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Who Is Ashleigh Merchant? The Defense Lawyer in the Fani Willis Hearing

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Ashleigh Merchant is a lawyer representing Michael Roman, a former campaign official for former President Donald J. Trump and a co-defendant facing criminal charges in the Georgia election interference case.

Ms. Merchant, who was recently elected president of the Georgia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, owns a private practice with her husband. She was previously a public defender in Fulton County for several years.

In early January, Ms. Merchant filed court documents accusing Fani T. Willis, the Fulton County district attorney, of engaging in a “clandestine” relationship with Nathan J. Wade, the special prosecutor she hired in 2021 to help with the case against Mr. Trump and his allies.

Ms. Merchant has argued that the relationship between Mr. Wade and Ms. Willis should disqualify them, as well as Ms. Willis’s entire office, from prosecuting the case, citing a conflict of interest. She claimed that Ms. Willis was profiting financially from the prosecution, accusing her of taking vacations with Mr. Wade with money he had made working for her.

Ms. Willis admitted to a relationship with Mr. Wade in February but argued that it was not a reason to disqualify her or her office from the case. She and Mr. Wade have also said they split costs for private travel.

In the court filings, Ms. Merchant said that Mr. Wade was unqualified for the role. But in 2016, she praised Mr. Wade’s “robust legal background” on Facebook, when she was supporting him in one of his failed bids to be elected as a Superior Court judge. In another post, a photo showed her posing in a Wade campaign T-shirt.

Asked about the posts, Ms. Merchant said recently that Mr. Wade “was the most qualified candidate in that race.”

Before the Thursday hearing, Ms. Merchant sent subpoenas demanding that Mr. Wade, Ms. Willis and several witnesses testify regarding the relationship between the prosecutors. It is unclear whether the judge will allow her to put them on the stand.

Richard Fausset and Danny Hakim contributed reporting.

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