Fani Willis’ ex-friend testified that the DA’s relationship with the man she appointed to help investigate Trump started earlier than the couple claimed

Wade testified that the relationship began in early 2022. Witness Robin Yeartie, who worked in the district attorney’s office, testified she saw the couple hugging and kissing prior to November 2021.

ATLANTA (AP) — A former friend and co-worker of Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis testified Thursday that Willis’ personal relationship with a special prosecutor began before she hired him to lead the election interference case against Donald Trump.

Robin Yeartie’s testimony directly contradicts statements from Willis and Wade that their personal relationship didn’t begin until after Wade was hired in November 2021. Wade, who took the witness stand after Yeartie, testified that his relationship with Willis began in early 2022.

The differing testimony came in a hearing that could determine whether Willis should be removed from the case accusing Trump and others of conspiring to overturn the 2020 presidential election results in Georgia. Willis’ removal would be a stunning development in the most sprawling of the four criminal cases against Trump. An additional delay would likely lessen the chance that a trial would be held before the November election, when he is expected to be the Republican nominee for president.

Witness Robin Yeartie is sworn via video during a hearing on the Georgia election interference case, Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024, in Atlanta. (Alyssa Pointer/Pool Photo via AP)

In a court filing earlier this month, Willis and Wade said they were not in a personal relationship when Wade was hired, and that he and Willis shared travel expenses and never lived together.

But Yeartie, who previously worked in the district attorney’s office, testified that she saw Wade and Willis hugging and kissing prior to November 2021.

Since the allegations of an inappropriate relationship surfaced last month in a motion filed by Trump co-defendant Michael Roman, the former president has used them to try to cast doubt on the legitimacy of Willis’ case. Other Republicans have cited them in calling for investigations into Willis, a Democrat who’s up for reelection this year.

At a separate hearing in New York on Thursday, a judge ruled that Trump’s hush-money criminal case will go ahead as scheduled with jury selection starting on March 25.

Recommended Stories

Yeartie’s testimony began after lengthy sparring between lawyers over who must answer questions in the hearing, which has the potential to dig into uncomfortable details of Willis and Wade’s relationship.

Roman’s lawyer, Ashleigh Merchant, has subpoenaed Willis, Wade, seven other employees of the district attorney’s office and others, including Wade’s former business partner, Terrence Bradley. Bradley took the witness stand earlier Thursday but refused to answer questions from Merchant, citing attorney-client privilege.

Roman, a former Trump campaign staffer and onetime White House aide, alleged that Willis and Wade had been involved in an improper romantic relationship that began before Wade was hired. The motion says Willis paid Wade large sums for his work and then benefited personally when he paid for vacations for the two of them, creating a conflict of interest.

Roman, who has since been joined by Trump and several other co-defendants, is asking McAfee to toss out the indictment and to prevent Willis, Wade and their offices from continuing to be involved in the case.

Special Prosecutor Nathan Wade testifies during a hearing on the Georgia election interference case, Thursday, Feb. 15, 2024, in Atlanta. (Alyssa Pointer/Pool Photo via AP)

Willis argued she has no financial or personal conflict of interest that justifies removing her or her office from the case. Her filing called the allegations “salacious” and said they were designed to generate headlines.

McAfee said during a hearing Monday that Willis could be disqualified “if evidence is produced demonstrating an actual conflict or the appearance of one.”

He said the issues he wants to explore at the hearing are “whether a relationship existed, whether that relationship was romantic or nonromantic in nature, when it formed and whether it continues.” Those questions are only relevant, he said, “in combination with the question of the existence and extent of any personal benefit conveyed as a result of the relationship.”

Never miss a beat: Get our daily stories straight to your inbox with theGrio’s newsletter.