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Ex-aide recalls John Edwards’s wife confronting him over affair

Daughter leaves during testimony about late mother

Chuck Liddy/The News & Observer via AP

John Edwards and his daughter Cate left the court Wednesday. He is being tried on six counts of campaign finance violations.

GREENSBORO, N.C. — A former adviser to John Edwards recounted Wednesday how the former presidential candidate’s now-deceased wife 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 that saw Edwards’s daughter leave the courtroom in tears, Christina Reynolds described how Elizabeth Edwards stormed away from her husband, then collapsed. She returned to confront her husband again. In front of several staff members, the woman who had endured treatments for breast cancer took off her shirt and bra.

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“ ‘You don’t see me anymore,’ ’’ Reynolds quoted Elizabeth Edwards as yelling. “He didn’t have much of a reaction.’’

Reynolds also heard the Democratic candidate call his wife’s doctor to ask for help.

Edwards then boarded a jet and took off for his scheduled appearance, Reynolds said.

She testified that Elizabeth Edwards had known about her husband’s affair with Rielle Hunter before The National Enquirer made it public in October 2007. Hers was the most stirring testimony of the day at Edwards’s trial on corruption charges.

Shortly before Reynolds began her account of what happened that day at the Raleigh airport, Edwards turned to his daughter Cate.

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“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. She returned to court about a half-hour later.

Reynolds also recounted that Elizabeth Edwards asked her over to the couple’s Chapel Hill home 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’s successful US Senate campaign in 1998 and had 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 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’s attorneys have said he didn’t know about the money.

Earlier Wednesday, jurors heard from another aide who discussed topics including the night Edwards met his mistress.

Josh Brumberger, now 33, was having drinks with Edwards in the bar of a New York hotel in February 2006 when they were first approached by Hunter. The former aide said he politely helped extricate the candidate from the conversation.

Sometime later, Brumberger saw Edwards returning alone from dinner, surrounded by a group of women that included Hunter. He ran outside to once again get his boss out of the conversation.

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.

Hunter was paid through a political action committee supporting Edwards.

Edwards 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.

Brumberger also described accompanying Edwards on his first trip to the Virginia estate of donor Rachel “Bunny’’ Mellon in December 2005.

Prosecutors said Edwards used money from Mellon, who is now 101, and from another wealthy donor to hide Hunter. Edwards’s attorneys have said he didn’t know the money was being used to hide her and that another former aide spent much of it on his dream house.

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