The Bizarre Details Unfolding in the John Edwards Grand Jury Investigation

Neil Lewis of The New York Times disappointingly mixes factual reporting and hearsay from a tabloid-type, book proposal by a dubious character in the John Edwards-Rielle Hunter drama and presents it as a news story on the grand jury investigation into the contributions Fred Baron made to Hunter from Edwards' presidential campaign fund.

The factual reporting includes the topics of Hunter's grand jury testimony:

Ms. Hunter testified to the grand jury in detail about her relationship with Mr. Edwards, lawyers involved in the case said, as well as the benefits she was provided by his supporters after she became pregnant.


And the possible theory of prosecution if charges are sought:

According to people familiar with the grand jury investigation, prosecutors are considering a complicated and novel legal issue: whether payments to a candidate’s mistress to ensure her silence (and thus maintain the candidate’s viability) should be considered campaign donations and thus whether they should be reported.

When Mr. Edwards was running for president, and even later when he still held out hope of a senior cabinet position in the Obama administration, two of his wealthy patrons, through a once-trusted Edwards aide, quietly provided Ms. Hunter with large financial benefits, including a new BMW and lodging, that were used to keep her out of public view.

The remainder of the article is as trashy as an Enquirer article:

In the [book]proposal, which The New York Times examined, Mr. Young ... wrote that Mr. Edwards once calmed an anxious Ms. Hunter by promising her that after his wife died, he would marry her in a rooftop ceremony in New York with an appearance by the Dave Matthews Band.

Then there are paragraphs like this one:

[A] few months ago, when the couple showed up for dinner at a Chapel Hill restaurant, diners averted their eyes and stared at their plates, according to a person who was there.

And this one:

Ms. Hunter gave her daughter the middle name Quinn, and people who have spoken with her said its resemblance to the Latin prefix for five was to proclaim that the baby was Mr. Edwards’s fifth child. (He had four with Mrs. Edwards, the oldest of whom was killed in a car accident).

What is being investigated? Payments made by Mr. Barron, who is deceased, and a 99 year old heiress:

Investigators are examining the benefits Ms. Hunter received from the two Edwards supporters, Fred Baron, a wealthy trial lawyer from Dallas who has since died, and Rachel Mellon, known as Bunny, a 99-year-old heiress to the Mellon fortune.

Barron insisted before he died Edwards didn't know he made the payments. And Ms. Mellon's payments were made at the behest of Mr. Young who told her Edwards needed some personal funds but didn't tell her why.

The article ends on the high note (/sarcasm) that Rielle Hunter's image could be restored if Edwards' acknowledges paternity of her daughter:

It could also shift Ms. Hunter’s image from that of a predatory celebrity stalker (Mrs. Edwards told Oprah Winfrey that Ms. Hunter met her husband after waiting for him to come out of a New York hotel and telling him, “You’re so hot.”) to that of a mother concerned about her child’s rights.

It seems Hunter is still planning to move to North Carolina near where the Edwards have a second home. I doubt that will help her image.

At least John Edwards and his lawyer knew better than to ask to have him testify before the grand jury. There's no case against him -- all he could have done was create one where it didn't exist if the prosecutors thought he wasn't being truthful.

The story in the John Edwards-Rielle Hunter saga is not that he broke the law or had an affair. It's that he put his political ambition above the welfare of the Democratic party whose nomination he was seeking by denying the allegations and trying to cover them up after the Enquirer found out about it.

Andrew Young is not a credible source. His background speaks volumes. Lewis' article is disappointing and reads like something written for a slow news Sunday.

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    What a mess. (5.00 / 1) (#1)
    by Anne on Sat Sep 19, 2009 at 09:22:10 PM EST
    It's easy to see that while there may well be an issue involving campaign contributions, the fact that it is wrapped in this salacious story is a gift to the tabloids, and means it isn't going to die anytime soon.

    I seriously do not want to know what sweet nothings John Edwards whispered to Rielle Hunter, but I suppose we are doomed to having to hear about it.  Yuck; definitely too much information.

    When I think about what could have been if Edwards had not allowed his little head to take over the decision-making process, it makes me want to weep.  Even if he had not won the nomination, or been elected, I have to think that his voice, leading the charge for health care reform, might very well have us in a place where Max Baucus might be doing Edwards' bidding, instead of doing his best to be the best Republican Democrat ever.

    Like I said: what a mess.

    Edwards... (5.00 / 2) (#9)
    by lentinel on Sun Sep 20, 2009 at 03:36:49 AM EST
    I wouldn't assume that Edwards, had he been elected, would have led any charge.

    dubious character? (5.00 / 2) (#2)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Sat Sep 19, 2009 at 09:31:28 PM EST

    ...a dubious character in the John Edwards-Rielle Hunter drama

    Can anyone name a single character in that drama that is not dubious?

    Elizabeth (n/t) (5.00 / 1) (#3)
    by Jeralyn on Sat Sep 19, 2009 at 09:46:53 PM EST
    The baby as well. (5.00 / 3) (#4)
    by Abdul Abulbul Amir on Sat Sep 19, 2009 at 09:56:43 PM EST

    However, "dubious" just does not narrow the field very much.

    I don't know, J - (5.00 / 4) (#5)
    by Anne on Sat Sep 19, 2009 at 10:16:29 PM EST
    Elizabeth knew John had cheated before he announced his candidacy; she had to have known that it could have blown up in their faces, didn't she?  That they could get to the brink of the nomination, and see it all vaporize in the revelation that he cheated on his terminally ill wife.

    I think if it had been me, I might have said, "you know, John, I don't want to take the chance that if I just close my eyes and pretend this didn't happen, your stupidity will not just kill your chance to be president, but will kill our marriage and ruin our children's lives - none of us deserve that.  And whatever battles I have to fight to stay alive, I want to fight them honestly and fully, and I am not going to have the energy to fight for my life and defend you and protect our children at the same time. We have three children to think about, and I won't put their happiness at risk.  We both believe that we must speak for those who can't, and maybe we can do more for them if you don't put us all under the microscope."

    She made the decision she did for whatever reasons she thought best.  She played a role.  She eased the path to John's decision to run for the nomination.

    Only she knows if she made a deal with the devil.


    Stress is cancer's enemy (5.00 / 2) (#6)
    by Inspector Gadget on Sat Sep 19, 2009 at 11:19:15 PM EST
    Doesn't seem to me that either John or Elizabeth was taking the consequences to her health into consideration when they decided the pursuit of power was a higher priority.

    They continue the lie if he is aware of his paternity and sticks by his last public words that he is not the father. Eventually, they are going to have to figure out what role he will play in the daughter's life if the truth turns out to be she's an Edwards. Seems any stress is found in the unknowing. They both are willingly delaying the solution.

    The only reason I can fathom for Reille to refuse to allow a paternity test is that she wants to see him do the right thing and admit it.


    or, (4.33 / 3) (#8)
    by cpinva on Sun Sep 20, 2009 at 03:12:54 AM EST
    The only reason I can fathom for Reille to refuse to allow a paternity test is that she wants to see him do the right thing and admit it.

    she's not 100% certain the child is his, and avoiding a paternity test keeps that an open question.

    sadly, this is why i have no need of made up tv soap operas, real life provides more than enough.


    I kind of doubt that (none / 0) (#22)
    by Inspector Gadget on Sun Sep 20, 2009 at 03:13:29 PM EST
    she has any questions of parentage. 15 minutes of fame is pretty enticing to people...if there was another man, or a chance she used artificial means, someone knows and would come forward just for the potential of informational payoff.

    I thought he'd already said he is (none / 0) (#16)
    by sallywally on Sun Sep 20, 2009 at 10:36:01 AM EST
    the father?

    Nope, he still is sailing (none / 0) (#17)
    by Cream City on Sun Sep 20, 2009 at 10:38:44 AM EST
    that river of De Nile.

    The cynic I have become over the last (none / 0) (#18)
    by Anne on Sun Sep 20, 2009 at 11:31:07 AM EST
    ten years says that it would not surprise me if some kind of deal was worked out with Rielle by Elizabeth to make sure the truth did not see the light of day until after Elizabeth's death. I can see the establishment of some kind of trust that would would pay all child-related expenses - if Rielle continues to refuse a DNA test until after Elizabeth dies - and it might even be for some specified time period after her death - like 10 years - to make sure that the two youngest of Elizabeth and John's children are over the age of 18 when it comes out.

    As strange as this whole thing has been, it seems plausible to me that this might be behind Rielle's continued refusal to test.


    Actually, I think (none / 0) (#21)
    by Inspector Gadget on Sun Sep 20, 2009 at 03:07:50 PM EST
    they are shallow enough to believe that if they continue to leave the paternity unproven, that they are more comfortable. Rielle can't sign any made for TV movie contracts to tell all as long as they keep the doubt floating.

    Elizabeth has found herself the target already for agreeing to participate in John's run and campaign for him while taking valuable time alive away from her children. Then, again, for his run when she knew the affair had happened and could easily be exposed during the campaign.

    She isn't going to win either way. To deny an innocent child access to her father is pretty cold for a mother. But, to encourage John to have a relationship would put her squarely in the victim seat and judged for not showing enough pride in herself and walking out on John.

    This whole thing isn't about Elizabeth. It's about a father and his child. Her legacy with me is based in whether or not she can see beyond herself and do what's right. Anyone who knows a person who was estranged from a parent because of actions outside their control would know the long-term pain that child will live with.



    What a weird comment. (2.00 / 1) (#27)
    by shoephone on Mon Sep 21, 2009 at 12:41:42 AM EST
    As if Elizabeth has any responsibility for John's "love child". And yes, I do remember why you come down on this particular side of the issue.



    And, you, again, putting in something that's (none / 0) (#29)
    by Inspector Gadget on Mon Sep 21, 2009 at 12:47:45 PM EST
    not there. Brilliant.

    Based on your ongoing disdain for the child, it appears you think all children born outside the boundaries of societal rules should be punished.


    Dunno if that's current (none / 0) (#28)
    by Romberry on Mon Sep 21, 2009 at 04:13:38 AM EST
    As strange as this whole thing has been, it seems plausible to me that this might be behind Rielle's continued refusal to test.

    A Google search turns up multiple reports that Rielle Hunter is not only no longer refusing DNA testing but has in fact been pushing for it and may have gone ahead with it without the cooperation of John Edwards.


    I agree. I fully understand (5.00 / 2) (#10)
    by Cream City on Sun Sep 20, 2009 at 08:44:24 AM EST
    anything that Elizabeth Edwards did for the sake of her children.

    But as I look back at last year, I don't see how a lot of what she did would come under that cover.


    I agree Anne (5.00 / 2) (#14)
    by ruffian on Sun Sep 20, 2009 at 10:03:45 AM EST
    Astounding to me the risks to their family both John and Elizabeth were willing to take for the sake of political status, and, in John's case, his own pleasure.  I know longer think (if I ever did)  they were altruistic in just wanting to help the poor and sick.  They loved the popularity and status they had.

    Of course, history is rife with such stories. It is something incomprehensible to those of us who have no such ambitions.


    The NYT sinks to a new low! This story was (5.00 / 4) (#7)
    by DeborahNC on Sun Sep 20, 2009 at 01:27:29 AM EST
    written to generate gossip and perhaps to create interest in Andrew Young's "book." Fortunately, the last I checked, there were no comments by readers in response to this story. That's quite a statement by readers to the reporter and to the Times.

    Jeralyn, I fully agree with your assessment.

    Hey (none / 0) (#20)
    by vail beach on Sun Sep 20, 2009 at 12:55:16 PM EST
    Aren't we supposed to be responding to this story by saying, "Mickey Kaus sucks goats?"

    I've been offline for awhile. Did the meme change?


    I still think there was an Edwards-Obama (5.00 / 3) (#19)
    by Exeter on Sun Sep 20, 2009 at 11:57:16 AM EST
    deal. Clearly Edwards was the frontrunner to be VP before all this stuff broke out. And clearly if Edwards had dropped out of the primaries before Iowa (and when he knew he was sitting on a time bomb), Hillary would have won Iowa and gone on to win the nomination.

    How incredibly incurious (5.00 / 2) (#26)
    by Cream City on Sun Sep 20, 2009 at 08:11:21 PM EST
    a statement -- I thought you formerly were a journalist.  Surely, you never would make a historian.  You don't eagerly anticipate the books that will be written on the 2008 campaign as I do!

    Neil and Young obviously (none / 0) (#11)
    by Militarytracy on Sun Sep 20, 2009 at 08:52:14 AM EST
    would sacrifice the public lives of four children in order to have something to get paid for.

    OMG, Neil Young Is In This Too? (5.00 / 2) (#12)
    by daring grace on Sun Sep 20, 2009 at 08:59:09 AM EST
    Read your comment too fast and that's what I got.

    Obviously still too early in the day for me to be trying for stellar comprehension yet.


    me too (none / 0) (#13)
    by ruffian on Sun Sep 20, 2009 at 09:39:05 AM EST
    Pretty strange love quadrangle that would be.

    Yup (none / 0) (#15)
    by daring grace on Sun Sep 20, 2009 at 10:19:19 AM EST
    I mean I almost couldn't get my mind around it as I imagined it except I kept thinking how linked and networked so much is nowadays and, like, six degrees of separation or something...

    Like I said...too early today after a late night last night for me to be attempting reading comprehension.