Defense lawyers for Donald J. Trump and his co-defendants in Georgia were frustrated in their efforts to extract damaging information from a key witness on Friday, while trying to disqualify lead prosecutors accusing Trump and his allies of a conspiracy to overturn the 2020 election.
The defense argues that Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis and her office should be disqualified and removed from the prosecution, accusing her of benefiting financially from a romantic relationship with the special prosecutor she hired for the case, Nathan J. .Wade.
If the judge removes them, would delay and potentially derail a procedure that has important implications for the 2024 presidential election. Here are takeaways from the second day of the misconduct hearing:
The defense’s “star witness” shed no new light on the relationship.
Defense attorneys had high hopes of obtaining damaging testimony from Terrence Bradley, a former law partner of Wade’s who also served as his divorce attorney.
But they were frustrated twice: Mr. Bradley did not show up to testify that morning. Then, once he took the stand in the afternoon, he continued to assert attorney-client privilege on many matters.
That led to repeated clashes between defense attorneys and the district attorney’s office over what questions he could be asked and, at times, the exasperation of a calm but clearly frustrated presiding judge, Scott McAfee.
A defense lawyer used his own mobile phone messages to cross-examine the key witness.
Ashleigh Merchant, a lawyer for one of Trump’s co-defendants, took the unusual tactic of referring to text messages on her own cell phone that she had exchanged with Bradley after learning that Willis and Wade were dating.
Merchant hoped to establish that the relationship began before Wade was hired to handle Trump’s prosecution for Willis, which defense attorneys have claimed would benefit her financially if they went out and took expensive trips together.
But after more than two hours of questioning, Ms. Merchant and her fellow defense attorneys were unable to elicit anything from Mr. Bradley that would establish that Mr. Wade was dating Ms. Willis when she hired him.
However, Judge McAfee said he would review two text messages from Mr. Bradley to determine whether they are subject to attorney-client privilege and therefore cannot be disclosed.
The district attorney did not take the stand again as expected, but her father did.
After her Heated exchanges with defense attorneys. While testifying on Thursday, Ms. Willis was expected to return to the stand on Friday. But in a surprise move, her office said they had no additional questions for her.
Instead, Ms. Willis’s father, John Floyd III, testified about the death threats his daughter has faced in recent years, including when people showed up outside her home at 5:30 a.m. one morning shouting “the “b-word” and “the n-word.”
Floyd also backed up Willis’ testimony that he keeps money in his house, describing it as “a black thing.” Willis said Thursday that he had repaid Mr. Wade in cash for trips they took together.
“I’ve always told my daughter that you always have six months’ worth of cash,” Floyd said, adding that he gave his daughter her first box of cash.
A former governor also testified.
The district attorney’s office called former Gov. Roy Barnes of Georgia, who testified that Willis had also tried to hire him to handle the Trump case. The prosecution was trying to show that Mr Wade was not Ms Willis’ first choice, to establish that she did not hire him for personal gain.
Barnes, a prominent Georgia attorney who represented a Michael Jordan-like figure to other attorneys in the courtroom, said he turned down Willis because the money wasn’t good enough and he didn’t want to deal with the hate. and he vitriol for prosecuting Trump. “I wasn’t going to live with bodyguards for the rest of my life,” he said.
It could be some time before the judge rules.
After adjourning, Judge McAfee said he would meet privately with Bradley and his attorney to discuss issues related to attorney-client privilege and an allegation of sexual assault against Bradley while working with Wade. Mr. Bradley emphatically denied the allegation and the judge did not allow further testimony on the matter from other witnesses.
The judge said he would then determine a date for lawyers to present their closing arguments on the conflict of interest issue. It could happen late next week, or the week after, he said, meaning there will be no quick resolution to the attempt to disqualify the top prosecutors.
Willis’ office charged Trump and 18 of his allies in August 2023 with conspiring to subvert the results of the 2020 election. Four of the defendants have pleaded guilty.