A lawyer for one of former President Donald J. Trump’s co-defendants in the Georgia election case suggested on Friday that the two prosecutors leading the case had lied about when their romantic relationship started.
The defense lawyer, Ashleigh Merchant, said that a witness she hoped to put on the stand could testify that the romantic relationship between Fani T. Willis, the Fulton County district attorney, and the special prosecutor managing the Trump case, Nathan J. Wade, had begun before Ms. Willis hired Mr. Wade.
That would contradict Mr. Wade, who said in a recent affidavit that his relationship with Ms. Willis had not begun until 2022, after his hiring. The affidavit was attached to a court filing made by Ms. Willis.
Ms. Merchant identified the witness as Terrance Bradley, a lawyer who once worked in Mr. Wade’s law firm and for a time served as Mr. Wade’s divorce lawyer. “Bradley has non-privileged, personal knowledge that the romantic relationship between Wade and Willis began prior to Willis being sworn as the district attorney for Fulton County, Georgia in 2021,” Ms. Merchant’s filing, which came late Friday afternoon, states.
Ms. Merchant, on behalf of her client Michael Roman, a former Trump campaign official, is seeking to have Mr. Wade, Ms. Willis and Ms. Willis’s entire office disqualified from the Trump case. Ms. Merchant argues that the romantic relationship, as well as vacations the prosecutors took together that were paid for at least in part by Mr. Wade, amount to a conflict of interest.
“It is evident that the district attorney and her personally appointed special prosecutor have enriched themselves off this case,” Ms. Merchant wrote.
In court filings last week, Ms. Willis and Mr. Wade acknowledged a romantic relationship after they had declined to address the matter for almost a month. But Ms. Willis also dismissed the effort to have her taken off the Trump case as a publicity stunt with little legal merit. Last week, she asked the judge in the case to deny Ms. Merchant’s motion without an evidentiary hearing, which she said would intrude into her personal life and amount to “a ticket to the circus.”
That prompted Ms. Merchant’s latest filing on Friday, in which she argued that such a hearing was necessary to sort out the facts of the relationship.
Jeff DiSantis, a spokesman for Ms. Willis’s office, declined to comment on the new filing on Friday evening. Mr. Bradley could not be reached for comment.
The judge, Scott McAfee of Fulton County Superior Court, has scheduled a hearing on the allegations for Thursday. Ms. Merchant has subpoenaed at least a dozen potential witnesses, including Mr. Bradley, Mr. Wade and Ms. Willis, and a number of other people in the district attorney’s office. Ms. Willis is seeking to quash those subpoenas, and the judge has set a hearing for Monday on the matter.
A number of legal experts have argued that the details of the romantic relationship do not amount to a conflict of interest under Georgia law. If the judge agrees, he could ostensibly decide to bar any testimony about the two prosecutors’ personal lives.
Ms. Willis has told the court that she “disputes” the idea that Mr. Bradley has any information relevant to the case. She has also argued that any information he might have would be protected by attorney-client privilege — given that he once served as Mr. Wade’s divorce lawyer — and thus inadmissible in court.
Ms. Merchant, on Friday, wrote that Mr. Bradley had “obtained information about the relationship between Wade and Willis directly from Wade when Wade was not seeking legal advice from Bradley.”
She added, “Bradley obtained this information in a personal capacity as Wade’s friend prior to Wade’s decision to file for divorce.”
Ms. Merchant, in her filing, raised a number of other reasons that she believes Ms. Willis should be taken off the case, including statements and access that Ms. Willis gave to the authors of a recent book about the Trump case. Ms. Merchant said those statements were part of an effort to “prejudice Mr. Roman and poison the jury pool.”
A number of other defendants have also asked the judge to have the prosecutors disqualified and the case dismissed. Among them is Mr. Trump, whose lawyers have argued that Ms. Willis violated state bar rules when she gave a speech last month suggesting that racism was a factor in the scrutiny of her and Mr. Wade.
Mr. Trump has also joined Mr. Roman’s motion concerning the romantic relationship.