Published May 08, 2012
John Edwards was visibly upset at his trial Tuesday as former speechwriter Wendy Button described what happened as details became public about his affair.
"I told him that I forgive him," Button testified. "If he wanted to clarify something, he should do so."
Button said she had advised Edwards to go public with the whole truth, but he initially only admitted to the affair, not the pregnancy that resulted.
Edwards is accused of using campaign donors to pay for the cover-up of that affair during his failed bid for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2008. He has pleaded not guilty to six counts related to campaign-finance violations and faces up to 30 years in prison and $1.5 million in fines if convicted on all counts.
In July 2009, when the National Enquirer published photos of Edwards emerging from a California hotel after a meeting with his mistress, Rielle Hunter, Button said Edwards asked her to help him draft a public statement admitting paternity of the child.
"He said he had denied her publicly and he needed to embrace her publicly," Button explained.
But when going over her initial draft, Button said, Edwards was adamant about removing an apology to his former campaign aide Andrew Young, who had kept Hunter in hiding and initially claimed paternity of the child.
"He said he was a bad guy," Button said.
During multiple revisions between July and August 2009, Button said she and Edwards debated how to explain how he had supported the child he had fathered, Frances Quinn Hunter.
Button said she asked Edwards about how the money that was used to support his mistress and child was legal.
According to Button, Edwards explained that "there were gift taxes and because he was a private citizen it was not considered a bribe."
Button said they eventually agreed to address the money with this statement: "Some people without my knowledge supported Quinn."
"I knew it wasn't true," Button explained. "So, I wanted to make sure if we released a statement it was accurate."
The prosecution asked, "What wasn't true?"
Button answered by quoting a phrase from the statement: "without my knowledge."
Button said in July 2009, Edwards also mentioned the wealthy contributors behind the money in question, Rachel "Bunny" Mellon and Fred Baron. Baron had recently died.
"Well, I never asked my friend Fred Baron for a dime," she quoted Edwards saying.
According to Button, Edwards claimed that he had just recently learned that Mellon had been contributing, and he accused his former aide Young of "trying to extort money from her."