Witness: Ex-Guv McDonnell ‘In Denial’ About Wife’s Mental Capacity

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A witness in former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) and his wife’s federal corruption case testified Thursday that McDonnell was “in denial” about the first lady’s mental capacity.

The Washington Post reported that Sarah Scarbrough, the former Executive Mansion director, described the couple as “so sweet and in love” in public. In response to questioning from one of McDonnell’s attorneys, however, Scarbrough also testified that the ex-governor “was in denial about Mrs. McDonnell’s mental capacity.”

Scarbrough testified that Maureen McDonnell could be sneaky and sometimes used her husband’s name to get things done without his permission. Scarbrough recounted that the first lady once said her husband wanted a dietary supplement manufactured by the donor at the center of the couple’s gifts scandal to be included in gift bags at a National Governors Association meeting, when the governor actually did not, according to the Post.

That testimony parallels what Maureen McDonnell’s onetime chief of staff, Mary-Shea Sutherland, had told the court on Wednesday. Sutherland testified that she’d called the first lady a “nut bag” in conversations with prosecutors and described her as extremely difficult to work with at times.

Scarbrough said Thursday the governor never spoke to her about either his personal finances or the state of his marriage. But she did testify that she believed the relationship between Maureen McDonnell and the donor, Jonnie Williams, was “inappropriate.” The former staffer judged the relationship “inappropriate” when she learned in April 2011 that the married Williams had taken the first lady on a shopping trip for expensive clothes, according to the Post.

Scarbrough’s description of the relationship between Williams and the first lady may feed into the defense’s argument that there was a romantic connection between the two, precluding any conspiracy between the McDonnells to promote Williams’ company in exchange for gifts.

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