After reports that Sen. John Edwards (D-NC) is on the verge of being indicted for using campaign funds to cover-up an extramarital affair, his attorney Wednesday issued a defiant statement impugning the legal underpinnings of the government’s case.
The statement suggests that Edwards, a onetime presidential contender, is either taking a firm stand in plea negotiations or outright fighting the charges and will opt for a trial instead of agreeing to plead guilty for a lesser charge.
Here’s the statement from attorney Greg Craig (President Obama’s first White House counsel):
John Edwards has done wrong in his life — and he knows it better than anyone — but he did not break the law.
The government’s theory is wrong on the facts and wrong on the law. It is novel and untested. There is no civil or criminal precedent for such a prosecution. The government originally investigated allegations that Senator Edwards’ campaign funds were misused but continued its pursuit even after finding that not one penny from the Edwards campaign was involved. The Justice Department has wasted millions of dollars and thousands of hours on a matter more appropriately a topic for the Federal Election Commission to consider, not a criminal court.”
The Federal Election Commission only has the power to fine campaigns and is notoriously weak when it comes to determining whether lawmakers broke the law. For example, the FEC found that Sen. John Ensign (R-NV) did nothing wrong by having his parents pay $96,000 to his mistress and her husband, but a Senate Ethics Committee investigation found that Ensign had lied to the agency that the money was a “gift” and not “severence.”
When the bipartisan ethics panel’s final report found Ensign’s behavior so egregious that the special prosecutor on the case was planning to recommend expulsion from the Senate, if he had not resigned. The committee then forwarded the new evidence to the Justice Department and FEC for further review.