RALEIGH, N.C. - Federal prosecutors have completed a wide-ranging investigation into John Edwards' political dealings and could indict the two-time presidential candidate within days, a source familiar with the matter said yesterday.
Edwards could still strike a plea deal to avoid an indictment, said the source, who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Federal investigators have been probing Edwards for more than two years. Their interest has spanned much of Edwards' political career, looking into issues such as whether he did anything improper during his time in the U.S. Senate. And it looked into a network of organizations connected to Edwards, including a nonprofit, political-action committees and a so-called 527 political group.
Much of the investigation, however, focused on money that eventually went to keep mistress Rielle Hunter in hiding along with former campaign aide Andrew Young, who claimed paternity of Hunter's child in 2007 so that Edwards could continue his White House campaign without the affair tarnishing his reputation. Investigators have been looking at whether those funds should have been considered campaign donations since they arguably aided his presidential bid.
Justice Department officials in Washington had been reviewing the case in recent weeks.
The U.S. attorney in Raleigh declined to comment yesterday. An Edwards spokeswoman did not return a message seeking comment, although his attorneys have said that they are confident the former North Carolina senator did not violate campaign-finance laws.
Young has said that Edwards agreed in 2007 to solicit money directly from Rachel "Bunny" Mellon, the 100-year-old widow of banking heir Paul Mellon. Young has said that he received hundreds of thousands of dollars in checks from Mellon, some hidden in boxes of chocolate.
Mellon's attorney has said that she didn't know where the money was going but intended it as a personal gift.
Investigators also looked at money spent by Edwards' former campaign-finance chairman, Fred Baron, who died in 2008.
Hunter was hired in 2006 to shoot video of Edwards as he prepared for his second White House bid. Records show that her video-production firm earned about $100,000. An attorney for Edwards has said that one of his nonprofits, the Center for Promise and Opportunity, shared the costs of the video work and paid a similar amount.