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Fani Willis returns to the stand after sparring with lawyers over misconduct allegations in the Trump election case

In World
February 16, 2024

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is set to resume her bombshell testimony Friday in a hearing that threatens to derail the Georgia election interference case against former President Donald Trump.

The district attorney’s office is expected to call at least three new witnesses to the stand, including Willis’ father, while seeking to quash a push for her airline records. A dispute over who paid for trips Willis took with the lead prosecutor in the case against Trump is at the center of the allegations against her.

An attorney for one of Trump’s co-defendants said Willis’ Delta Air Lines records may reflect previously undisclosed trips by Willis and special prosecutor Nathan Wade amid claims that Willis personally benefited from their relationship. The attorneys face misconduct allegations that could lead to Willis’ removal from the case.

Attorney Fani Willis (Alyssa Pointer / Reuters)

Attorney Fani Willis (Alyssa Pointer / Reuters)

Willis dropped her bid to avoid testifying in a surprise turn Thursday, taking the stand after a former friend disputed the timeline of her relationship with Wade. Willis acknowledged this month that she had a personal relationship with Wade but denied that it was improper.

“You’re confused; you think I’m on trial,” Willis said Thursday during one of several contentious back-and-forth exchanges with attorneys for Trump and his co-defendants. “These people are on trial for trying to steal an election in 2020. I’m not on trial, no matter how hard you try to put me on trial.”

Robin Yeartie, who first met Willis in college and worked in the district attorney’s office until 2022, claimed that Wade and Willis may have been romantically involved as early as November 2021, which would contradict an affidavit they signed earlier. But both prosecutors repeatedly insisted during testimony Thursday that their relationship began in “early 2022” and ended last year. Wade testified that Willis reimbursed him in cash for trips that appear on his bank records, which Trump and his co-defendants have sought to portray as proof that she benefited financially from their relationship.

Willis’ removal would be a major upheaval in the sprawling racketeering case against Trump, with the delay it takes to find a new prosecutorial team making it increasingly unlikely that a trial would take place before the November presidential election.

After Wade’s testimony had ended, “I ran to the court,” Willis said. Her appearance launched a dramatic turn in the day.

“I was pacing in my office, and I heard someone yell that his testimony is done … so it only made sense to me that I would be your next witness,” she said.

Willis gave hours of testimony in the hearing Thursday, at which she discussed repaying Wade thousands of dollars in cash for trips they took together and answered in detail questions about the timeline of their relationship.

Willis charged Trump and 18 co-defendants in August with conspiring to overturn the 2020 presidential election in Georgia. Four defendants have pleaded guilty, while Trump, who faces 13 counts, has pleaded not guilty.

This article was originally published on NBCNews.com

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