John Edwards' first reaction when he learned his mistress may be pregnant was to downplay the chances he was the father, calling the woman a "crazy sl. .t," his former close campaign aide testified Tuesday.
It was summer 2007, and Edwards was in the midst of a presidential campaign. Andrew Young testified that the former North Carolina senator hatched a plan to funnel money from rich friends to provide the woman a monthly allowance, even though Young said he doubted it was legal.
Months later, as word of the candidate's affair began to leak in the run-up to the crucial Iowa caucuses, Young said, Edwards asked the aide to falsely claim paternity of the baby.
Young has been the lone witness during the first two days of Edwards' criminal trial. Edwards, 58, has pleaded not guilty to six counts related to campaign finance violations involving nearly $1 million in secret payments provided by two wealthy donors as he sought the White House in 2008.
Young said Rielle Hunter told Edwards she was pregnant in June 2007, weeks later than the aide originally claimed in a tell-all book published in 2010. Young said Edwards told him to "take care of it," meaning the pregnancy.
Edwards directed Young to start giving money to Hunter in May 2007, after she threatened to go to the media and expose the affair, the aide said. Edwards suggested asking elderly heiress Rachel "Bunny" Mellon, who had already given generously to the campaign.
Starting in June 2007, Mellon would eventually provide checks totaling $750,000.
Without telling Mellon what the money would be used for beyond that it was a "noncampaign" expense, Young said, she offered to provide $1.2 million over time to help pay for the candidate's personal needs.
"We were scared," Young said. "It was a truckload of money, more money than had ever flowed through our accounts It was crazy."
Young said he expressed concern to Edwards, a former trial lawyer, that they might be violating federal campaign finance laws.
"He told me he had talked to several campaign finance experts and that it was legal," Young testified.