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John Edwards: It Depends on What the Definition of ‘The’ Is

John Edwards Begins His Defense Today Which Should Last a Week

Not since Bill Clinton challenged the definition of “is” has so much hinged on a very short word.

John Edwards appears to basing much of his defense, which begins today in a North Carolina courtroom, on the legal interpretation of the word “the.”

Edwards has listened to three weeks of testimony meant to prove that he violated federal campaign finance laws by using nearly $1million in donations to hide his mistress Rielle Hunter and her pregnancy during his bid for the 2008 presidential election and in the months after he dropped out — but was still angling to be vice president or attorney general.

If convicted Edwards could be sentenced to 30 years in prison.

The statute governing illegal receipt of campaign contributions “means any gift, subscription, loan, advance, or deposit of money… for the purpose of influencing any election for federal office.”

The words “the purpose” suggests that in order for a conviction, the sole reason for the money would have to be to finance a presidential campaign.

Edwards’ legal team has argued he did not know it might be illegal, did not intend to break the law and that his main reason for hiding Hunter was to keep her secret from his wife, Elizabeth, who was dying of breast cancer.

Prosecutors, however, are arguing the law should be interpreted to mean “a purpose,” meaning use of the donations does not have to be solely for a political campaign.

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