How Fani Willis trashed her reputation

Watching the DA’s racketeering case against Trump unravel

fani willis
Fulton County district attorney Fani Willis (Getty)
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Fulton County district attorney Fani Willis might reflect on the proverb, “Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion.” She will have ample time to reflect as she watches her career decompose in a Georgia courtroom and state Senate hearing.

The old saying is directly on point. The spotlight searches out prominent people and their entourage. If they are caught cheating, they will shrivel under the glare. If they are caught lying under oath, their troubles will be far worse.

That is exactly what is happening in an Atlanta courtroom to Willis, as well as her paramour, Nathan Wade,…

Fulton County district attorney Fani Willis might reflect on the proverb, “Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion.” She will have ample time to reflect as she watches her career decompose in a Georgia courtroom and state Senate hearing.

The old saying is directly on point. The spotlight searches out prominent people and their entourage. If they are caught cheating, they will shrivel under the glare. If they are caught lying under oath, their troubles will be far worse.

That is exactly what is happening in an Atlanta courtroom to Willis, as well as her paramour, Nathan Wade, and Wade’s former law partner, Terrence Bradley, who was also briefly his divorce attorney.

The spotlight is on Willis because she is prosecuting Donald Trump and a busload of co-defendants. She charged them under Georgia law with one of the gravest crimes in a constitutional democracy: conspiring to alter the results of a presidential election.

Prosecutions are supposed to be disinterested and non-partisan. It’s an ethical rule for all prosecutors and, in Georgia, a part of their oath of office. This prosecutor fails to meet those standards. Willis, like Alvin Bragg and Letitia James in New York, won her office on the theme of “getting Trump,” and that is exactly what she is trying to do.

Willis’s strategy was to charge Trump and multiple co-defendants under a racketeering, or RICO, statute, normally reserved for taking down organized-crime syndicates such as the Mafia. She then hired an outside attorney, Nathan Wade, to lead the prosecution.

Choosing Wade raised some obvious — and troubling — questions. First, he lacked any experience trying complex cases, and racketeering cases are devilishly complex. The DA also hired two outside experts, one of them a RICO specialist, but they have done relatively little work on the case. Second, Wade was paid very handsomely, well over $650,000 so far. Willis has said she expects that total to reach $3-4 million by the end of the trials. Third, it soon became clear that Willis had more than a business relationship with Mr. Wade and that she may have hired him for that reason. Indeed, she may have benefited directly from hiring her close friend.

As this evidence has become public, the whole case is unraveling. So is any lingering suspicion Fani Willis might be truthful, prudent, unbiased or competent. Proof is mounting that the DA hired her lover, showered him with public money, never questioned his vaguely worded bills, benefited from his income by traveling with him on lavish trips and then lied, under oath, about their relationship and the financial benefits she received from it.

Willis and Wade have defended themselves vigorously. In a hearing before Judge Scott McAfee, who is also handling the RICO case, they testified:

  • The DA did not benefit financially because she split the costs of her trips with Wade;
  • Hiring Wade was perfectly proper because she engaged him for work before she engaged him for pleasure; and
  • She paid Wade the same as other experts

In a fiery public speech at a black church, Willis added:

  • The criticism is racist because Wills and Wade are black and no allegations have been leveled against the white experts in the case

None of those defenses stand up.

  • The only evidence Fani Willis actually shared expenses with Nathan Wade is their word. She allegedly gave him thousands of dollars (the trips cost more than $9,000), but she says she paid him entirely in cash. She has no receipts (neither does he), no evidence she kept thousands of dollars in cash at home to make these payments, and no explanation for where her cash hoard came from. She did offer a two partial explanations. Sometimes, she said, she added $50 to the cash from supermarket trips. Other cash, she told the court, came from her campaign funds. That’s a criminal offense under Georgia law. So is taking any outside compensation or benefits as a DA. It’s a part of their oath
  • Despite sworn testimony by both Willis and Wade that she hired him before they began a relationship, there is now credible evidence both of them are lying. One witness told Judge McAfee that the relationship began in 2019, before Willis was elected district attorney. Since viewing that televised testimony, two more witnesses have come forward to confirm that earlier timeline. There are also more than 12,000 text messages between Wade and Willis before they say the relationship began. Some were sent in the middle of the night and cease when the two met up at her residence. Geospatial data from the cell phone confirms his location. One witness has added that Wade actually had a garage-door opener for Fani Willis’s residence, again all before she hired him. This evidence points to repeated perjury
  • Despite Willis’s church speech asserting she paid all outside experts equally, she actually paid her friend more per hour and vastly more in total compensation
  • The criticism Willis smeared as ‘racist’ has a much better explanation. It was not directed at Wade because of his skin color. It was directed at him because he, alone among the experts Fani Willis hired, is the only one she was sleeping with, the only one she was texting with in the middle of the night, the only one she was meeting in secret hideaways, the only one she was going on lavish trips with, the only one she was receiving financial benefits from, and the only ‘expert’ she hired without the relevant expert credentials. Those don’t have anything to do with race. Saying they do is not only race-hustling, it is an attempt to prejudice the jury pool in Atlanta

The evidence against Fani Willis and Nathan Wade comes from multiple sources, and it is mounting. It shows they did not tell the truth under oath and may have put improper pressure on one witness not to cooperate. Those are felonies. There is clearly enough evidence to warrant an independent criminal investigation for false testimony, filing false documents with the courts, witness tampering and obstruction of justice, as well as failing to meet Georgia’s legal requirements for disclosing gifts and benefits to public officials.

Bad as the court hearing was for Willis and Wade, it has only gotten worse since then. Another witness has come forward to corroborate the testimony of the DA’s former friend and employee, Robin Yeartie, who testified that Wade and Willis began their amorous relationship in 2019, well before the newly elected DA hired Wade. It did not begin in 2022 as both Wade and Willis testified. The 2019 date is important because it means the DA hired someone she was already in a secret relationship with, failed to disclose it, and then lied about it under oath.

Well before the hearings began, Wade’s friend and former law partner, Terrence Bradley, confirmed the 2019 date in plain-spoken text messages to Ashleigh Merchant, an attorney for one of the RICO defendants. When Bradley took the stand, however, he seemed to forget everything except how to tie his shoes. When he was shown his own text messages, which contained his emphatic statements confirming the 2019 date, he said they were mere speculation.

Bradley’s forgetfulness is not credible. Unfortunately for him, his most convincing testimony came when Ms. Merchant showed him yet another of his unequivocal text messages confirming the 2019 date. He muttered a single word, “Dang.”

Well put.

Since Bradley testified, more damning evidence has emerged, confirming the 2019 date. One person who confirmed the date is Cindi Lee Yeager, a high-ranking prosecutor in a neighboring Georgia county. Over the years, Yeager said, she had numerous conversations with Bradley, who repeatedly told her about the Willis-Wade relationship. Bradley was very clear, she said, that the relationship began before Willis became District Attorney. Another prospective witness, Manny Arora, who formerly taught at Georgia State School of Law, said Bradley told him the same thing. Neither has any incentive to lie and plenty of reasons not to.

When Bradley was subpoenaed to testify, however, he couldn’t remember any of his damaging comments. Total amnesia. Actually, he was trying to wriggle out of an impossible position. Honest testimony would incriminate Wade and Willis, but false testimony would expose himself to the same charge. To avoid both, he said he couldn’t remember anything.

“But wait!” as the TV ads say, “There’s more!” None of it is good for the Fulton County DA. Ms. Yeager says she also overheard a phone conversation in which Fani Willis told Terrence Bradley, “They are coming after us. You don’t need to talk to them about anything about us.” If that’s true, it’s a huge problem for both Bradley and Willis. Bradley testified, under oath, that he never communicated or coordinated with the DA’s office and hardly even knew Fani Willis. The far-larger problem for Willis is that her comments seem like an effort to block truthful testimony from a witness. That’s witness tampering and obstruction of justice.

What happens now?

In the next week or so, Judge McAfee will decide whether Fani Willis and her office will be removed from the case. He might delay that decision for several days if he decides to reopen the hearings to take testimony from the new witnesses.

Whether he reopens the hearings or not, Judge McAfee is likely to remove Willis and Willis from the case, either because the DA has a genuine conflict of interest or appears to have one.

Since Willis’s whole office was involved in defending her, they all have to go. That means transferring the case would to a different jurisdiction, whose attorneys would need to evaluate the evidence from scratch and decide whether to bring charges against Trump and others. That would take months.

Willis, Wade and perhaps Bradley could well be referred for criminal investigation, either by Judge McAfee, the Georgia Senate Committee or the state’s higher judicial authorities. They certainly should be. That means an investigation for possible perjury, filing false documents with the courts, misuse of public money, witness tampering, obstruction of justice, and violating the oath of office (by taking outside compensation). Any of those violations could lead to felony indictments and the loss of law licenses.

Charges for false testimony would be particularly ironic since that’s a key part of the RICO case Willis and Wade are prosecuting against Trump and the others.

Removing the district attorney and her office from the case is the most likely outcome, but Judge McAfee could go further. He might decide Willis’s original decision to bring the RICO case was fatally flawed because she had a personal interest in bringing the charges, thanks to her personal and financial ties to Mr. Wade. If the judge reaches that conclusion, he would dismiss the case entirely. That’s unlikely, but it could happen.

What’s far more likely is McAfee dismissing Fani Willis and her office from the case. That means transferring the case to another county and, inevitably, delaying any trial until well after the November election. The new jurisdiction would decide what charges, if any, to bring against each of the current defendants.

The harsh spotlight shining on Fani Willis and her office has revealed a devastating tableau. Far from being Caesar’s wife, she is his secret mistress, living large on public money and then lying about it. It’s hard to imagine how a district attorney could so thoroughly botch her responsibilities, violate the canons of judicial ethics, reap personal benefits from her public position, trash her oath of office and mislead the courts. Her reputation is now a rotting corpse.

Fani Willis had one overriding responsibility, and she failed catastrophically to meet it. What is that responsibility? The fair, honest and impartial administration of justice.