GREENSBORO, N.C. May 10, 2012— -- The prosecution wrapped its case against John Edwards today hoping to convict the former presidential candidate by replaying an ABC News interview from 2008 in which he denied having fathered a child with his mistress.
The Nightline interview aired just days after Edwards was photographed at the Beverly Hills Hilton cradling the infant daughter he had with mistress Rielle Hunter.
Edwards adamantly denied in the televised interview that he was the father of the baby and said he never asked any of his wealthy donors to support his mistress or his baby.
"I have never asked anybody to pay a dime of money. Never been told that any money has been paid. Nothing has been done at my request," Edwards told ABC News' Bob Woodruff.
"So if the allegation is that somehow I participated in the payment of money, that is a lie. An absolute lie," Edwards said.
Edwards is accused of illegally using campaign funds to hide Hunter and the baby. He claims any money used to hide Hunter were personal gifts and he was motivated only to keep the affair a secret from his wife, not the government.
If convicted, he could be sentenced to 30 years in prison.
The prosecution rested its case today. On Friday the jury will have the day off, but Edwards' lawyers plan to argue that the judge should dismiss the case.
The government has built its case against Edwards on the allegation that he knew his aides were soliciting donations from wealthy donors to cover up his illicit affair and illegitimate daughter. Edwards maintains that he was worried about keeping the affair secret from his wife and did not know his supporters had supplied nearly $1 million in hush money.
In the Nightline interview, Edwards also said he did not know that Fred Baron, a donor and one-time campaign treasurer, was helping to pay for Hunter's upkeep.
"I knew nothing about this. No one consulted me about it. I had no involvement at all," Edwards said, conceding that Baron may have been paying Hunter in order to "help him."
That story contradicts testimony from Edwards' speechwriter Wendy Button, who on Tuesday told the court that Edwards told her "he had known all along that Fred Baron had been taking care of things."
Edwards has also since admitted fathering the baby girl, Frances Quinn.
Lawyers observing the case said the video made a dramatic conclusion to the prosecution's case, essentially putting Edwards on the stand and listening to him lie about things the jury now know to be true.
"It tied together a lot of circumstantial evidence. This case does not have the smoking gun. Juries like smoking guns. It has this tape, however," Steve Friedland, professor at Elon School of Law, told ABC News.
"It's likely, he'll never take the stand. This was the functional equivalent. And it hit all of the major areas from hiding the fact about he had a baby, from hiding what happened with the money trail... and on and on and on," Friedland said.
"So, John Edwards who said, I want to tell the truth here, wasn't telling the truth," he said. "This is like eating a garlic sandwich. It leaves a bad aftertaste.
Edwards seemed buoyed by state of the case on Wednesday, even remarking to his lawyer "That's their case?" But today he left court looking downcast.
After 14 days of prosecuting its case against Edwards, the government never called the woman at the center of affair, Edwards' mistress Rielle Hunter.
Instead, prosecutors called a cast of supporting characters, each offering insight into Edwards' machinations and motives.
Earlier in the day, the jury heard testimony from a former campaign adviser who testified that Edwards desperately tried to strike a deal with presidential rivals to be named attorney general with the hope of one day becoming a Supreme Court justice.
Leo Hindery, a campaign adviser, said he knew little of the $1 million effort to cover up Edwards' tawdry affair.
Hindery said he believed Edwards' lie that the first stories about the affair were "untrue" and "rumors."
Hindery, a longtime Democrat operative, was part of Edwards' inner circle and was dispatched to contact Barack Obama's campaign, and later Hillary Clinton's campaign, to strike a deal when it was clear Edwards would not win the 2008 presidential nomination.
On Jan. 3, 2008, the night Obama won the Iowa caucuses, Edwards ordered Hindery to contact Sen. Tom Daschle, an Obama adviser. Edwards wanted to team up with Obama, trading his endorsement for the vice-president slot early in the campaign to strike a death blow to Clinton.
Daschle questioned the Edwards' campaign reasoning for broaching the topic with Obama following the first contest of the campaign and on the night Obama was savoring victory, but brought the proposal to his candidate. Obama rejected the deal.
John Edwards Hoped to Be Appointed to the Supreme Court
By the end of January, the writing was on the wall for Edward's candidacy. He was trailing Obama and Clinton both in funding and delegates.
Again he looked to strike a deal, seeking a high profile position in exchange for an endorsement. Again, he assigned Hindery to reach out to Obama through Daschle, but contacted Clinton himself.
"If he couldn't be vice president," Hindery said Edwards believed then at least "he could be attorney general."
But if he were going to settle for attorney general, it was in service of a higher goal -- to be on the Supreme Court.
Hindery said Edwards would decide who to support "based on attorney general and that's who he would support." He would pick the candidate who could best "support his own evolution to the Supreme Court."
The book "Game Change" by Mark Halperin and John Heileman described a similar scenario with an amazed Daschle writing back to Hindery, "It's going to ambassador to Zimbabwe next."
Edwards dropped out of the race after a poor third place finish in South Carolina, but kept angling for a job. And according to prosecutors kept using donations from wealthy backers to hide Hunter.
"It was a sad day for me and Mr. Edwards," Hindery said of Edwards' decision to drop out. "I tried to be encouraging and support him as best I could."
In the end the Obama campaign rejected all of Edwards' advances, promising only the chance to make a speech at the Democratic National Convention. Nevertheless, Edwards continued to hang on to the hope that he might still might be named attorney general even after the National Enquirer published grainy images of him with Hunter and her baby.
Hunter remains on the defense witness list and may yet still be called to testify on his behalf.