John Edwards Cursed Adviser Who Tried to Stop Affair
Edwards told Peter Scher to "back off' from queries about mistress.
GREENSBORO, N.C. May 4, 2012— -- When a senior adviser confronted John Edwards about his torrid affair with a campaign videographer, Edwards exploded, cursed and used crude language to suggest the adviser do something that was physically impossible.
Peter Scher, 51, had worked for Edwards during his 2004 vice presidential campaign and was an unofficial adviser on his presidential bid in 2006. Scher called a meeting with Edwards in the fall of 2006 after a campaign staffer alerted Scher to what he believed was an inappropriate relationship with Rielle Hunter.
Scher met Edwards at the Regency Hotel in New York City, the same hotel where Edwards and Hunter first met. There, Scher asked Edwards directly if he was having an extramarital affair.
Edwards denied it and Scher advised him to prohibit Hunter from travelling with Edwards through the campaign. Hunter's ban lasted several weeks before she was back on the trail.
Scher learned Hunter was back on the trail after Edwards fired Josh Brumberger, the campaign worker who had alerted Scher to Edwards' affair. Scher called Edwards.
"I said John what the blank are you doing," Scher testified today, respectfully omitting a four letter word, only to be asked by the prosecution to use the specific expletive.
When asked how Edwards responded to that question, Scher said the former senator exploded, and told Scher the he "did not need a babysitter." Scher said Edwards told him that he should "back off" and "I should go f*** myself."
Edwards persisted in his affair with Hunter and she eventually became pregnant. Edwards sought funds from wealthy backers to pay for travel, homes and medical bills to keep Hunter hidden.
Edwards is charged with violating campaign finance laws by using nearly $1 million from wealthy donors to hide his pregnant girlfriend. He could face up to 30 years in prison if convicted.
The main source of Edwards' hush money was heiress Rachel "Bunny" Mellon and she used her friend Bryan Huffman to deliver $725,000 in a series of checks to Edwards' aide Andrew Young.
In addition to $725,000, Mellon donated another $6 million to his political action committee and non-profit organization.
Huffman, an interior designer, told the court that after giving so much money to Edwards, Young hit her up for even more money. He asked Mellon for another $40 million to $50 million to back a poverty foundation Edwards wanted to create after his presidential campaign faltered.
Young suggested Mellon, who was 97 at the time, could mortgage her Virginia home for the money.
"I can't believe the senator wanted me for my money," Mellon told Huffman, according to his testimony.
Huffman, who has been a flamboyant witness, spoke with a deep North Carolina drawl as he told the court Mellon was "so upset" by the request.
Huffman said Edwards needed to call Mellon and apologize, and when Edwards called he told Mellon that was unaware of the request for the money or the foundation. But Huffman also told the court that the former senator had called him directly and even offered him a seat on the foundation's board.
Huffman was asked on the witness stand how Mellon felt upon learning that her $725,000 was used to keep Edwards' mistress comfortable and secret.
Mellon, he said, "thought maybe you should pay for your girlfriend yourself."
The prosecution Friday also called Mellon's attorney Alex Forger, who testified that after learning about the checks Mellon was writing, initially believed Andrew Young was siphoning off the money himself.
Forger said he asked Edwards at the beginning of 2008 if the former senator knew Huffman. At the time Edwards denied knowing or ever having contacted Huffman. By the end of the year, however, Edwards' lawyer Wade Smith confirmed to Forger he was in receipt of the checks Mellon was writing to Huffman and being cashed by Young.
"John Edwards has said he acknowledges now that this was for his benefit," Forger said Smith told him.
Huffman testified on Thursday how much Mellon liked Edwards and how much she enjoyed helping him.
Huffman on Thursday described Mellon as "euphoric" when meeting Edwards first time. She was so enamored of Edwards that she made sure that her personal lawyer was unaware of her under the table donations, which formed the bulk of the hush fund meant to keep Edwards' affair a secret. Mellon was also unaware of how the money was spent, Huffman said.
The checks, which became known as "Bunny money" to those involved in the cover up, were disguised as payments for furniture.
"It gave her something to look forward to," Huffman told the court. "The campaign gave her a wonderful focus and something to really hold onto."
When asked if Mellon was aware there was a $4,600 legal limit on campaign donations, Huffman replied, "She thought it was a little low."
At the time of the donations Edwards was fighting for the Democratic nomination against Barack Obama and then-Sen. Hillary Clinton, who Mellon referred to as "the old rag" or "ol' raggy."
The checks would arrive sporadically with notes attached to hide their purpose, Hufffman said
The notes pretended the money was for dining room chairs, a book case, or an "antique Charleston table."
"One note said she was paying me back for money I had bet on a horse. She was having fun with this," Huffman testified. "It was called the furniture business."
When Edwards' presidential campaign ended, Huffman says Edwards and Mellon began talking about a foundation that would fight poverty. Huffman said Young then asked Mellon for $40 million to $50 million to fund the foundation. Young has testified that he made the request at Edwards' behest.
"Bunny Mellon was a little upset that she was going to be out on the street corner and they were going to have her farm for the foundation," Huffman said.
In an August meeting in Mellon's home Forger talked to Edwards about the money and Edwards said he didn't know anything about the money or the foundation, Huffman told the court.
Other former Edwards aides have previously testified that Edwards was aware of the money and the plans for a foundation.