Edwards Trial Outcome Unsatisfying, Embarrassing

Pundits not cheering the result, on the whole

By Kate Seamons,  Newser Staff

Posted May 31, 2012 7:06 PM CDT

(Newser) – John Edwards was acquitted on one charge in his campaign finance fraud trial and the judge declared a mistrial on the rest. So will the Justice Department retry him? A "knowledgeable law enforcement official" tells the AP it's unlikely, though the AP notes the government will thoroughly review the issue over the next few days. In the meantime, how is the trial's outcome sitting? A sampling:

  • Talk about an unsatisfying ending, writes Chris Cillizza for the Washington Post. When this trial began, the public was essentially out for blood, hoping to "subject Edwards to a final, public shaming." The mistrial squashed their "chance to pass unquestioned judgment" on him. And as for those who were just praying for the whole thing to end, bad news: "The lack of clarity in the decision almost certainly will keep the sordid details of Edwards' attempts to cover up his extramarital affair in the news for a while longer."

  • In a piece entitled "A Bad Idea From Before the Start," Andrew Cohen explains why the trial was just that. Writing for the Atlantic, he explains that the Justice Department was "just asking for trouble" by pushing such a case in "the age of Citizens United," and it ended up with yet another embarrassing swing and a miss. "If you aren't going to fight the big ones" (ie, Wall Street fraud, writes Cohen), "you have to land the little ones."
  • Sure, just charging Edwards was "stretching the law," but writing for Slate, Emily Bazelon finds herself somewhat bummed by the outcome, and points to Citizens United as well. "In this election season in which politics is awash in money as never before, it was a small relief to imagine that someone, somewhere, could still get smacked for crossing the legal line."
  • But writing for NPR, Frank James sees a little glimmer of hope. He talks to a number of experts who think it's not a "total loss for the notion of campaign-finance law." Sure, prosecutors lost, but at least they demonstrated that "they can make life miserable for any politician they target." And if that keeps "many politicians anxiously looking over their shoulders," that's a small success.

John Edward leaves after the eighth day of jury deliberations at federal court May 30, 2012 in Greensboro, North Carolina.
John Edward leaves after the eighth day of jury deliberations at federal court May 30, 2012 in Greensboro, North Carolina.   (Getty Images)
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