On Monday, after 3 weeks of hearing from the prosecution, John Edwards' defense team began their case in his trial over the alleged violation of campaign finance laws. What's happened so far, and what can we expect?
Tuesday, Edwards' daughter Cate, who's been with him throughout the trial, is expected to testify, probably about her mother and what the situation was like at home (and how Edwards had wanted to keep the affair from Elizabeth). Anna Werner writes for CBS that she's the first family member who will have taken the stand; we can assume it's to help make him a more sympathetic character. Rielle Hunter, who'd been on the witness list for prosecution but was not called, has also been discussed as possibly taking the stand for the defense. So, perhaps we'll learn still more about the women of the Edwards trial.
Monday started with a setback to the defense. U.S. District Court Judge Catherine Eagles stopped Edwards' lawyer, Abbe Lowell, as he announced Scott Thomas of the Federal Elections Commission as his first witness, because she hadn't been told about the witness on Friday. In the end, Thomas wasn't allowed to address the jury about what constitutes a campaign contribution (in his mind, the money received from Bunny Mellon and Fred Baron does not). As Diane Dimond writes in The Daily Beast, "The judge ultimately decided that since many statutes, 'clearly define what a campaign contribution is,' it should be left to the jury to decide if the Mellon-Baron money was given with the intent to influence the Edwards’ campaign for president."
This small fight, however, is part of a larger theme; the Edwards' team will attempt to hammer home their point that the money can't be considered a campaign contribution because it went to hide Rielle Hunter from Edwards' wife, Elizabeth, and not from the American public, i.e. voters. Further, that Edwards' bid for president had already come to a halt at that point. (With the jury out of the room, Thomas said that the donations were "intensely personal.")
According to The New York Post's Tara Palmeri, Lora Haggard, Edwards' former campaign officer, said that federal regulators never required her to disclose the money (nearly $1 million) used to hide Hunter, and that she had considered the money personal handouts and not contributions: "They were not contributions to the campaign to urge the public to vote for John Edwards.” Dimond writes that she testified that she didn't even know about the $1 million until Edwards was indicted in 2011, and that's why she didn't include it on FEC reporting forms—but beyond that, that it was personal, not campaign, cash.
Later, Harrison Hickman, political advisor and friend of Edwards, testified that he'd told Edwards prior to the Iowa caucuses that “it was not going to work out, it was done,” and that Edwards wouldn't recover from his third place polling status. Dimond writes, "The impression left with the jury was that if a campaign is not thought to be successful, monies coming in aren’t really campaign contributions. But that is not the law." Hickman also took the opportunity to indicate that Andrew Young was not to be trusted: "If Andrew told me it was raining, I’d go look out the window. I didn’t trust him at all.”
Later in the week, It's possible that Edwards will testify in his own defense (after all, he was a lawyer himself, and one known for his "theatrical closing arguments" writes Palmeri in The Post). He's been added to the list of potential witnesses to take the stand before the case rests by end of week. Whether or not direct testimony will help him or not is a matter of some debate.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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