GREENSBORO, N.C. May 8, 2012 -- Just before John Edwards went public about fathering his mistress' daughter, he confessed to his speech writer that he was aware that a wealthy donor had supported the woman and his baby girl.
Wendy Button testified today in his trial that Edwards dropped his denials about Rielle Hunter being his mistress, fathering her baby and being unaware of money being spent to take care of Hunter and to keep his secret while running for president.
Button testified today that while preparing his speech Edwards told her that "he had known all along that Fred Baron had been taking care of things."
Baron, a wealthy Texas trial lawyer who served for a time as Edwards' campaign treasurer, had donated thousands to Edwards' campaign as well as a couple hundred thousand dollars to help protect his secret.
In an original draft of the speech Edwards gave coming clean about the paternity of his daughter Frances Quinn, Edwards thanked Baron for his financial support, Button told the court.
"While I never asked my friend Fred Baron for a dime, I stood by while he supported my daughter. And I will reimburse his wife," Edwards had initially intended to say in his apology speech, Button testified.
But that line was later dropped and replaced, she said. Edwards said for "legal and practical purposes" that line need to be changed to read, "some people without my knowledge supported Quinn," Button said.
The speech writer testified that she was "deeply" concerned about changing the language of the apology to be less specific. She said she knew the phrase "without my knowledge" in reference to the donors who paid to hide his mistress and daughter "wasn't true."
Button asked Edwards if he should also apologize to Andrew Young, the aide who lied on Edwards' behalf and falsely claimed he had fathered Quinn to protect his boss' political career.
But Edwards said Young should not be recognized in the statement because he was "a bad guy."
The hush money came from Baron and wealthy heiress Rachel "Bunny" Mellon.
Edwards is accused of illegally using nearly $1 million in campaign donations to hide his mistress. If convicted, Edwards could be sentenced to 30 years in prison.
Edwards' defense is that the money was never intended for political purposes, but only to keep his mistress a secret from his wife. He claims he did not know about much of the money Young had sought from wealthy donors and that Young was out to keep much of it for himself.
Earlier in the day Edwards' defense team tried to depict Young as calculating and duplicitous.
Tim Toben, a North Carolina businessman and one-time Edwards' supporter, admitted on the stand during Edward's trial that he and Young joked about the consequences of releasing the sex tape, and disparaged Edwards, a man both men once admired but came to resent.
Toben said Young had told him about a "personal and private video tape" depicting Edwards and mistress Rielle Hunter having sex, while the two men watched a football game together.
"I wonder what that tape is worth today," Toben asked Young in an email soon after a National Enquirer ran a story about Edwards' love child.
Toben said they joked about how much money they could sell the tape for, adding "the numbers were pretty big numbers."
Toben, who was once so close to Edwards he was asked to sneak a pregnant Hunter out of North Carolina in the dead of night, said after Edwards quit the race he went to the Obama campaign to warn them of offering Edwards a job in the administration.
He recalled dining with Edwards at a swank restaurant in Chapel Hill, N.C., in which Edwards bragged about his prospects in a potential Obama administration, despite the National Enquirer story about his mistress and baby.
"That was so astonishing to me," Toben said. "The clear message I got was if he was offered a slot he would take it."
Toben arranged a meeting with an Obama campaign official and told an Obama operative that the campaign should take seriously the stories reported in National Enquirer about Edwards' then unconfirmed mistress and baby if considering the senator for the posts of vice president or attorney general.
"Usually, they get it wrong. In this case I don't think they did," Toben said of the tabloid's reporting.
Tobens said he was let down by Edwards' behavior.
"I thought he betrayed the trust of the people he spoke for," Tobens said.
Edwards' lawyers sought to depict Toben and Young as embittered men, angry at Edwards and out to make money off their knowledge of his affair.
In a series of emails between Young and Toben, the men routinely disparage Edwards and his wife Elizabeth, who was dying of cancer.
In his emails to Young who was writing a tell-all memoir at the time, Toben calls Edwards a "pathetic little man" and "a sick evil bastard."
"I can't wait for you to OUT him," Toben wrote to Young. "He's an ass and always will be."