May 24, 2011 — -- The United States Department of Justice has green-lighted the prosecution of former presidential candidate John Edwards for alleged violations of campaign laws while he tried to cover up an extra-marital affair, ABC News has learned.
A source close to the case said Edwards is aware that the government intends to seek an indictment and that the former senator from North Carolina is now considering his limited options. He could accept a plea bargain with prosecutors or face a potentially costly trial.
Edwards has been the focus of a lengthy federal investigation focusing on hundreds of thousands of dollars allegedly provided by two wealthy supporters. The government will contend those were illegal donations that ultimately went to support and seclude his mistress, Rielle Hunter.
Hunter was a campaign videographer with whom Edwards had a lengthy affair that resulted in a daughter, Frances Quinn Hunter, now 3 years old.
If the case were to proceed to trial, legal experts said, the government would have to prove that the intent of the donations was to cover-up the affair so that Edwards could continue his pursuit of the 2008 Democratic nomination for president.
The government's case against Edwards is expected to rely heavily on Andrew Young, a former close aide to Edwards who falsely claimed paternity of Hunter's child three weeks before the Iowa caucuses.
Young testified before a grand jury for nine hours in 2009, and also wrote a tell-all book that alleged Edwards was the mastermind of a well-funded, well-orchestrated plan to keep the affair from becoming public.
Edwards acknowledged paternity of the child last year, but has steadfastly maintained that he has broken no laws.