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Payments to mistress 'smelled wrong,' former aide to John Edwards testifies

GREENSBORO, N.C. — Andrew Young, John Edwards' former campaign aide and close friend, testified Tuesday that using money from wealthy donors to help support Edwards' mistress and cover up their affair "felt and smelled wrong."

"It just all seems crazy," Young said in the second day of his testimony at Edwards' campaign finance criminal trial. "It felt and smelled wrong."

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Analysis by Hampton Dellinger

Continual phone calls from Edwards' mistress, Rielle Hunter, a videographer on his campaign staff, were so frustrating, Young said, that one day he answered her call by saying, "Somebody better be pregnant or dying."

Hunter responded, "Nobody's dying," he said.

Young testified that when he told Edwards that Hunter was pregnant, "he said that she was a crazy slut and it was a 1 in 3 chance it was his child."

Phone records, email messages, and schedules were laid out Tuesday during Young's chronology of the Edwards-Hunter affair. When Edwards' wife, Elizabeth, encountered Hunter at the launch of Edwards' presidential campaign in December 2006, Hunter was fired as a campaign videographer. That left her unemployed, and she occasionally threatened to go public on the affair, Young said.

Young said Edwards first asked him to use proceeds from the sale of his house to help Hunter and then had him try Edwards' former law professor and a successful musician. Both said no.

Then came a note from Rachel "Bunny" Mellon, a socialite who is now 101, who was furious about the media treatment of Edwards' $400 haircuts.

"I told [Mellon] that we had a non-campaign expense that would benefit Mr. Edwards and that we needed her help," Young testified. He said he didn't tell Mellon the money would be used to cover up an affair.

"Please send bills to me," she wrote, offering "a way to help our friend without government restrictions."

Mellon wrote seven checks totaling $725,000 to her decorator, Bryan Huffman, who signed them over to Young's wife to co-sign using her maiden name. Mellon used descriptions in the checks' memo lines like "chairs" and "antique Charleston table."

Hunter received an allowance, usually $5,000 a month but sometimes as much as $12,000.  

Contradicting Edwards' claim that he knew nothing about the money, Young said that the two discussed the money and that Young questioned the legality of the payments five times, but Edwards repeatedly insisted it was legal and that it was "not a campaign expense."

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Young also explained his version of how Elizabeth Edwards discovered the affair. He said John Edwards was napping after a trip to China and Elizabeth answered his cellphone. It was Hunter calling, and she apparently kept talking as though John Edwards had answered. 

Young said Elizabeth Edwards took John Edwards' phone away and gave him her cellphone. After that, Edwards communicated with Hunter through a special "bat phone," Young said.

Young isn't expected to be cross-examined by the defense until Wednesday at the earliest.

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