A former FBI agent testifying for John Edwards said Edwards paid his mistress, Rielle Hunter, well after his presidential campaign had ended, supporting the defense contention that Edwards' support for Hunter was based on a personal relationship, not his political fortune. NBC's Lisa Myers reports from Greensboro, N.C.
Updated at 6:55 p.m. ET: John Edwards' defense lawyers said Tuesday they might call both Edwards and Rielle Hunter, his mistress and the mother of his youngest daughter, to the stand Wednesday in his campaign finance corruption trial.
Lisa Myers of NBC News, Stephanie Berzinski of NBC station WXII of Winston-Salem, N.C., 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.
Both have been on the defense's potential witness list from the beginning, as has Edwards' eldest daughter, Cate Edwards Upham. But speculation had swirled around the trial in Greensboro, N.C., that it might be too risky for the defense to call any of them to the stand.
Their names were on an updated list of possible witnesses that Edwards' lawyers gave the judge late Tuesday. Their appearance on the list doesn't mean they'll definitely testify; crafty defense lawyers have been known to list possible witnesses whom they have no intention of calling to throw prosecutors off the trail.
Tuesday, a large crowd gathered at the federal courthouse anticipating Upham's testimony, but a parade of other witnesses pushed her appearance on the stand back a day. She is likely to be one of the first witnesses called Wednesday.
Upham is expected to say that despite the lies and betrayal, her father still cared for her mother, Elizabeth, and was trying to protect the family.
"Taking the stand, talking about her father, how much family mattered — I think it could be powerful evidence for John Edwards," said Hampton Dellinger, a legal analyst for NBC News and msnbc.com.
The focus instead was on the money trail Tuesday, as a longtime friend and former campaign aide testified that Edwards was surprised to learn that billionaire oil heiress "Rachel "Bunny" Mellon had given almost $750,000 to help conceal the affair with Hunter.
Edwards, a former U.S. senator from North Carolina who was the 2004 Democratic vice presidential nominee, is on trial in U.S. District Court on six felony counts of accepting about $1 million in illegal and unreported campaign donations from Mellon and the late Fred Baron, finance chief for his 2008 presidential campaign.
A major point of the defense argument is that Edwards didn't know what the money from Mellon and Baron was being used for, a contention that was supported Tuesday by John Moylan, who worked in both of Edwards' presidential campaigns.
Moylan testified that Edwards was shocked to learn in August 2008 — several months after the fact — that Mellon had been paying to help support Hunter and keep her from the public eye. The money was given through checks falsely labeled as furniture purchases through Andrew Young, who was once a top aide to Edwards and is now his chief accuser.
Referring to Young as "that damn Andrew," Edwards told Mellon, "Bunny, you should not be sending money to anyone," Moylan testified.
Former Democratic presidential candidate John Edwards has faced public and private challenges throughout his life and career.
Edwards' lawyers also called former FBI agent Jim Walsh to provide an analysis of Edwards' and Hunter's finances that appeared to show that most of the money from Mellon and Baron stayed in the hands of Young and his wife, while "Rielle Hunter saw little" of it, Dellinger said.
Financial records showed that the Youngs got about $1 million from Baron and Mellon in 2007 and 2008, but tax returns suggested they gave Hunter only $191,000 of it.
Other records showed that rather than deal with Young, Baron paid Hunter through direct deposits into her checking account. That money accounted for $74,000 over seven months.
Other defense witnesses also questioned the credibility of Young, calling him "untrustworthy" and "dishonest."
That could be Edwards' best angle after U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles ruled out a major part of the defense case Monday, saying jurors wouldn't be allowed to hear about a federal audit that concluded that the money for the Hunter operation didn't amount to campaign contributions subject to federal regulation.
Scott Thomas, a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission, had been ready to testify about the audit of Edwards' 2008 campaign, which found that the contributions were legal. But Eagles ruled that evidence inadmissible because there was no way to determine what FEC auditors knew or were told at the time.
Thomas was allowed to testify Tuesday morning, but only in general terms. He said the commission had never before considered a case like Edwards'.
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