Disgraced Gov. Eliot Spitzer on Edwards Trial: A Tragedy … but a Crime?

Former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer. Spencer Platt/Getty Images

Former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer just said on a conference call to plug his new Current TV show that the "pivotal issue" in the John Edwards trial is whether the Justice Department is inappropriately "turning a human tragedy into a crime."

Spitzer, who was forced from office after he was found to be paying for prostitutes, said he doesn't expect to devote any time on his TV program to Edwards. Edwards went on trial Monday, charged with the improper use of campaign funds to cover up an extramarital affair.

"This is an unfortunate tragedy of a story, where the jury, at the end of the day, will have to distinguish, based upon what will be very careful instructions from the judge, distinguish between a human tragedy and what may or may not be a crime," Spitzer said. "And I do not know the evidence or the law sufficiently to render an opinion on that. I have long thought that, especially because I was attorney general and governor, I should speak with some greater care with respect to ongoing litigations and trials, but I think the pivotal issue here is whether or not the Justice Department is properly - or improperly; I want to be neutral in the way I phrase it - turning a human tragedy into a crime."

He continued: "And I think if you look at the briefing, if you look at the amicus brief that has been submitted, you look at some of the commentary from well-respected lawyers from both sides of the political aisle, you will see substantial skepticism about the applicability of the election laws to this set of facts. And I say that not to express an opinion or conclusion but merely to say I think that is the issue that will be fought over in the courtroom emotionally, and the fact that this is a human tragedy is given. The question is whether it is a crime."

Asked if he's followed the case personally and plans to stay tuned, Spitzer replied, "No, I have not followed it either personally, or nor do I expect that we will spend a great deal of time on the show, if any time on the show, with respect to the trial."

Spitzer's new employer, Current TV, is a liberal cable channel headed by Al Gore.

"I don't think we will spend time about it, and I don't say this to denigrate those who choose to do that, but I think our focus has been and will continue to be what I consider to be the more fundamental stories that relate to the arc of our economy, our politics," Spitzer said. "The momentary ups and downs of stories like this, which derive and generate substantial attention, I think in the long run wash out from the more significant thread of what matters."

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