Bryan Huffman, interior designer and friend of 101-year-old heiress Rachel 'Bunny' Mellon, testified that Mellon didn't condemn Edwards after finding out the money she provided to Andrew Young went toward Edwards' personal problem. NBC's Lisa Myers reports.
The 101-year-old heiress who funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars to help John Edwards cover up his extramarital affair thought the whole operation was "foolish" but was having a "wonderful time," the middleman in the payments said Friday.
The witness, Bryan Huffman, was an interior designer for Rachel "Bunny" Mellon, the centenarian heiress to the Mellon banking fortune who was a major supporter of Edwards' 2008 presidential campaign.
Through Huffman, Mellon gave Edwards aides $725,000 to help conceal the candidate's fling with campaign videographer Rielle Hunter, falsely labeling the checks as furniture purchases made by Huffman.
The checks were known inside the campaign as "Bunny money," Huffman testified at Edwards' trial in U.S. District Court in Greensboro, N.C., where he is charged with six felony counts of accepting about $1 million in illegal and unreported campaign donations from Mellon and another wealthy supporter.
"She said that we were awfully foolish with the 'furniture business'" — so called because Mellon wanted to hide the payments from her lawyer, who thought she had already given enough money to Edwards, Huffman said.
"But we were having a wonderful time doing it," he said.
In fact, Mellon didn't mind that Edwards was having an affair, Huffman said. But she was irked at times because "she thought that you should probably pay for your girlfriend yourself."
Eventually, Mellon's outlook turned to loud disapproval when Andrew Young — a top assistant to Edwards and now his chief accuser — asked her for $40 million to $50 million to start a foundation after his presidential bid collapsed in January 2008.
Former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards has faced public and private challenges throughout his life and career.
"She was rather apoplectic at the size of the request," Huffman said, quoting her as having said, "I cannot believe that the senator wanted me for my money all along."
Edwards called her later and smoothed things over with Mellon by denying he knew how much Young had asked for, which in turn annoyed Young.
"Just call me throw-me-under-the-bus Andrew," Huffman quoted Young as having said.
Mellon isn't expected to testify, but the manager of her estate, Alex Forger, was called to the stand Friday afternoon and testified that when he learned what the "furniture" checks were really for, he was told "that's the way they wanted it."
"The money was for the senator's special need," Forger said.
Prosecution and defense lawyers agree that John Edwards lied repeatedly to hide his affair. The legal wrangling is over whether he crossed the line and did something criminal. NBC's Lisa Myers reports from Greensboro, N.C.
More content from msnbc.com and NBC News:
- Student's ordeal: How could DEA lose Daniel Chong?
- Prostitute in Secret Service scandal speaks out
- Bear whose 'falling' photo went viral is killed by cars
- Mexico's mariachi music catches on in US schools
- Video: Elephant plays harmonica at National Zoo