Advisor recounts Edward's wife reacting to affair
A former adviser to John Edwards recounted Wednesday how the former Democratic presidential candidate's now-deceased wife indignantly confronted her husband, baring her chest in front of staff members the day after a tabloid reported that he was cheating on her.
During a session at Edwards' corruption trial that saw his 30-year-old daughter flee the courtroom in tears, Christina Reynolds described how a very upset Elizabeth Edwards stormed away from her husband in October 2007, then collapsed in a ball on the pavement outside a private airplane hangar. Reynolds and another woman guided the anguished wife into a nearby ladies room to compose herself, but she soon returned to the private hangar to again confront her husband.
In front of several staff members, the woman who had endured grueling treatments for breast cancer took off her shirt and bra, exposing her chest.
"'You don't see me anymore,'" Reynolds quoted Elizabeth Edwards as screaming. "He didn't have much of a reaction."
As staffers scrambled to cover up Edwards' wife and huddle her into a car, Reynolds heard the Democratic candidate use a cell phone to call his wife's doctor to ask for help.
Edwards then boarded a waiting jet and took off for his scheduled appearance in South Carolina, Reynolds said.
She testified that Elizabeth Edwards had known about her husband's affair with Rielle Hunter before The National Enquirer made it public. Hers was the most stirring testimony of the day at Edwards' trial on corruption charges, as prosecutors worked to build a timeline of the affair and efforts to cover it up.
Shortly before Reynolds began her account of what happened that day at the Raleigh airport, Edwards turned to his daughter Cate, a lawyer who has been seated in the front row for much of her father's trial.
"I don't know what's coming," Edwards was heard saying. "Do you want to leave?"
She responded to him in a whisper, grabbed her purse and walked out, wiping away tears. Edwards was heard saying, "Cate, Cate" as she left. She returned to court about a half hour later, after a brief recess.
Shortly before her testimony about the airport argument, Reynolds recounted that Elizabeth Edwards asked her over to the couple's gated estate near Chapel Hill in the summer of 2007 to tell her that her husband had confessed to an affair the prior year.
Reynolds, now 37, had worked on John Edwards' successful U.S. senate campaign in 1998 and had quickly bonded with his wife. Reynolds worked as the research director and a senior communications adviser to the 2008 presidential campaign and recently joined the board of the educational foundation named for Elizabeth Edwards, who died in December of 2010.
Edwards has pleaded not guilty to six counts related to campaign-finance violations. He faces up to 30 years in prison and $1.5 million in fines if convicted on all counts.
At issue are payments from wealthy donors used to help keep his pregnant mistress out of public view. Edwards' attorneys have said he didn't know about the money.
Earlier Wednesday, jurors heard from another aide who discussed topics ranging from the night the candidate met his mistress to how he charmed the wealthy donor whose money would be used to cover up the affair.
Josh Brumberger, now 33, was having drinks with Edwards in the bar of an upscale New York hotel in February 2006 when they were first approached by Hunter. He frequently traveled with Edwards and said it was not unusual for strange women to come up to him. The former aide said he politely helped extricate the candidate from the conversation.
Sometime later, Brumberger saw Edwards returning alone from dinner and surrounded by a group of women that included Hunter. He ran outside to once again politely get his boss out of the conversation.
"My normal bag of tricks included, 'Got a big day tomorrow, got to rest,'" he recalled.
Weeks later, Brumberger said, the woman began traveling with Edwards to film behind-the-scenes footage. At the time, Edwards had yet to declare his candidacy.
Brumberger couldn't place her at first, but within days he realized that she was the woman from the hotel. Hunter was paid through a political action committee supporting Edwards.
"It was a cause of concern," the former aide testified, adding that he told Edwards the new videographer "looked a little nutty." He said he Googled Hunter's name and found her personal web site, the contents of which he described as "sex, drugs, rock n' roll astrology."
Brumberger said his misgivings grew after Hunter demanded to travel with Edwards on private jets, rather than commercial flights like other staff and consultants.
"Ms. Hunter felt she pretty much had an all-access pass to everything," he said. "I disagreed."
Brumberger said he attempted to bar Hunter from the flights, but the candidate overruled him.
Edwards also ordered Brumberger to make sure the PAC paid for Hunter's health insurance, unheard-of for a consultant not on the full-time staff. Concerns were also raised among senior staff that Hunter didn't appear to know much about shooting video. Tapes filmed by Hunter played for the jury showed shaky camera work where those speaking were sometimes not in focus or not in the frame at all.
"It was shoddy and unprofessional," Brumberger said.
Brumberger also described accompanying Edwards on his first trip to the Virginia estate of donor Rachel "Bunny" Mellon in December 2005. The visit unfolded pleasantly with her recounting her visits to the Kennedy White House, where she helped plant the rose garden.
Soon after, the wealthy heiress made the first in a series of substantial donations to Edwards' political committees and his anti-poverty foundation that would eventually total more than $6 million.