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Former presidential hopeful John Edwards was more “a spectator than a participant” at a 2007 meeting in which his now-deceased wife, Elizabeth, railed at two political donors because they had maintained ties to his mistress, Rielle Hunter.

Jennifer Palmieri, a former aide to Edwards who is now the White House deputy director of communications under Barack Obama, said Elizabeth Edwards was angry at Fred Baron and his wife Lisa for taking Hunter on a shopping spree.

“Rielle Hunter was a loose cannon and Fred and Lisa thought it was important to keep the relationship going,” Palmieri said, in describing the 2007 meeting at a hotel in Davenport, Iowa, at which she was present.

Elizabeth Warren for President
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“Elizabeth just wanted Rielle out of their lives entirely,” she said.

John Edwards, 58, is accused of violating federal election laws by soliciting more than $900,000 in illegal campaign contributions, mainly from Baron and heiress Rachel “Bunny” Mellon, as he pursued the presidency in 2008.

The federal government contends that he sought money to conceal the affair, knowing revelations that he was cheating on his cancer-stricken wife and had fathered Hunter’s child would destroy his campaign.

 
At issue is whether John Edwards knew details about efforts by campaign supporters to keep the affair from being publicized during the campaign, or only became aware of them much later, as his lawyers have claimed.

The government says the money should have been reported as political donations because it was meant to protect Edwards’ image and candidacy.

The defense argues that the payments were from one private third party to another and should not be characterized as campaigned contributions.

Edwards has pleaded not guilty. He faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each count if convicted. The trial is in its third week.

Prosecutors said they expected to conclude their presentation today. and submitted a list of their final witnesses, which did not include Hunter.