Former Sen. John Edwards declined a possible plea agreement with federal prosecutors because he lives in “a world of arrogance” and believes he can beat the charges, according to Newsmax Chief Washington Correspondent Ronald Kessler.
But Edwards is going to jail because prosecutors surely have a “very strong case” against the 2004 Democratic vice presidential candidate, Kessler says.
Edwards was indicted Friday on charges that he used campaign funds to cover up his affair with campaign aide Rielle Hunter during his 2008 presidential campaign.
“Mr. Edwards is alleged to have accepted more than $900,000 in an effort to conceal from the public facts he believes would harm his candidacy,” the Department of Justice said in a statement.
“While a candidate for President of the United States, Edwards conspired with other individuals to accept and receive campaign contributions in excess of limits imposed by the Federal Election Act in an effort to protect and advance his candidacy from disclosure of an ongoing extra-marital affair and the resulting pregnancy.”
In an interview with Newsmax.TV, Kessler, whose latest book “The Secrets of the FBI” will be released in August, says: “The issue is, was this [$900,000] a gift, which is what Edwards would claim, or was this actually campaign finance money that should have been reported.”
As to why Edwards did not consent to a plea agreement, Kessler says: “I’m sure the prosecution was insisting on a good stiff jail term. I’m thinking at least eight years.
“And Edwards, silver-tongued lawyer that he is, thinks he can get out of it. He thinks he can convince a jury that he didn’t do it.
“The fact that this is a federal prosecution, the FBI is involved, as well as the fact that the investigation has gone on for over two years before the grand jury, tells me that they do have a very strong case, because it’s really rare when a federal prosecution is brought and the person is found not guilty.
“I think Edwards is going to jail. I’m sure it’s something he can’t visualize. I think he lives in a different world, a world of arrogance, and simply doesn’t get that he’s in serious trouble, and that’s why he didn’t agree to a plea agreement.”
With news of Edwards’ indictment coming soon after revelations that a lewd photo was sent from Democratic Rep. Anthony Weiner’s Twitter account, Kessler was asked whether scandals could impact the Democrats at large.
“It certainly tarnishes the Democratic brand, especially in the case of John Edwards who ran for vice president,” Kessler responds.
“But we all realize that the Democrats aren’t the only ones who engage in this sort of activity. The Republicans are beaten up more when they engage in this because they do stand for family values. But it comes down to arrogance, to stupidity, and I think it tells us when we’re electing politicians, particularly presidential candidates, we need to look at character as well as what they say.”
Discussing the moral “disconnect” between Edwards and others in Washington and those outside, Kessler states: “Certainly people who get into power, whether it’s a CEO of a company or a member of Congress or a president, they tend to start thinking that they’re better than anybody else, they’re above the law, unless they’re very well grounded.
“In this case this probably would never have come out except for the National Enquirer, so it shows the importance of the press in keeping these people honest.”
Scandals like those surrounding Edwards and others in politics do contribute to the relatively low approval ratings voters give lawmakers in Washington, Kessler adds.
“Clearly that is part of what people are upset about when they think of Washington insiders.
“But I think, because the number of people who do get in these scandals is very small, the percentage is very small, more importantly people think of them not paying attention to their needs, not paying attention to the problems, feathering their own nest.
“Those are the things that really upset people, and that’s why we have the tea party movement and a lot of other efforts to unseat incumbents.”
The federal indictment, returned in the Middle District of North Carolina, charges Edwards with one count of conspiracy to violate the federal campaign finance laws and to make false statements to the Federal Election Commission (FEC); four counts of accepting and receiving illegal campaign contributions from two donors in 2007 and 2008; and one count of concealing those illegal donations from the FEC.
If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the conspiracy charge, five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each count of accepting and receiving illegal campaign contributions, and a maximum of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine on the charge of concealing the alleged illegal donations.