Trump's co-defendants in the election case, accusing the Fulton County district attorney's office of "intentionally withholding information."

The lawsuit accuses the office of "stonewalling" the attorney, Ashleigh Merchant, in her efforts to obtain records from the office through public information requests.

In this Aug. 14, 2023 file photo, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis enters a room ahead of a press conference next to prosecutor Nathan Wade, in Atlanta.
In this Aug. 14, 2023 file photo, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis enters a room ahead of a press conference next to prosecutor Nathan Wade, in Atlanta.
(AP Photo/John Bazemore)

In a statement to ABC News, a spokesperson for the DA's office said they had not yet been served the lawsuit, and said, "We provided her with all the materials she requested and is entitled to."

In a letter sent to Merchant on Friday, provided to ABC News by the DA's office, the DA's office pushed back on her allegations that they have failed to meet their obligations, writing they "disagree with your disingenuous implication."

The issuing of the subpoenas could set up a high-stakes battle for both Willis and Wade, who have remained virtually silent on the issue but may now have to testify under oath during the televised hearing on Feb. 15, as Trump and other co-defendants seek to use the allegations to have the two removed from the case and the indictment thrown out.

That hearing was scheduled two weeks ago by the judge in the election case. The judge also ordered the office to file their response to the allegations in court by Feb. 2.

Merchant, the attorney for Trump co-defendant Michael Roman, made the misconduct allegations against Willis earlier this month in a filing that seeks to dismiss the election interference indictment and disqualify Willis based on allegations that she "engaged in a personal, romantic relationship" with prosecutor Nathan Wade that allegedly resulted in financial gain for both of them.

Merchant's new lawsuit accuses the DA's office of "an apparent effort to intentionally stall" her continued effort to gather information on the matter.

"It is evidence that the [Fulton County District Attorney] has withheld the records without substantial justification," the complaint stated. "Indeed, it appears that [Fulton County DA's Office] is acting intentionally and in an effort to hide from public view public documents showing how [the office] has spent public monies related to the operation of the office."

One of former President Trump's co-defendants in his Georgia election interference case is seeking to dismiss the indictment against him and disqualify DA Willis.

The 21-page complaint, reportedly filed in Fulton County Superior Court, accuses the office of violating the state's Open Records Act. It outlines numerous open records requests Merchant submitted to the office -- some dating back to September -- that the suit claims were met with either no response, partial responses, or claims that the records did not exist.

In addition, approximately a dozen additional subpoenas have been issued by Merchant, in addition to those issued to Willis and Wade, seeking testimony or documents at the upcoming evidentiary hearing, according to copies of the subpoenas obtained by ABC News.

They include subpoenas to half a dozen employees at the Fulton County DA's office requesting their testimony at the hearing next month.

Among them are Daysha Young, another top prosecutor on the election interference case, and Tia Green, who is listed as a deputy executive assistant to Willis on the county's website.

It is not clear if all of the subpoenas have been served yet. According to the documents obtained by ABC News, they were sent by Merchant by mail on Jan. 25.

Merchant declined to comment to ABC News. A spokesperson for the DA's office declined to comment on the subpoenas.

All of the subpoenas call for the witnesses to testify on behalf of the defense.

Additional subpoenas were also issued for documents ahead of the hearing. Among the other subpoenas, a company called "Vacation Express USA Corp" was issued a subpoena for any documents related to flights, hotels, or rental cars that were reserved in Wade or Willis' name.

In her new lawsuit on Tuesday, Merchant's says her requests to the office sought a slew of documents, including contract and invoice records related to Wade, as well as personnel information for attorneys hired by the DA's office throughout Willis' tenure, and vacation time requested by Willis.

According to the Fulton County government's website, the county must produce responses to open records requests "within a reasonable amount of time not to exceed three business days." In some instances when records are not available within three days, the site says, agencies can take longer if they provide a timeline and a description of any relevant records they have.

But in one instance, according to the lawsuit, a request seeking invoice records for Wade took months.

The request was first submitted in September, the lawsuit alleges, but was not acknowledged within the required three days. Merchant then followed up on the request several times, the complaint says, but the request was "prematurely closed" about two weeks later, despite the office "not providing numerous invoices and other documents."

ABC News has obtained portions of videos of the proffer sessions of both Jenna Ellis and Sidney Powell, two attorneys who aided Trump's efforts to overturn the election.

Merchant, according to the complaint, refiled the request multiple times. In January, months after the initial request, she was given contracts for John Floyd, a different special prosecutor on the case.

Days before the lawsuit was filed, Merchant said she was "finally" given some records in response to her request from nearly five months prior, though she claims "numerous documents were still outstanding." Among the records she said were missing were invoices from Wade for July 2023 though December 2023.

Merchant claims the documents were in the possession of the DA's office but were "intentionally withheld" because of her motion seeking to disqualify Wade and Willis from the election interference case.

Merchant's complaint notes numerous other requests to which she was informed there were no records responsive to the request, though she believes otherwise.

Merchant said that in September, for example, she submitted a request seeking monthly reports on how the office spent the government-provided COVID-19 funds it received from the CARES Act. Merchant said she received a response that the office did not have any responsive records -- even though, the lawsuit says, the office would be required by law to maintain records regarding use of CARES Act money.

In January, said the complaint, Merchant also requested personnel records that included a list of all attorneys hired since Willis became district attorney. Days later, the complaint alleges, Merchant received a message saying "no responsive records."

The complain also said that Merchant failed to get a response to a Jan. 8 request for records of contracts that employees or staffers at the office "have been required to sign regarding speaking to the media and/or confidentiality."

Trump and 18 others pleaded not guilty in August to all charges in Willis' sweeping racketeering indictment for alleged efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in the state of Georgia.

Defendants Kenneth Chesebro, Sidney Powell, Jena Ellis and Scott Hall subsequently took plea deals in exchange for agreeing to testify against other defendants.