Voicemails detail Edwards affair

March 2, 2011 6:27:37 PM PST
ABC11 has obtained voicemail messages purportedly left by John Edwards as a former aide says he tried to cover up his affair with campaign worker Rielle Hunter.

The recordings were turned over to a federal grand jury that's investigating the former senator and presidential candidate.

Edwards has admitted to having an affair with Hunter and fathering a daughter with her. The affair began during Edwards' presidential campaign in 2006. Hunter worked for Edwards' political action committee, shooting behind-the-scenes video as the Democrat prepared to launch his White House campaign.

According to former Edwards aide Andrew Young, he and his wife Cheri lived a life on the run to keep news of the affair from the media. The voicemails show Edwards checked in from time to time from the campaign trail.

"I'm standing out in 18-degree temperatures to call you. And, please tell her I said hello and I will call you later tonight," says Edwards in one recording from December 26, 2007.

At the time, Young, Hunter and Young's wife were spending Christmas at the Aspen home of billionaire Texas trial lawyer Fred Baron.

Young has said in interviews with ABC News that the plan to hide was not his.

"This was completely John Edwards' idea, completely John Edwards' plan and he systematically sold me, Rielle, and my wife on this," Young said in January 2010.

Edwards made many calls to keep tabs on the trio.

"I'm just checking in with you and making sure you're safe and in a place where you are good," he says in a recording from December 27, 2007.

Since January 2009, a federal grand jury in Raleigh has been trying to determine if Edwards violated campaign finance laws by using donations to hide the affair and the pregnancy. In August 2009, Hunter and the baby appeared before the grand jury.

One year earlier - in an interview with ABC News - Edwards said this about the money:

"I've never paid a dime of money to any of the people that are involved. I've never asked anybody to pay a dime of money, never been told that any money's been paid. Nothing has been done at my request," he told ABC's Bob Woodruff. "So if the allegation is that somehow I participated in the payment of money, that is a lie, an absolute lie."

But, in his book "The Politician," Young provides a very different account, saying Edwards "had talked to me about how Fred's cash would be only 'our short-term solution'. And "he said that Bunny Mellon was more likely to provide 'the long-term solution' to fund Rielle's lifestyle."

Young provided more than eight hours of grand jury testimony - answering questions from federal prosecutors.

"They showed me checks from some organizations that were dedicated to causes that John Edwards led, and those checks were made out to Rielle, and they were sizable checks," he said in an April 2010 interview.

Young turned over voicemail messages to federal prosecutors and to ABC News to back-up the story in his book. They show Edwards was in contact with the people Young says bankrolled the cover-up.

"Hey Andrew, it's Fred Baron. I just wanted to give you an update on our dear friend … Rielle," Baron is heard to say in one recording.

Young claims Baron and Edwards worked together to help hide the affair using hundreds of thousands of dollars of Baron's money.

"The senator told me that he was gonna get Fred involved and within an hour, Fred was on the phone actively planning every trip - every step of this misadventure," Young said in a January 2010 interview with ABC News.

In another message from July 2008, Baron says he's in contact with Edwards four days after the National Enquirer caught Edwards meeting Hunter and their baby at a Los Angeles hotel.

"Hey Andrew, it's Fred. I just had long conversation with Edwards and this has just, you know, it's been awful. But we're gonna get through it, and I just wanted to tell you how positive I feel like we are gonna get through this thing."

A few days later, a call came from Edwards himself.

"Andrew, it's John," says Edwards. "I did just find something out about what's on the cover of the National Enquirer."

"Anytime I came to Fred with a problem he said, 'Andrew, I have more money than I will ever be able to spend. Take care of this. Let me focus on making John Edwards president,'" said Young in January 2010.

Fred Baron died in 2008, long before he could be called to testify before the grand jury. But, when the scandal broke, Baron said Edwards did not know he was helping pay for the scheme. His wife Lisa Blue appeared at the Raleigh federal courthouse in January.

In his book, Young says they also used money from billionaire heiress Bunny Mellon. He claims she sent $700,000 in personal checks - hidden in candy boxes - and Young used the money to keep Hunter in hiding. They called it "Bunny money," although her lawyer says she didn't know how the money was being used.

In another voicemail message, Edwards talks about his relationship with Mellon as he works to convince her to donate millions to start a foundation to fight poverty.

"Andrew, hey it's John. It's 7:27 east coast time. I had a wonderful conversation with Bunny. She will be there no matter what. She's offered me to come up there and stay if I need to and I may end up doing that some. Anyway, she's a terrific person, God what a sweetie. Anyway, she's totally there and I think we can completely count on her and I just wanted you to hear that and to once again to tell you I love you… uhh, I really love you Andrew."

In December, federal prosecutors called Mellon's son, and grandsons to testify about their knowledge of the financial arrangement. Now, the grand jury that's been meeting the first week of every month on the sixth floor of the federal courthouse in Raleigh must decide what Edwards knew, when he knew it, and if it violates federal law.

Andrew Young says there's no doubt in his mind.

"He was integrally involved in every aspect of this," he said in 2010. "Everything that I did, in terms of procuring money, spending money or where monies went, was done at the direction of Fred and Ed - Fred Baron and John Edwards."

Andrew Young says he saved the voicemail messages because he wanted to be able to corroborate his story if the scheme ever unraveled. He says no one would've believed his word over John Edwards.

Edwards has not commented publicly on the investigation since May of 2009. In a statement, he said no funds from his campaign were used improperly.

The ABC11 I-Team has learned the grand jury investigation in Raleigh is winding down. We could soon know if Edwards will face criminal charges.

Classifieds | Report A Typo |  Send Tip |  Get Alerts | Most Popular
Follow @abc11 on Twitter  |  Become a fan on Facebook


Load Comments