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Former aide: Edwards surprised to learn about donations

Posted on: 1:52 pm, May 15, 2012, by

John Edwards Mugshot (CNN/U.S. Marshals Service)

From Ted Metzger

CNN

GREENSBORO, North Carolina (CNN) — A friend and former aide to John Edwards testified Tuesday that the former presidential candidate appeared surprised to learn an elderly heiress sent money that ended up going to his mistress and another aide.

John Moylan, on the second day of defense testimony, said he believes Edwards learned about the checks from Rachel “Bunny” Mellon to campaign staffer Andrew Young for the first time in August 2008.

After Edwards went on ABC News to admit an affair with Rielle Hunter, Moylan took him on a trip, first to a South Carolina beach, then to Mellon’s farm in Upperville, Virginia.

While Moylan and Edwards were staying with Mellon, she asked Moylan if he had ever heard the name Bryan Huffman, an interior designer. When Moylan said no, she explained to them that she had been sending checks through Huffman to Andrew Young to help Edwards.

“I was, and believe he (Edwards) was as surprised to hear it as I was,” Moylan testified.

Edwards’ defense team has argued that Young had largely used the money for his own personal gain while also paying for Hunter’s medical expenses during her pregnancy, to hide the affair from Edwards’ wife. Donations for that purpose, the Edwards team has argued, cannot be considered in violation of campaign finance laws.

Edwards, who faces six felony counts, is accused of conspiracy, making false statements and violating campaign contribution laws.

Prosecutors say Edwards broke federal law by accepting over-the-limit donations of more than $200,000 from Fred Baron, a now-deceased Texas lawyer who was Edwards’ finance chairman, and about $725,000 from Mellon. They say the candidate used the funds to hide Hunter and their daughter in an effort to keep his candidacy viable.

But defense attorneys argue the money Edwards received from the two donors was for personal reasons — to protect Edwards’ wife, Elizabeth, who was dying of cancer, and his family from public humiliation. Edwards has said his actions were wrong, but not illegal.

Moylan testified that after the Mellon conversation he called Baron.

“I said ‘Fred, Mrs. Mellon has been sending a significant amount of money to Andrew Young.’”

Baron replied, “That damn Andrew,” according to Moylan.

During cross-examination, Moylan said that Edwards did not talk to him about the affair.

Jurors may also hear later in the day from Edwards’ oldest daughter, Cate.

Former FBI agent Jim Walsh testified Tuesday about his investigation of financial and phone records.

Walsh said that Baron wired Hunter $74,000 over a period of six months in 2008. Baron started giving Hunter money in June, and made eight payments to Hunter, most of them for $9,000.

For its first witness Monday, the defense called Lora Haggard, who worked as the chief financial officer for Edwards’ 2008 presidential campaign.

She testified Edwards had nothing to do with reports the campaign filed with the Federal Election Commission.

“Mr. Edwards was not involved in the review, preparation, or filing of the reports,” she said, adding that “we rarely saw him in (campaign) headquarters” in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Her testimony is important, as Edwards is accused of making false statements because he never disclosed donations from Baron and Mellon.

Haggard also testified that she thought the checks from the two donors did not belong on FEC forms because they were personal gifts, not campaign contributions. Finally, she said the FEC knew about the checks from Baron and Mellon because the campaign was still undergoing an FEC audit at the time of Edwards’ indictment.

Prosecutors wrapped their case last week, detailing hundreds of thousands of dollars in expenses used by Edwards’ former mistress, whose concealment during his failed presidential run remains at the heart of the scandal.

They did not call Hunter to the stand.

If convicted on all counts, Edwards could face up to 30 years behind bars.

CNN’s Adam Reiss and Joe Johns contributed to this report.