The Ticket

John Edwards meets with key witness in criminal probe

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ed mellon

As federal prosecutors prepare to indict him on alleged campaign finance violations, John Edwards met with a pivotal witness in the case Thursday.

As ABC News first reported, Edwards traveled to Virginia yesterday where he lunched with Rachel "Bunny" Mellon, a 100-year-old reclusive banking heiress and longtime benefactor to the former Democratic presidential candidate.

Bill Taylor, Mellon's attorney who was present at the lunch, tells the Associated Press's Nedra Pickler it was social meeting and that Edwards' attorneys weren't there.

"It was entirely personal and social," Taylor tells AP. "There was no discussion of anything related to his situation."

Mellon's contributions to political entities linked to Edwards are at the center of the Justice Department's probe into whether the former North Carolina senator illegally used campaign contributions to cover up an affair with a former campaign staffer.

Edwards' attorneys have denied their client broke the law in trying to hide his relationship with Rielle Hunter, a videographer who worked for his 2008 presidential campaign and later gave birth to Edwards' child.

Mellon contributed millions to Edwards' campaigns and political non-profits over his career. She also reportedly gave Edwards in upwards of $700,000 in cash, which was later allegedly used to conceal Hunter's pregnancy from the press and from Edwards' then-wife, Elizabeth. Attorneys for Mellon have described those contributions as "gifts" and said their client had no idea what her money was being spent on.

Prosecutors are reportedly wrapping up their Edwards probe, and barring a plea deal, could announce an indictment within the next two weeks.

(Photo of Edwards: Jim R. Bounds/AP)

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