Fani Willis testified unfiltered because the stakes were so high.Section 2

The seasoned prosecutor handling the criminal election meddling case against Mr. Trump and his followers is on the defense. Mr. Trump and his co-defendants' lawyers claim she has an unsustainable conflict of interest since she recruited Mr. Wade to run the case after their relationship began and then went on expensive trips with him, which he paid for.

Ms. Merchant, a lawyer for Michael Roman, a President Trump co-defendant who worked for his campaign, filed a court petition on Jan. 8 alleging that Ms. Willis and Mr. Wade were sexually linked. Ms. Willis and Mr. Wade responded to the charges in their own legal filing about a month later.

Ms. Willis's Thursday performance was different, full of pride, hurt, and anger. It contrasted with laconic special counsel Jack Smith, who oversaw Mr. Trump's two federal criminal trials. It was shown to Judge McAfee, who will determine if she can keep the case, Fulton County voters who will re-elect her later this year, and the jury.

The hearing on Thursday left many doubts, including if her attempts will succeed. Robin Bryant Yeartie, Ms. Willis's former friend and coworker, testified via videoconference that she and Mr. Wade started dating before she hired him in November 2021.

Mr. Wade had said that the love connection started later, in 2022, but Ms. Yeartie's testimony disproved this. Unfortunately, Ms. Yeartie was unable to provide several facts on her talks with Ms. Willis, leaving the court uncertain about the credibility of her evidence.

In addition to Ms. Merchant, Mr. Sadow, and Craig Gillen—a seasoned attorney who represents a defendant who was once the leader of the Republican Party in Georgia—Mr. Wade also took the stand and was interrogated for long periods, at times in an aggressive manner.

In contrast to Ms. Willis, Mr. Wade maintained his cool and responded to queries with a calm demeanor and minimum expression of emotion. While giving her evidence, Ms. Willis acknowledged the contrast between the two, referring to him as a "Southern gentleman."

The concept that they were litigating a former president in order to acquire access to money and lavish vacations is something that Ms. Willis considers to be absurd, and both Ms. Willis and Mr. Wade tried their best to refute this notion.

Defense counsel couldn't believe this and grilled each of them about the practice. Ms. Willis said her father, a retired lawyer and former Black Panther, taught her that hoarding wealth was a practical way to demonstrate independence.

The hearing resumes Friday at 9 a.m. More questioning is likely from Ms. Willis. The defense attorneys will likely throng one side of the crowded courtroom again. Ms. Merchant, a white woman, stands out among a sea of boxy wool suits and white male features.

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