Live updates: Fani Willis testifies in Trump Georgia case hearing (2024)

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9:01 p.m. ET, February 15, 2024

Here are key takeaways from Fani Willis' stunning testimony

From CNN's Marshall Cohen, Devan Cole, Holmes Lybrand and Katelyn Polantz

The Georgia election subversion case againstDonald Trump and 14 of his allies took a stunning turn Thursday when two top prosecutors testified under oath about their romantic relationship at a hearing triggered by allegations of self-dealing that have the potential to derail the entire effort.

The all-day hearing escalated steadily throughout the day, culminating with Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis taking the witness stand for a combative brawl with defense attorneys that drew several rebukes from the judge.

These are key takeaways:

  • Willis' defiant afternoon: Things quickly went off the rails. Willis didn’t act much like a traditional witness on the stand and was more like a prosecutor, arguing with the defense attorneys, raising objections, making legal arguments and even having exchanges with Judge Scott McAfee. She even raised her voice at one point. This led to a few rebukes from McAfee. Willis repeatedly accused some of the defense attorneys of peddling lies – before and after the judge’s admonishment.
  • Willis says she's not on trial: Willis seized several opportunities to defend herself. “You think I’m on trial,” Willis said, in her sharpest pushback of the day. “These people are on trial for trying to steal an election in 2020,” she added, pointing toward the table of attorneys representing defendants in the criminal case. “I’m not on trial, no matter how hard you try to put me on trial.” She later slammed the defense attorneys, calling them “confused” and “intrusive.”
  • When did the relationship start? On the stand, prosecutor Nathan Wade stuck to his earlier claim – in a sworn affidavit submitted to the court – that his romantic relationship with Willis began in early 2022 and that they split travel and vacation expenses. But Robin Bryant-Yeartie, a former friend of Willis and Fulton County employee, contradicted that claim, testifying that she had “no doubt” that the Willis-Wade affair began in late 2019. Notably, that would be before Willis hired Wade to lead the Trump probe in late 2021.
  • Wade and Willis describe using cash for reimbursem*nts: Wade and Willis have offered a simple explanation for why there’s essentially no paper trail to back up his claims they split expenses: Willis used cash.
  • When did the relationship end? There was also a dispute over when the relationship ended, and whether it had any impact on the decision to seek the massive RICO indictment against Trump and others last August. Both said the relationship ended in summer 2023. Willis implied that the physical component ended earlier in the summer, but that the two had a “tough conversation” that fully ended things afterward.
  • Huge distraction from Trump's charges: Nothing that happened Thursday undercut the factual allegations against Trump, Rudy Giuliani, Mark Meadows, or the other GOP allies who are accused of trying to overturn the 2020 election. But the hearing shifted the conversation away from those allegation and away from Trump’s legal woes for now.
9:04 p.m. ET, February 15, 2024

Trump reacts to Willis' testimony in Georgia

From CNN's Kate Sullivan

Former President Donald Trump on Thursday reacted to c and her lead prosecutor on the 2020 election case, Nathan Wade.


Wade and Willis pushed back against allegations from the defense that Willis was essentially getting kickbacks from Wade in the form of vacations. They said they split expenses and that Willis reimbursed Wade in cash for certain things.

8:31 p.m. ET, February 15, 2024

Georgia judge says no ruling will be issued tomorrow in case over whether to dismiss Willis

From CNN’s Holmes Lybrand

Live updates: Fani Willis testifies in Trump Georgia case hearing (1)

Fulton County Judge Scott McAfee said he would not issue any rulings Friday after the evidentiary hearing on efforts to disqualify District Attorney Fani Willis from the Georgia election subversion case.

“I’m not ruling on any of this tomorrow,” McAfee said in closing the hearing Thursday. “This is something that’s going to be taken under advisem*nt on all aspects.”

McAfee also raised the possibility of scheduling final arguments from the parties at a later date.

“My goal, my hope is perhaps we can just close the evidence tomorrow, and we can take it from there,” McAfee said.

8:21 p.m. ET, February 15, 2024

Willis woke up "ready to testify," bishop who prayed with her before court says

From CNN's Nick Valencia and Devon Sayers

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis woke up Thursday morning "ready to testify," according to the African Methodist Episcopalbishop who says he prayed with her before today’s hearing.

Bishop Reginald Jackson told CNN he met with Willis earlier this morning before court began to "offer her words of encouragement," and they prayed together.

"She seemed comfortable. She seemed eager to address," Jackson said.
"I had the feeling this morning that she was ready for this. It's been going on for over a month, these efforts to destroy her reputation,” he added. “She wanted to meet it head on.”

When the bishop spoke to Willis this morning before court, he said he told Willis "to keep praying and that the people have her back. I really believe they do."

5:36 p.m. ET, February 15, 2024

Hearing ends for the day and Willis will continue testimony Friday

From CNN's Holmes Lybrand and Dan Berman

The first day of an evidentiary hearing over whether to dismiss Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis from the Georgia election subversion casehas concluded after Willis and her top prosecutor, Nathan Wade, testified over their relationships and payments they made during vacations together.

The district attorney's testimony will continue Friday at 9 a.m. ET, with Willis starting with under cross examination from District Attorney lawyer Anna Cross.

Defense attorney Ashleigh Merchant, who is leading the removal effort, said she plans to call two more witnesses after that.

Cross also said she had three to four witnesses to call tomorrow, which she estimated would take four to five hours.

7:04 p.m. ET, February 15, 2024

Willis: "I'm not on trial, no matter how hard you try to put me on trial"

From CNN's Devan Cole

Live updates: Fani Willis testifies in Trump Georgia case hearing (2)

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis pushed back forcefully on Thursday as she engaged in a tense back and forth with a defense attorney seeking to disqualify her from the 2020 election interference case she’s brought against Donald Trump and others.

“You've been intrusive into people's personal lives. You're confused,” she told Ashleigh Merchant, an attorney for defendant Mike Roman.

“You think I'm on trial. These people are on trial for trying to steal an election in 2020,” she added, pointing toward the table of attorneys representing defendants in the criminal case.

“I'm not on trial, no matter how hard you try to put me on trial.”

5:22 p.m. ET, February 15, 2024

Willis says Wade made sexist remarks during relationship

From CNN’s Devan Cole and Marshall Cohen

Live updates: Fani Willis testifies in Trump Georgia case hearing (3)

In an extraordinary moment in court Thursday, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis testified about sexist behavior from Nathan Wade, the top prosecutor on the election interference case with whom she once had a romantic relationship.

“It's interesting that we're here about this money. Mr. Wade is used to women that, as he told me one time: 'The only thing a woman can do for him is make him a sandwich,'” she testified as she faced tough questioning from defense attorney Steve Sadow, who represents Donald Trump, about whether their romantic relationship ended last summer because of the forthcoming indictment against the former president and his allies.

“We would have brutal arguments about the fact that I am your equal," she continued. "I don't need anything from a man —a man is not a plan. A man is a companion. And so there was tension always in our relationship, which is why I would give him his money back. I don't need anybody to foot my bills. The only man who's ever foot my bills completely is my daddy.”

The defense attorneys have zeroed in on the timing of when the Willis-Wade relationship ended because it's critical to their self-dealing allegations against Willis.

In court filings, defendant Mike Roman's team argued that Willis would be incentivized to bring an indictment because it would prolong the case, and keep the money flowing to Wade. And, according to their theory, back to her as well, through vacations and other gifts.

Willis said on the stand that their break-up had “absolutely nothing” to do with the indictment.

4:19 p.m. ET, February 15, 2024

Fulton County judge admonishes parties to remain professional

From CNN’s Holmes Lybrand

Live updates: Fani Willis testifies in Trump Georgia case hearing (4)

Fulton County Judge Scott McAfee admonished parties in court on Thursday after heated exchanges between District Attorney Fani Willis and the defense attorney trying to get her removed from the Georgia election subversion case.

“We all know what professionalism looks like,” McAfee said. “We won’t talk over each other. And from there, we’ll get through this.”

The judge took a brief break during Willis’ testimony after she raised her voice in court, holding up several motions filed by defense attorney Ashleigh Merchant and declaring: “It is a lie.”

Merchant was asking if the top prosecutor she hired to investigate Trump had ever visited Willis “at the place you lay your head?”

“So let’s be clear because you’ve lied in this,” Willis said, pointing to copies she held of the filings. Willis, continuing to point at the copies, added, “right here, I think you lied right here.”

3:58 p.m. ET, February 15, 2024

Willis details trips she took with top prosecutor in Trump case

From CNN’s Holmes Lybrand

District Attorney Fani Willis detailed vacations and trips she took with prosecutor Nathan Wade, who she hired to investigate Donald Trump and others for election interference in Georgia, saying she would pay cash for everything.

“When I travel I always pay cash,” Willis said of the trips with Wade, saying that she paid Wade back for certain travel and excursions during the trips.

Willis has been accused of financially benefitting from hiring Wade, who defense attorneys say paid for vacations for the two. The vacations, according to Willis, included trips to Aruba, the Bahamas Belize as well as Napa Valley where they attended wine tastings.

“He likes wine, I don’t really like wine to be honest with you,” Willis said. “I like Grey Goose.”

Live updates: Fani Willis testifies in Trump Georgia case hearing (2024)
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