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Donor warned Obama campaign against considering John Edwards as running mate

A former Edwards confidant testified he and Andrew Young joked about making money from the sex tape Edwards had made with Rielle Hunter. NBC's Lisa Myers reports from Greensboro, N.C.

Updated at 6:50 p.m. ET: A donor to former Sen. John Edwards' 2008 presidential campaign testified Tuesday that he steered Barack Obama's campaign away from considering Edwards as a potential running mate or Cabinet member because of Edwards' affair with Rielle Hunter.


Lisa Myers and Stacey Klein of NBC News and Ben Thompson of NBC station WCNC of Charlotte, N.C., contributed to this report by M. Alex Johnson of msnbc.com. Follow M. Alex Johnson on Twitter and Facebook.


The donor, Tim Toben, a prominent developer in Chapel Hill, N.C., said he called the Obama campaign in June 2008 after Edwards told him that he might be Obama's running mate. Toben said he warned Obama advisers because he feared that Edwards' affair would have "destroyed" Democratic chances in the general election.


Edwards is on 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 two wealthy supporters.

Toben was called as a prosecution witness because he was identified as the intermediary who spirited Hunter away in the middle of the night to a waiting jet after The National Enquirer reported her identity. He said he did it as a "big favor" to Edwards.

Toben testified Monday that he broke ranks with Edwards after the candidate forced him to choose to remain loyal to him or to Andrew Young, the former Edwards aide who falsely claimed paternity for Hunter's daughter and is now Edwards' chief accuser.

Toben said he chose Young, saying Edwards had betrayed the trust of "the people he spoke for." He said he thought Young was unwisely "taking a bullet for the team" and encouraged him to write the book because "this charade was ridiculous."

Former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards has faced public and private challenges throughout his life and career.

Tuesday afternoon, Wendy Button, a former speechwriter for Edwards, testified she helped Edwards draft a 2009 speech admitting the affair and acknowledging that he knew that money provided by the late Fred Baron was intended to deal with the Hunter problem.

That's one of the two key points prosecutors are trying to prove — that the money was handled as campaign contributions to his campaign and that Edwards knew what it was for.

In the 2009 draft speech — which he never delivered — Edwards intended to confirm that "I stood by while my friend (Baron) supported my daughter and will reimburse his wife for all he had done," Button said.

Mellon's lawyer testified Monday that Mellon considered her donations to be a gift to Edwards, not a campaign contribution. 

Hampton Dellinger, a legal analyst for NBC News and msnbc.com, said her testimony could help jurors connect the dots between the former senator's actions and the crime he is accused of committing.

"This is an admission that John Edwards said he knew all along that Fred Baron was paying to cover up his affair," Dellinger said. 

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