Prosecutors describe Edwards as ‘master manipulator’ as trial beginsPublished April 23, 2012 | FoxNews.comProsecutors on Monday described John Edwards as a “master manipulator,” as both sides delivered opening arguments in the case examining whether Edwards’ cover-up of his affair with Rielle Hunter was a federal crime.The juicy trial began at a federal courthouse in North Carolina with high stakes. Edwards, one of the nation’s most accomplished politicians before his 2008 fall from grace, faces a lengthy prison sentence if convicted — it is still not clear whether the former trial lawyer will take the stand in his own defense.Government attorneys argued Monday that Edwards, the former U.S. senator and Democratic presidential candidate, knew two wealthy contributors had provided the nearly $1 million to hide his pregnant mistress. They said the donations were tantamount to “campaign contributions” intended to preserve Edwards’ “family man” image during his 2008 campaign.But the defense argued the donations were merely “private money” intended to protect Edwards’ family from embarrassment. Edwards’ lawyers told jurors most of the money, which was handled by former campaign staffer Andrew Young, went toward building Young’s new house in Chapel Hill, N.C.The day of opening arguments comes more than four years after Edwards ended his Democratic presidential bid and went on to watch his reputation crumble under the weight of the emerging scandal. He has gone from battling reporters to battling prosecutors who seized upon the scheme as an alleged campaign finance breach. While the lurid details of his affair dominated the headlines going into the summer of 2008, the focus of the trial is the money trail.