John Edwards' presidential campaign staff staunchly denied a National Enquirer report that he had a pregnant mistress, but when an affidavit was drawn up so Edwards could put his denial in writing, the candidate refused to sign it, a former campaign spokesman testified today.
Mark Kornblau, who is currently the spokesman for U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, was the latest witness in a series of political pros who worked on Edwards' campaign for the presidency from 2006 to 2008.
Kornblau worked as Edwards' national spokesman and issued a strong denial that succeeded in keeping the Enquirer's story about Edwards' pregnant girlfriend Rielle Hunter from being picked up by the mainstream news media.
Having the story spread, Kornblau said, "would be a terrible outcome for Mrs. Edwards. I believed it to be untrue. Thirdly, it would be damaging to the campaign."
In an attempt to convince the Enquirer to not run the story, Kornblau had an affidavit drawn up in which Edwards denied the affair and denied paternity of Hunter's child. But Edwards refused to sign it, he said.
In a later conversation with Kornblau, Edwards hinted that Hunter's pregnancy may have been the result of a fling with another campaign staffer, Andrew Young.
"He told me it was not physically possible that he was the father," Kornblau testified. He added, "I have a vague recollection of him saying, 'Do you think it could be Andrew's child?'" he said.
Edwards is charged with violating campaign finance laws by using more than $1 million from wealthy donors to hide his pregnant girlfriend. He could face up to 30 years in prison if convicted.
Earlier today, Edwards' former "body man" John Davis told the court that he was surprised when Hunter came to his hotel room to tell him that she and Edwards were "very much in love," and that Edwards pulled him aside to say that Hunter was "crazy."
The visit from Hunter came on Feb. 5, 2007.
Hunter had already been dismissed from the campaign at the insistence of Edwards' suspicious wife Elizabeth, so Davis was surprised when he ran into Hunter in an elevator and that she got off on his boss' floor.
"I would have preferred not to have seen her… I was concerned why she was there… I was suspicious they had maintained a relationship," Davis testified today.
After Hunter got off the elevator, Davis went to his room and called his wife to say he had seen Hunter, when there was a knock on his door. He opened the door to find Hunter.
"She told me she and John Edwards were very much in love and he (Edwards) was concerned that I had seen her," Davis testified. "I told her it was not my business... and I asked her to leave."
He said he then called his wife back and said, "You are really not going to believe this."
Two days later the campaign was about to leave Detroit when Edwards called Davis into a room.
"He asked if I had run in to Miss Hunter. He (Edwards) told me she came to his room and told him she was going to go on Inside Edition or Access Hollywood to talk about her work for him. He told me she was crazy and to make sure she didn't contact him," Davis told the court.
"He denied there was an affair. He brought it up proactively," Davis said. The aide did not tell Edwards about Hunter's confession to him.
The aide said that he became aware that the relationship was continuing because Edwards would sometimes borrow his phone and keep it for a long time. On one occasion, Davis returned to Edwards' room to get his phone back, but could hear Edwards and Hunter talking on the phone.
"I heard Rielle Hunter on the speaker phone. I recognized her voice. I heard Mr. Edwards ask if she was showing yet," Davis testified.
He also told the court that in fall of 2007 Edwards gave him a wrapped package and asked him to hold it. After several weeks, Edwards told him to get rid of the package, but Davis said with a smile that he did not get rid of it.
"I was very interested in what was in that package. I opened it up and inside the package was a telephone," Davis said. It was later confiscated by investigators.
Much of the testimony appears to show that Edwards' campaign was involved in the cover up of the affair.
The courtroom was riveted on Wednesday by testimony about Elizabeth Edwards' distraught reaction to the National Enquirer story in October 2007 that her husband was having an affair. She confronted her husband in an airport parking lot, collapsing a heap, then tearing off her shirt and bra.
That testimony sent daughter Cate Edwards out of the courtroom in tears.
But the subtler part of the testimony was apparently to show that Edwards' campaign was involved.
Christina Reynolds, former research director for Edwards campaign, told the court that after the Enquirer story came out the campaign had a conversation with Hunter about issuing a denial.
Hunter's response, Reynolds said, was that she wanted to release a flip comment that she had been "abducted by aliens."
"My concern was that if (she) was hedging on issuing a straight denial, we wouldn't know what she would do," Reynolds testified.
The prosecutor asked what would have happened if the story had grown, and Reynolds replied, "I don't think it would have been good. I think it would have been very bad for the campaign."
Hunter eventually issued a denial without mentioning aliens.
Previous witnesses, John and Cheri Young, have testified that they were assigned to keep Hunter hidden while Edwards pursued the Democratic presidential nomination. The coverup continued after he dropped out, they claim, because he was angling for a top job like vice president or attorney general.
Campaign scheduler Matthew Nelson recounted on Wednesday first meeting Hunter in late June 2006 when he was instructed to pick her up and bring her to Edwards' house. Nelson, Hunter and Edwards then flew together to Raleigh-Durham under the pretense that Edwards was interviewing Hunter for a job.
While in the house, Edwards feigned ignorance of who Hunter was, asking Nelson in a "whispered tone... who the woman is in the neighboring room."
They later attended a Dave Matthews Band concert and flew to Washington, D.C. together, Nelson testified.
Nelson also told the court of being asked to set up a meeting with wealthy philanthropist Rachel "Bunny" Mellon who gave $725,000 to Edwards' hush fund.
Another Edwards' campaign aide Josh Brumberger also testified about attending a meeting with Edwards at Mellon's home as they courted her for funding.