Washington, Feb 3 (AFP/APP):Fani Willis, the Georgia prosecutor who brought election interference charges against Donald Trump, acknowledged Friday that she had a romantic relationship with an attorney she hired to work on the high-profile case.
Citing the relationship between Willis and special prosecutor Nathan Wade, the former president and two other co-defendants have sought to have her disqualified and the charges dismissed.
Willis, in a 176-page filing with Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee, called the request "meritless" and urged the judge to reject it.
Trump also faces federal charges for conspiring to overturn the 2020 election. The judge presiding over that case formally delayed the March 4 start of the trial on Friday.
The case has been effectively frozen since late last year while an appeals court considers Trump's claim that he has "absolute immunity" from prosecution, and the cancellation of the March start date had been expected.
District Judge Tanya Chutkan, in a brief docket entry, said "the court will set a new schedule if and when the mandate is returned."
Willis, in her court filing, said there was no personal relationship with Wade at the time he was hired in November 2021 as special prosecutor, for which he has reportedly been paid more than $650,000.
Wade, who is going through a contentious divorce, said in an attached affidavit that he and Willis began a personal relationship in 2022 and she has "received no funds or personal financial gain from my position as Special Prosecutor."
Willis said she and Wade each paid their own share for vacations they took together, which reportedly included a Caribbean cruise.
Trump, the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, has pleaded not guilty to charges of involvement in a criminal conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election result in Georgia, where Democrat Joe Biden won by some 12,000 votes.
In a post Friday on his Truth Social platform, Trump said Willis "just admitted to having a sexual relationship with the Prosecutor she, in consultation with the White House and DOJ, appointed to 'GET PRESIDENT DONALD J. TRUMP.'"
"THAT MEANS THAT THIS SCAM IS TOTALLY DISCREDITED & OVER!" he said.
- Immunity claim -
Willis has asked for the trial of the former president and his 14 co-defendants to begin on August 5, three months before the November presidential election.
Four co-defendants, including three former Trump campaign lawyers, have pleaded guilty already to lesser charges in deals that spared them any prison time.
Others indicted in Georgia include former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, Trump's former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, John Eastman, a constitutional lawyer, and Jeffrey Clark, a mid-level Justice Department official.
Trump faces federal charges for his efforts to subvert the 2020 election and for the January 6, 2021 storming of the US Capitol by his supporters.
Judge Chutkan ruled last year that Trump is not immune from prosecution and the former president lodged an appeal with a higher court.
A panel of three appeals court judges heard arguments in the case on January 9 and appeared deeply sceptical of Trump's immunity claim but is yet to issue a ruling.
Trump and his two eldest sons, Don Junior and Eric, are currently on trial in New York for business fraud, and the former president is scheduled to go on trial in Florida in May for alleged mishandling of top secret documents after he left the White House.