Local Politics

Edwards defense picks apart ex-aide's credibility

Posted April 25, 2012
Updated April 26, 2012

— John Edwards' defense team began picking apart Wednesday the credibility of a former top aide who is the government's star witness in the campaign finance violations case against the two-time Democratic presidential candidate.

Edwards, a former U.S. senator from North Carolina, is charged with conspiracy, filing false campaign reports and four counts of accepting illegal campaign contributions in connection with the nearly $1 million two donors secretly paid in 2007-08 to hide Edwards' pregnant mistress, Rielle Hunter, as he ran for the White House. John Edwards case graphic WRAL.com archive: John Edwards case

Andrew Young spent his third day on the witness stand Wednesday. Young, who was once a close confidant of Edwards and initially claimed to be the father of Hunter's baby to prevent the media from discovering Edwards' affair, was the conduit for many of the secret payments.

The defense has suggested to jurors that Young devised the scheme to get the bulk of the money from Rachel "Bunny" Mellon, an elderly heiress in Virginia, to finance a lavish lifestyle and that Edwards knew nothing about it. The rest of the money was a gift from Texas trial lawyer Fred Baron, who was Edwards' campaign finance chairman, and wasn't a political contribution, according to the defense.

Defense lawyer Abbe Lowell highlighted inconsistencies in Young's testimony, comparing it with "The Politician," his 2010 tell-all book about Edwards' affair and failed campaign, as well as interviews he gave while promoting the book, statements to government investigators and his testimony to a federal grand jury.

"Isn't it true that, in each and every one of those occasions, you lied about critical facts in this case?" Lowell asked Young early on in nearly three hours of bruising cross-examination.

"No, sir," Young replied.

Lowell picked at Young's statements about everything from his role in the operation of Edwards' Senate office to his work for a nonprofit linked to the presidential campaign to his recollection of his first encounter with Hunter.

"Didn't you purposefully exaggerate so many of those stories (about Hunter) to make a better story for yourself?" Lowell asked. Sketch of Andrew Young on witness stand Edwards' attorneys get turn with Young

"No, sir," Young replied.

Young grudgingly gave ground during the questioning, and the slow-moving, combative exchanges even exasperated U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles at one point.

"Do you have a question for him?" Eagles asked Lowell, prompting him to move on.

Lowell painted Young as a sycophant who was so enamored of Edwards that he tried to emulate the style of home the candidate built in Chapel Hill and even used the same dentist. Young then tried to use his knowledge of the affair as leverage against Edwards to ensure financial stability for his family, the lawyer asserted.

Once Edwards' presidential bid ended and the affair was publicized, Young lost his leverage and began making derogatory statements about Edwards to anyone who would listen, Lowell said.

"You really hate him, don't you?" Lowell asked.

"I have mixed feelings," Young replied.

Earlier Wednesday, Young detailed for prosecutors how his decade-long relationship with Edwards quickly crumbled after Hunter's daughter was born in February 2008.

At the time, Young and his family were living in hiding with Hunter in California while Edwards, who suspended his campaign weeks earlier, continued trying to secure a prominent position in the administration of the eventual Democratic nominee.

Young said Edwards cut off contact with him after learning of the child's birth. So, Young turned to Baron, who was paying for their expenses in California, to express his frustration with the situation – Young's wife and Hunter argued frequently, he said – and his concerns that Edwards would live up to his promise to help him financially for covering up the affair.

Edwards' campaign staffers had ruined his professional reputation, Young said, and he feared he would never find a job if Edwards didn't create one for him at a planned anti-poverty foundation.

Baron reassured him and asked him to hold on until August, when the Democratic National Convention would sort out Edwards' future.

"'You guys have the most important job in the campaign, so take a deep breath and do the best job you can,'" Young recalled Baron, who died of cancer in late 2008, telling him.

Young said Baron told him on several occasions that he would take care of all the finances, and Young provided him with an itemized list of expenses that he had been spending on Hunter.

Federal prosecutors showed the list to jurors. It included a BMW, a $2,700-a-month rental home in Chatham County, furnishings for the home, prenatal care, groceries and flights and accommodations so she could meet Edwards.

Young said he never told Baron about checks that he was receiving from Mellon because Edwards had told him that Baron would only support him while he was a viable candidate for a top job in the next administration.

Baron's money "was the short-term solution while Bunny was the long-term solution" to Hunter, Young testified.

Mellon fervently believed Edwards was born to be president and had pledged to Young that she would provide up to $1.2 million to help with expenses to ensure his election.

After several months without hearing from Edwards, Young said that Baron arranged for him to meet Edwards at a Washington, D.C., hotel in June 2008. There, he said, they had in a heated exchange in which they almost came to blows and Young stormed out of the room.

Young said that Edwards called him back into the room and again promised to help him.

"He said he loved me and that I knew he would never abandon me," Young testified, adding that he had "serious doubts" that Edwards would follow through with financial support.

During the subsequent weeks, he said, there were discussions between Young, Edwards and Mellon about her providing up to $70 million for the anti-poverty foundation.

After Edwards admitted on national television in August 2008 that he had an affair, Young said, everything came crashing down.

During a meeting with Edwards on a deserted road in rural Orange County, Edwards told him that Mellon's lawyer and accountant started questioning checks she was sending to Young through her interior decorator, and Edwards said he didn't know anything about the checks.

Young said that contradicted Edwards' earlier assurances that the payments for Hunter were legal, non-campaign expenses.

"If he said he didn't know, what he told me about them being legal wasn't true," Young testified.

Edwards also said during the meeting that the foundation wasn't going to happen. At that point, he said, he told Edwards he had evidence about the cover-up and would "do something about it" if Edwards didn't financially support his family.

"You can't hurt me, Andrew. You can't hurt me," Young quoted Edwards as saying as they ended the last encounter they would have until Young took the witness stand on Monday.

The defense is expected to continue its cross-examination of Young on Thursday.


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  • 12-21-12 Apr 26, 2012

    isnt the headline just an opinion? sounds like writer is on Edwards side

  • Objective Scientist Apr 26, 2012

    To add to my last post of moments ago... in reply to driverkid3. This article is totally about EDWARDS and has NOTHING to do with Obama, so why use this forum to "take a dig" at Obama? That is yet another issue with our political dialogue today... we cannot stay focused on a topic - always having to take "digs" at something else, particularly when we have no good response/explanation. And... I'll confess, I did what I'm complaining about by responding to driverkid3's post the way I did. We all need to work on maintaining "FOCUS" on a topic.

  • driverkid3 Apr 26, 2012

    ObjectiveScientist:::I do NOT believe he would have become President, that those "flaws" would have been revealed in a campaign. For me... his "charm" wore "thin". But... the American electorate never seems to amaze me! But I would hope the electorate would not be so gullible!

    That's what happened with obama. I just hope the electorate won't be so gullible this time around.

  • marek335 Apr 26, 2012

    Major drama! Essentially this case is about lawyers and politicans cheating, stealing and covering up their possibly illegal acts! Mr Young went to WFU law school & Edwards Unc, I think. I assume Edwards and maybe Young's law licenses are at risk. Which is a good thing with these 2 scoundrels. Imagine if JE had been elected to an office or entered an offical position and what illegal acts and deceits he would be capable of.

  • Objective Scientist Apr 26, 2012

    I have to laugh at the occasional comment about Edwards being so close to being "elected President" - or at least the suggestion that such a thing could have happened. I grew up in the same community, held the same summer jobs in the Robbins textile mill, walked the same streets as Edwards, etc. Initially I was a "fan" and was pulling for the local kid, a contemporary, to "do good". It did not take long for me to determine that there was a lack of "genuineness", more disingenuous in nature, to Edwards. He became "too liberal" for me (a very INDEPENDENT independent, neither Dem or Repub), but he primary thing was that I discovered he did not possess the "small NC values" he touted he did and that he was "shallow" with no "depth". I do NOT believe he would have become President, that those "flaws" would have been revealed in a campaign. For me... his "charm" wore "thin". But... the American electorate never seems to amaze me! But I would hope the electorate would not be so gullible!

  • bombayrunner Apr 26, 2012

    I feel sorry for his children. They've had to endure a lot.

    How do you know that? they lead a life you nor I will ever have. And the greedy people that raised them, I'd wouldn't surprise me if they are missing their spines as well.

  • Objective Scientist Apr 26, 2012

    "Objective Scientist, we won't know if this was a waste of time until all the facts are known, if they are ever known. But to a certain extent, even if Edwards is found not guilty, the question as to what happened and was it legal is a valid one and needs to be examined. Else, yes indeed, others will push the limits of legality even further." - post by jcthai - April 26, 2012 12:38 p.m.

    jcthai - my point was/is that it is NOT a waste of time regardless of what the facts may or may not show. That the legal issues need to be determined is a legitimate issue is not questioned - that MUST be resolved. The "bigger issue" for me is that such "character deficiencies" in those who seek out trust, support, vote, etc. need to be exposed - guilty or not! Especially if there is not "legal guilt" - Edwards needs to be found guilty, humbled (if possible for him), and EMBARRASSED to the ultimate in the court of public opinion to discourage such shenanigans by future office seekers.

  • Objective Scientist Apr 26, 2012

    "Remember they are ALL entitlement democrats and lawyers...there IS NO "credibility" in that courtroom because "character" doesn't matter...!!! LOL....you liberals sure know how to setect your leaders...!!!!" - post by SmokeWagon - April 26, 2012 12:18 p.m.

    John Ensign, Mark Sanford, Larry Craig, Robert Arango, Tom DeLay... etc., and Newt Gingrich and Richard Nixon... and others. There is PLENTY of lack of credibility, character, etc. to "go around"! All in all... the two parties are likely more or less "equal" in such matters. Stop "throwing" blatant, partisan political "stones"! No wonder our political "leaders" have such issues and are so sickeningly, blindly partisan - they are a reflection of the people who elect them. Blatant, biased, acrimonious partisanship to the extreme is driving this country to ruin... it needs to STOP - by the politicians AND the electorate!!!

  • poohpdoo2002 Apr 26, 2012

    Young is just as guilty as Edwards in this so he credibility is in the toilet as far as I'm concerned. He is a cheat and liar too, just like his buddy, Edwards.

  • jcthai Apr 26, 2012

    Objective Scientist, we won't know if this was a waste of time until all the facts are known, if they are ever known. But to a certain extent, even if Edwards is found not guilty, the question as to what happened and was it legal is a valid one and needs to be examined. Else, yes indeed, others will push the limits of legality even further.