ATLANTA (NEWSnet/AP) — Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis was preparing to take the witness stand Thursday to testify about her romantic relationship with a special prosecutor she hired to lead the 2020 election interference case against Donald Trump.

The hearing could lead to Willis’ removal from the case over what defense attorneys have described as a conflict of interest because of her relationship with special prosecutor Nathan Wade.

Robin Yeartie, a former co-worker of Willis, testified earlier Thursday that Willis’ relationship with Wade began before he was hired as special prosecutor in November 2021. Wade said they did not start dating until 2022, and that their relationship ended in summer 2023.

During testimony that spanned hours, Wade admitted to having sex with Willis during separation from his estranged wife.

Together, the testimony contradicts earlier sworn statements from Willis and Wade, who said their relationship hadn’t begun until after he was hired to lead the case. The revelation of earlier encounters threatens to undermine the prosecutors’ credibility and upend the case against Trump and others who are charged with conspiring to overturn the 2020 presidential election results in Georgia.

Trump and others involved in the case have argued that the relationship presents a conflict of interest that should force Willis off the case. Wade sought to downplay the matter, casting himself and Willis as “private people.”

“There is nothing secret or salacious about having a private life,” he said. “Nothing.”

Wade said he remains good friends with Willis. He added that they were “probably closer than ever because of these attacks.”

Ashleigh Merchant, an attorney representing Trump co-defendant Michael Roman, has described the relationship as a conflict of interest that should disqualify Willis, and her entire office, from the case.

If that were to happen, a council that supports prosecuting attorneys in Georgia would find a new attorney to take over who could either proceed with the charges against Trump and 14 others or drop the case altogether.

Merchant alleges Willis profited from the case, paying Wade more than $650,000 for his work, then benefiting when Wade used his earnings to pay for vacations the pair took together.

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