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John and Elizabeth Edwards Have SPLIT

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CBS News: BREAKING NEWS UPDATE: Former senator and Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards has legally separated from his wife Elizabeth Edwards, CBS News has confirmed with someone familiar with the situation.

John and Elizabeth Edwards

ABC News broke the news of the separation in a report on the new book "The Politician" from former Edwards aide Andrew Young. John Edwards is reportedly no longer living at the Edwards home in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

Elizabeth Edwards is disputing a number of charges from Young's book, such as the claim that the Edwards considered Elizabeth's bout with cancer a political advantage.

"Once Elizabeth was diagnosed with cancer... within 12 hours they were openly talking about how her cancer prognosis was going to help them in the polls," Young told ABC News.

Elizabeth Edwards' publicist said in a statement given to ABC News that "the allegation that she sought to politicize her cancer is unconscionable, hurtful and patently false."

Young reportedly provided ABC news with a number of voicemails from Elizabeth Edwards in which she harrasses him about the woman with whom her husband was having an affair, Rielle Hunter.

"Elizabeth is moving on with her life and wants to put this difficult chapter behind her," Edwards' publicist said. "It was an excruciatingly painful period for her and she no interest in rehashing the past. Based on the limited portions of the book that have been made available, it is clear it contains many falsehoods and exaggerations."

This is a breaking news update. Earlier story from ABC News is below.

ABC News: With John Edwards' electrifying U.S. Senate win in 1998, it was his wife Elizabeth Edwards who captivated the nation. A strong, smart, resilient woman, she became one of her husband's greatest political strengths.

"He was young and good looking and charming [and] his wife did not fit Hollywood's central casting of what a political wife should look like. She was a little bit heavy-set. She was an attorney in her own right. She was somebody who was his intellectual equal, if not intellectual superior. She let people know that," said Democratic political consultant Joe Sinsheimer. "John was the dashing figure and Elizabeth was the anchor and that's the way they sold themselves to the people of North Carolina."

But behind their public persona as the golden couple, during his second run for president, there was another side to Elizabeth Edwards who was secretly dealing with the slow leakage of her husband's affair and her cancer diagnosis.

As a torrent of fresh details from the scandal cascaded into the media today, a source close to Elizabeth Edwards told ABC News that she and John are now legally separated. Under North Carolina law they can't get divorced until at least a year later. John Edwards is no longer living at their home in Chapel Hill, ABC News has learned.

When Elizabeth learned in March 2007 that her breast cancer had returned, it became part of the couple's political calculations in his presidential run, according to Edwards' former aide Andrew Young who has written a tell-all book "The Politician." The book will be released Jan. 30.

"Once Elizabeth was diagnosed with cancer ... within 12 hours they were openly talking about how her cancer prognosis was going to help them in the polls," Young told ABC News' Bob Woodruff in an exclusive interview.

In a statement to ABC News, Elizabeth denied the accusation, calling it "unconscionable, hurtful and patently false."

Though the cancer had spread to her bones and was incurable, the couple made the dramatic decision to stay in the 2008 presidential campaign.

"The things that were most disturbing about the Edwards to me in these later years, was that nothing was sacred. They openly talked about [their son] Wade's death as one of their motivators for running and why he ran... They used [their children] Jack and Emma openly as campaign props," Young said.

Young was the senator's right-hand man for nearly 10 years. Zealously committed to the senator and his family, he made himself indispensible to the couple both professionally and personally.

In summer 2006, Young became aware of Edwards' affair with campaign videographer Rielle Hunter and was ultimately entrusted by Edwards to conceal it. The affair, Young says, began in February 2006.

Elizabeth Edwards Keeps Tabs on John

Young's accounts paint a portrait of Elizabeth as a controlling wife beneath a collected exterior.

At the beginning of Edwards' relationship with Hunter, Young claims Elizabeth was aware of her husband's previous affairs and developed an elaborate system to keep tabs on him.

"She would call his room in the middle of the night to make sure he was there. She would put up acronyms for whoever would call in so that a casual woman or whatever couldn't get through and she would change them regularly. She would leave instructions at the hotel front desk for a woman not to be transferred other than her into his room," Young told ABC News.

Young said she would even monitor the cell phone records of Edwards' staff.

"That's how he started using my phone, or he would call my phone and I would do a three-way call into Rielle's phone so that Elizabeth couldn't see that he was talking to Rielle," Young said. "She would call me and say, 'Why were you and John talking for an hour?' And I would say, 'Basketball.'"

Edwards also had a "secret" cell phone, according to Young, which was called "the bat phone." Young said he typically answered the phone and took the phone at night for safe keeping, but in October 2006, when Edwards returned from a five-day trip to Uganda with Hunter, Elizabeth answered a call and heard a woman's voice on the line.

"[Edwards] went to bed and Elizabeth answered the phone and didn't say anything and Rielle just started saying lovey-dovey ... They [the Edwards] had a knock down brawl ... He said that Elizabeth made him call the number back immediately and supposedly end the affair. And, of course, he used my phone to call [Hunter] to tell her it was ok," recalled Young.

At that point, Young told ABC News Elizabeth must not have known who was on the phone because for "several months after that, Rielle's name was on the daily schedule traveling with the senator."

First Lady Meets Mistress

By the time Edwards formally launched his 2008 campaign, the presidential hopeful was living two lives, Young said: a comfortable one with Elizabeth at their newly-constructed Chapel Hill mansion, and a private one with Hunter ducking in and out of hotel rooms on a multi-state announcement tour.

At a December 2006 rally at Southern Village in front of Edwards' Chapel Hill, N.C. headquarters, the Edwardses put a smile and waved to the crowds. There was no sign that just moments before, the candidate's two worlds had collided.

Following Edwards' request to keep Hunter away from Elizabeth, Young said he brought Hunter to a bathroom he didn't think Elizabeth would use, but instead the two women came face to face for the first time.

"When I picked the Senator and Rielle up at the private jetport...they were already pretty tipsy from drinking alcohol. He leaned over very quietly and he said, 'Andrew, whatever you do, don't let Elizabeth see Rielle,'" Young said. "That was his big fear. I dropped him off and I took Rielle to the only bathroom that I knew would be open. As we were walking in, Elizabeth opened the door with a big campaign smile on her face to greet supporters, and she came face to face with Rielle."

After the rally, Young said he drove the Edwardses home in painful silence. According to Young, Edwards admitted to his wife that night he had had an affair with Hunter, but referred to it only as a one-night stand.

"He told her he had had a one-night affair...but that I had started having an affair with her after that," Young said.

Edwards told Young that Elizabeth's response was "violent."

"He told me...Elizabeth had kept him up all night fighting about Rielle. Any time that he would almost be asleep... she would...get like an inch from his face and start screaming at him," Young recalled. "I was told repeatedly by him that she repeatedly threatened to commit suicide because of this and because of past things."

Suspicion Consumes Elizabeth

Elizabeth insisted Hunter's contract be terminated. The next day, her six month contract with the campaign ended.

In an interview with Oprah Winfrey last spring, Elizabeth said that her first reaction was to have her husband get out of the campaign, but he argued that it would raise a lot of questions if he got out two days after declaring his candidacy.

"She didn't make the decision to terminate the presidential campaign. She had that power. She chose to stand in that courtyard and present a picture of John Edwards to America as the perfect husband who was standing by his wife during her cancer treatments and that was really a fraud that both the Edwards perpetuated on the American people," Sinsheimer told ABC News. "At some point, Elizabeth Edwards went from victim to co-conspirator in allowing John to continue to run for president."

To read more of the ABC News story, click here.

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