INSIDER BLOG: A Wednesday Preview in the John Edwards Trial
By Jonathan Serrie
A former campaign spokeswoman for John Edwards is expected to testify today about a confrontation between the presidential candidate's wife and donors who supported his mistress.
Jennifer Palmieri, who now serves as deputy communications director for President Obama, was reportedly in an Iowa hotel room in October 2007 when Elizabeth Edwards questioned billionaire Fred Baron and his wife about their financial support for Rielle Hunter.
According to Palmieri, Mr. Baron
described Hunter as a "loose cannon" who needed appeasement to prevent her from going to the media with her story.
Meanwhile, former Edwards speechwriter Wendy Button is expected to return to the witness stand today to face cross-examination by the defense.
During yesterday's testimony, John Edwards was visibly upset while Button described what happened as details of the politician's affair became public.
"I told him that I forgive him," Button said. "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.
In July 2009, when the National Enquirer published photos of Edwards emerging from the Beverly Hilton after a meeting with his mistress, 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 how the money that was used to support his mistress and child was legal.
According to Button, Edwards explained, "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 accused his former aide Young of "trying to extort money from her."
Prosecutors have indicated they plan to call their last witness to the stand this week, fueling speculation on whether Edwards' mistress will testify.
"This whole trial is circulating around Rielle Hunter," said Steven Friedland, a law professor at Elon University. "If the prosecution doesn't call her, the defense will. Of course, given what's been said about her, no one knows what's she's gonna say and when she may lash out at one side or the other."