ATLANTA (AP) — A former law partner of Fulton County special prosecutor Nathan Wade was evasive on the witness stand Tuesday as lawyers pressed him on details about a romantic relationship between Wade and District Attorney Fani Willis that has roiled the 2020 Georgia election case against Donald Trump.
Terrence Bradley, Wade’s one-time divorce attorney, was believed to be a key witness for lawyers seeking to remove Willis from the case. But when they questioned him, Bradley repeatedly said he did not know or could not remember when Willis and Wade’s relationship began.
When attorneys confronted Bradley about a text message in which he said the relationship started when Willis was working as a judge, Bradley told the court he had only been “speculating.” Defense lawyers appeared to grow increasingly frustrated with his lack of answers, with Trump’s lawyer at one point essentially accusing Bradley of lying on the witness stand.
“You do in fact know when it started. You don’t want to testify to that in court, that’s the best explanation, isn’t it?” Trump attorney Steve Sadow asked. “That’s the true explanation because you don’t want to admit in court, correct?”
Bradley’s testimony was believed to be potentially crucial as defense attorneys sought to undercut Willis and Wade’s claims about when their romantic relationship began. That timeline has become a central issue as defense attorneys push to have Willis and Wade disqualified from the case, arguing that their relationship created a conflict of interest.
Bradley’s testimony provided the latest courtroom foray into the personal lives of the prosecutors pursuing a hugely consequential prosecution of the former president and leading Republican candidate. It further laid bare how an investigation that began with direct evidence of Trump’s efforts to remain in power has instead taken on a soap opera atmosphere, bogged down by testimony about sex, dating, cash stashes and text messages involving neither Trump nor any of the defendants but rather the law enforcement officials leading the investigation.
Willis and Wade have testified under oath that they didn’t begin dating until after he was hired as special prosecutor in November 2021. But information that has come to light has raised questions about the truthfulness of the prosecutors’ testimony. One witness, a former friend and co-worker of Willis, told the court that she saw the pair hugging and kissing before he was hired as special prosecutor.
An attorney for Trump co-defendant Michael Roman, Ashleigh Merchant, read aloud a text message in which she asked Bradley if he thought Willis and Wade started dating before she hired him. Bradley replied “absolutely.”
But asked repeatedly about when the relationship began, Bradley testified he did not know.
“I have no direct knowledge of when the relationship started,” Bradley said.
Bradley cited attorney-client privilege in refusing to answer most questions during an extraordinary two-day evidentiary hearing earlier this month that thrust the prosecutors’ private lives into the spotlight. But Judge Scott McAfee said some of Bradley’s communications with Wade were not subject to privilege, according to multiple attorneys who received an email from the judge setting the hearing for Bradley to continue testifying.
McAfee has scheduled arguments for Friday afternoon on whether Willis and her office should be removed from the case.
Willis’ removal would be a stunning development in the most sprawling of the four criminal cases against Trump. If she were disqualified, a nonpartisan council that supports prosecuting attorneys in Georgia would need to find a new attorney to take over. That successor could either proceed with the charges against Trump and 14 others or drop the case altogether. Even if a new lawyer went forward with the case, it would very likely not go to trial before November, when Trump is expected to be the Republican nominee for president.
A Fulton County grand jury indicted Trump and 18 others in August, accusing them of participating in a wide-ranging scheme to illegally try to overturn the 2020 election in Georgia. Four people have pleaded guilty after reaching deals with prosecutors. Trump and the remaining 14 have pleaded not guilty.
The effort to remove Willis and her office from the case began last month with a motion filed by Trump co-defendant Michael Roman and has since been joined by the former president and some other defendants. Roman’s filing alleges that Willis paid Wade large sums for his work and then improperly benefited when he used his earnings to take her on vacations. It also alleges that Willis and Wade were already dating when she hired him in November 2021.
Willis and Wade have both said that they shared travel expenses, with Willis reimbursing Wade with cash for some charges on his credit card.
Under questioning from Roman’s attorney, Merchant, earlier this month, Bradley acknowledged that he had communicated with her between September and January as she was investigating the possibility of the relationship. But Merchant and other defense attorneys were repeatedly frustrated by Bradley’s refusal to answer further questions about the relationship.