Atlanta D.A. Defends Qualifications of Outside Lawyer She Hired for Trump Case

Fani T. Willis, the district attorney in Fulton County, Ga., pushed back on Sunday against the criticism and questions about her judgment that have followed a court filing accusing her of being romantically involved with the outside lawyer she hired to lead the racketeering case against former President Donald J. Trump.

Ms. Willis emerged from almost a week of silence to address the congregation at Big Bethel African Methodist Episcopal Church, one of the oldest Black churches in Atlanta, which had invited her to be the keynote speaker for a service dedicated to the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. She did not address the allegation that she was in a relationship with Nathan Wade, the special prosecutor she hired in 2021, who has earned more than $650,000 in the job to date.

Instead, she said that Mr. Wade had “impeccable credentials” for the role and suggested that the accusations were just the latest thing to make her job hard to bear.

Ms. Willis, 52, said she was “as flawed as they come,” but that she was also subjected to an added level of scrutiny and even to personal danger as a Black woman in such a high-profile role, taking on arguably the most powerful figure in the Republican Party.

“Wait a minute, God,” Ms. Willis said, recounting a prayer this week in which she reminded God that the job of district attorney, to which she was elected as a Democrat in 2020, came with more anguish and hardship than she had anticipated. “You did not tell me as a woman of color, it would not matter what I did — my motive, my talent, my ability and my character would be constantly attacked.”

The claim that Ms. Willis and Mr. Wade are romantically involved has spurred questions about Mr. Wade’s qualifications, as well as about her rationale for hiring him. Before his current role, Mr. Wade had never led a high-profile criminal case and had largely worked as a suburban defense lawyer and municipal judge.

Still, Ms. Willis defended hiring Mr. Wade, who is Black, arguing that questions about his qualifications and her decision to bring him onto the case were rooted in racism. She said that Mr. Wade had been hired in the past by a Republican prosecutor in another Georgia county, and that neither the prosecutor nor Mr. Wade had faced similar pushback then.

“I appointed three special counsels, as is my right to do. Paid them all the same hourly rate,” Ms. Willis said. “They only attacked one.”

She noted that the other two outside lawyers she hired to help with the Trump case are a white woman and a white man, adding that “all three of these special counselors are superstars.”

“But I am just asking,” she went on, “God, why is it that some will never see a Black man as qualified on matter his achievements?”

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