What we just learned about a key Trump prosecutor and Brian Kemp

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Georgia prosecutors pursuing a case against Donald Trump spent more than a year trying to interview a crucial but politically sensitive witness: Gov. Brian Kemp.

After lengthy, delicate talks between Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ team and Kemp’s lawyers, the two sides seemed to be inching toward a deal that would allow the governor to answer questions under oath, with some limitations.

Then Nathan Wade, a special prosecutor hired by Willis, jumped in and the talks collapsed into acrimony. Kemp’s lawyer immediately bristled at what he described as a “dramatic change of tone and sudden threat,” which prompted Willis herself to respond sharply in defense of Wade, one of her top lieutenants.

Wade and Willis are newly under scrutiny after a Trump co-defendant accused them of having an inappropriate personal relationship and taking expensive vacations funded with money that Wade was paid from Willis’ office. The defendant, Mike Roman, is seeking to have Wade and Willis thrown off the case.

Meanwhile, Wade’s role in Willis’ prosecution has raised eyebrows amid a closer look at the special prosecutor’s thin resume in complex criminal cases. And the allegations of misconduct, while unsubstantiated, have cast an unflattering light on one of the most historic and significant prosecutions in American history.

Willis has said she will respond to the allegations in court filings, and on Thursday, Judge Scott McAfee of Fulton County Superior Court ordered her to do just that. At the same time, Willis is fighting a subpoena from Wade’s wife in Wade’s ongoing divorce case.

Wade had little experience prosecuting criminal cases before he joined Willis’ team as a contract attorney in November 2021. Since then, he has appeared in court on Willis’ behalf frequently to argue the office’s position.

He was also at the center of a major flashpoint early in the office’s investigation of Trump and his allies: the fraught negotiations to secure testimony from Kemp, the Republican governor who was a target of Trump’s pressure campaign to subvert the 2020 election.

Emails filed in court in 2022 reveal Wade fluctuating between sharp-elbowed negotiations and flowery prose that exuded over-the-top formality.

After a particularly tense July 22, 2022, exchange, Kemp’s lawyer emailed Wade and Willis to “apologize if my advocacy in protecting the Governor’s legal interests came across as even the slightest bit discourteous.” In response, Wade said he had cc’ed the note to the entire investigative team.

“Kind sir,” Wade began. “Thank you for your email wherein you apologize for your behavior, I’m certain it was uncharacteristic of your true self. I have taken the liberty of adding the rest of the investigative team back to this email chain, as they deserve to benefit from your heartfelt apology equally.”

He added that he had been instructed by “Madam DA Willis to reach out and address your concerns.”

But the emails show that months of fragile talks between Kemp’s attorney and Willis’ team fell apart after Wade abruptly joined the negotiations. In a June 13, 2022, email to Fulton County prosecutors, Kemp’s lawyer Brian McEvoy described a call he received that day from Wade — his first ever with the special prosecutor — categorically rejecting efforts to convene a “proffer” session for attorneys to hash out the limits of Kemp’s potential testimony.

“Needless to say. Mr. Wade’s summary rejection of our proposed dates, nullification of all previous agreements, dramatic change of tone and sudden threat regarding the issuance of a grand jury subpoena this week is disappointing, surprising and contrary to previous discussions with your office,” McEvoy wrote.

A month later, as Kemp’s planned July 25 interview approached, McEvoy reached out in frustration, saying he had not heard back from the prosecutors and lobbing some pointed words of his own.

In a July 20 email to Wade — copied to other prosecutors on Willis’ team — McEvoy slammed the case as “politically motivated” and urged the investigators to agree to strict conditions, including a “protective order” prohibiting leaks of Kemp’s testimony, providing questions and topics in advance, and agreeing not to take audio or video recordings of the interview.

McEvoy complained that Willis’ team had previously agreed to discuss those conditions during the proffer session, but that Wade had “unilaterally and inexplicably canceled” that session and “voided all of our previous agreements.”

Thirteen minutes later, Wade responded, scolding McEvoy for a “condescending and confrontational tone” and accusing Kemp’s lawyer of “mischaracterizing” conversations with Fulton County investigators.

“You have done this on several occasions and we have elected to ignore your assertions,” Wade wrote.

Two hours later, Willis piled on.

“My special counsel,” Willis said referring to Wade, “in an effort to be a gentleman and an officer of the court has been far too polite. The email you have sent is offensive and beneath an officer of the court. You are both wrong and confused.”

Willis defended her investigation, rejecting claims that it was politically motivated, denying that her special purpose grand jury had leaked any testimony and blaming the protracted negotiations with Kemp on the governor himself.

Willis went on to say that she had “bent over backwards to accommodate” Kemp, in part because she admired his wife’s advocacy for human trafficking victims. And she forcefully defended Wade and her team from criticism.

“As we move forward with this process and seek justice and truth for the citizens of the State of Georgia, I am going to demand that you treat my staff with the same level of respect they have shown you,” Willis said, adding, “However, l as the District Attorney of the largest county in Georgia have no intention on allowing you to abuse public servants that serve honorably.”

After the private sniping spilled into public view on the court docket, Fulton County District Court Judge Robert McBurney — who presided over Willis’ special grand jury proceedings — ultimately ordered Kemp to testify in the probe. But he also chided Willis for attempting to force Kemp’s testimony in advance of the rapidly approaching 2022 midterm election, when Kemp was on the ballot.

“The Governor is in the midst of a re-election campaign and this criminal grand jury investigation should not be used by the District Attorney, the Governor’s opponent, or the Governor himself to influence the outcome of that election,” McBurney wrote in a six-page order.

It was the second time McBurney had warned Willis about injecting politics into her probe. A month earlier, McBurney disqualified Willis from building a case against one of the state’s 16 false Trump electors — then-state Sen. Burt Jones — after learning that Willis had promoted a fundraiser for a Democratic candidate preparing to run against Jones in the 2022 lieutenant governor’s race.