Former Edwards aide discusses wife's outrage

Associated Press Modified: May 9, 2012 at 6:01 pm •  Published: May 9, 2012
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GREENSBORO, N.C. (AP) — Elizabeth Edwards angrily confronted a key presidential campaign donor who provided financial help to her husband's pregnant mistress in 2007, John Edwards' former spokeswoman testified Wednesday.

Jennifer Palmieri said Edwards called her to a Davenport, Iowa, hotel room to help calm Elizabeth Edwards while she was arguing with campaign finance chairman Fred Baron and his wife, Lisa Blue, about the couple's financial support for Rielle Hunter.

Palmieri, now the deputy communications director for President Barack Obama, broke down in tears while discussing her friendship with Elizabeth Edwards, who was battling fatal cancer.

Palmieri also testified that she distanced herself from the former Democratic presidential candidate after he acknowledged the affair with Hunter in an August 2008 television interview, but wasn't truthful about their baby.

Palmieri said Blue admitted to Elizabeth Edwards that she had flown Hunter to Los Angeles for a shopping trip during the argument in October of 2007.

"You've got to hold your friends close and your enemies closer," Palmieri quoted Blue as telling the enraged wife. Blue added that Hunter was a "loose cannon" who could have exposed the affair to the media, Palmieri said.

At the time, a tabloid was publishing an article about the affair, and Palmieri said the campaign was absorbed with keeping the story from crossing over into the mainstream media. Edwards had told his wife he had a brief fling with Hunter, but that he had ended the affair many months earlier, according to earlier testimony.

In fact, Edwards had continued the affair and Hunter was then pregnant with his child. A close aide to Edwards, Andrew Young, had rented the mistress a home a few miles away from the Edwards family estate in Chapel Hill. The candidate had kept the arrangement secret from his wife.

Palmieri said Elizabeth Edwards couldn't comprehend why Baron and Blue would have any contact with Hunter.

"She didn't understand why they were embracing her, spending time with her," Palmieri said.

Asked what Edwards was doing during the argument, Palmieri said she didn't remember him saying much.

"He was more of a spectator than a participant," she testified.

Prosecutors told a judge that they plan to finish presenting their case on Thursday. Rielle Hunter was not among the witnesses that they said they planned to call to the stand. The defense could still call the mistress to testify once it is their turn to present evidence.

How much Edwards knew about the money spent on Hunter to cover up his affair is a critical question at his trial. Edwards has pleaded not guilty to six counts of campaign finance violations related to about $1 million in secret payments from Baron and 101-year-old heiress Rachel "Bunny" Mellon.

Edwards has denied knowing about the money, much of which was used to hide the pregnant mistress as he campaigned for the White House. Baron flew Hunter across the country in his private jet, paid for stays in luxury resorts and secured a $20,000-a-month rental mansion in California.

Earlier Wednesday, campaign speechwriter Wendy Button retook the witness stand after testifying the previous day about help she provided Edwards in drafting a statement during the summer of 2009. He intended to "come clean" about his lies regarding the affair and admit paternity of his child with Hunter, she said.

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