Monday is a big day in the ongoing gifts scandal in Virginia.
Attorneys for both Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) and his wife, Maureen McDonnell, will meet separately on Monday with federal prosecutors, according to The Washington Post. The McDonnells’ lawyers will be trying to convince officials that Virginia’s first couple should not be charged over their relationship with a businessman and political donor who provided them with tens of thousands of dollars in gifts.Two people with knowledge of the investigation told the Post that prosecutors will use the meetings to help them decide whether to file charges in the coming days and weeks. McDonnell’s successor will be chosen in November, and Justice Department guidelines discourage prosecutors from taking action against elected officials during election season, meaning that prosecutors would find it harder to move against the governor after Labor Day.
The federal probe of McDonnell’s relationship with Jonnie Williams, the CEO of a struggling dietary supplements maker called Star Scientific, has been public knowledge for months. According to the Post, the central issues for prosecutors are now “what precisely McDonnell may have said or offered to Williams on his own and how much the governor knew about his wife’s acceptance of gifts from Williams and her actions to help his company just as Star was launching a new product.” A source told the paper that the governor has suggested to authorities that his wife purposely kept secret what she was accepting from Williams.
McDonnell last month said that he and his family had repaid $124,115.17 to Williams, to cover what the governor termed loans given to him and his family. The governor subsequently announced that all the “tangible” gifts provided to him and his family by Williams — including a Rolex watch — had also been returned. Over the weekend, McDonnell’s spokesman disclosed that Maureen McDonnell twice made purchases of Star Scientific stock, purchases made while both she and the governor were helping to promote the company. The Post also reported Monday on additional gifts Williams provided to the McDonnells: golf clubs for the McDonnells’ college-aged twin sons, and an iPhone for the first lady.
Williams, meanwhile, has been cooperating with prosecutors. According to the Post, Williams has told officials that he and McDonnell spoke often about ways the governor and the state could help Star Scientific.
Gov. McDonnell’s private spokesperson declined to comment to TPM on the Post’s report on Monday.