Earlier this month, Bob McDonnell became former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell. On Tuesday, he became indicted former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell.
Just days after he left office, the Republican and and his wife, Maureen McDonnell, were charged in federal court with more than a dozen counts related to the tens of thousands of dollars in gifts and loans they accepted from a wealthy Virginia businessman. (The ex-governor maintained on Tuesday that he had done nothing illegal.)
The fact that the McDonnells were under scrutiny from prosecutors was no secret. Stories about the investigation, and the relationship between the McDonnells and the businessman, Jonnie Williams, had been appearing in the press for months. We knew (thanks in large part to stellar reporting from The Washington Post) about the Rolex, and the Oscar de la Renta dress, and the Ferrari joyride, and the golf outings. But the 43-page indictment filed on Tuesday did reveal numerous new details about the scandal, and confirmed several other points which had been fuzzy or in dispute.
Here are the highlights:
1. It All Started With An Inauguration Dress
According to the indictment, Bob McDonnell and Williams, the now-former CEO of an embattled dietary supplements company called Star Scientific, had never met before McDonnell began running for governor — and they only met in 2009 after McDonnell’s staff asked Williams if they could use his private plane for the campaign.
It didn’t take long for more favors to pile up. In December 2009, after a successful Election Day, the McDonnells allegedly met with Williams at the Four Seasons Hotel in New York City. Bob McDonnell was in town for a political event. During their meeting, Maureen McDonnell asked Williams for help finding a designer dress to wear at her husband’s upcoming inauguration. One of Bob McDonnell’s senior aides soon raised concerns about the idea of Williams buying Maureen McDonnell a dress — which set her off.
“I need to talk to you about Inaugural clothing budget,” Maureen McDonnell wrote in an email to the aide on Dec. 21, 2009. “I need answers and Bob is screaming about the thousands I’m charging up in credit card debt. We are broke, have an unconscionable amount in credit card debt already, and this Inaugural is killing us!! I need answers and I need help, and I need to get this done.”
Later, Maureen McDonnell told Williams she would take a “rain check” on the dress.
2. The McDonnells Were Deeply In Debt
If the email from Maureen McDonnell doesn’t make it clear, the rest of the indictment does: the McDonnells were struggling financially when they moved into Virginia’s Executive Mansion.
As has been previously reported, Bob McDonnell and his sister co-owned a small real estate company company called MoBo, which owned and rented out a couple of homes in Virginia Beach, Va. According to the indictment, the properties needed “capital infusions of up to $60,000 annually to meet mortgage payments and other expenses.” The McDonnells turned to friends and family for loans to make up the money. They thought about selling, but the property values were falling.
In early May 2011, Maureen McDonnell and Williams meet privately at the Executive Mansion. According to the indictment, she told Williams that she and her husband “were having severe financial difficulties” and did not know how they would pay for their daughter’s upcoming wedding expenses. She asked Williams for a $50,000 loan, as well as a $15,000 to pay the remaining catering costs for the wedding. According to the indictment, Maureen wasn’t just asking for a handout.
“[Maureen McDonnell] also told [Williams] that she could help Star Scientific but that she needed [Williams’] financial assistance,” the indictment states.
The McDonnells money trouble connected to the rental houses appears to have continued for much of Bob McDonnell’s time as governor. On Feb. 10, 2013, McDonnell sent an email to his five children, and copied Maureen.
“Kids,” he wrote. “Asking for help. need to rent the beach houses at Sandbridge more. Willing to give your friends a discount for the times it’s tougher to rent.”
3. Bob McDonnell Allegedly Knew About The First Big Loan From Williams
A big lingering question in the scandal was just how much Bob McDonnell had known about the $120,000 in total payments that Williams made to him and his family in 2011 and 2012. In October, a private spokesperson for McDonnell said the Republican had not been aware of the first $50,000 payment, made in May 2011, until “after the funds had been spent.”
The indictment offers a different version of events, one that Williams reportedly gave to federal investigators. According to the document, Williams spoke with Bob McDonnell before making the first loan, and McDonnell told Williams about “the defendants’ financial difficulties.” Williams allegedly agreed to provide the first $50,000 with a two-year term at five percent interest. He also informed McDonnell that loan paperwork wouldn’t be necessary.
4. But Some Of Williams’ Help May Have Come As A Surprise
On Jan. 25, 2012, Bob McDonnell got an email from his brother-in-law, who was helping to manage the rental properties.
“For MoBo, I talked with [Maureen] last week and she had me talk to the guy who is helping us,” the brother-in-law wrote. “He said he was going to call me the next day to get an address so he could send the first check. I did not hear from him and I left [Maureen] a message yesterday. We’ll need to get that in the next week so we can keep up-to-date.”
Two days later, Bob forwarded that email to Maureen.
“Maureen who are we talking about that is helping us and talking to [the brother-in-law]?? [Williams]?” he wrote.
Maureen replied the same day.
“Just got home. I’ll talk w u upstairs.” she wrote
On March 6, Williams had an assistant write out a check to MoBo for $50,000. The loan, which was not documented, allegedly included a two percent interest rate and a three-year term.
5. Bob McDonnell Asked For $20,000 Via A Text Message
The indictment contains documentation of McDonnell allegedly asking Williams for money.
“Per voicemail would like to see if you could extend another 20k loan for this year,” McDonnell texted to Williams on May 18, 2012.” Call if possible and I’ll ask [the brother-in-law] to send instructions.”
Williams responded, also by text: “Done, tell me who to make it out to and address. Will FedEx.”
6. People Discussed Using Virginia Employees As Dietary Guinea Pigs
This is perhaps the craziest idea contained in the indictment. In August 2011, following an email from Bob McDonnell to Virginia’s secretary of health, Maureen McDonnell met at the Executive Mansion with Williams and one of the secretary’s senior policy advisors. At that meeting, according to the indictment, Williams discussed the idea of having Virginia government employees use Anatabloc, Star Scientific’s anti-inflammatory dietary supplement, “as a control group for research studies.”
This wasn’t the only time this kind of idea came up. In October 2011, according to the indictment, Maureen McDonnell accompanied Williams and a research scientist who consulted for Star Scientific to a company event in Grand Blanc, Mich. They took Williams’ private plane, and during the flights there and back, they discussed the potential health benefits of Anatabloc, the company’s anti-inflammatory dietary supplement, and the need for clinical studies. The scientist later emailed Maureen McDonnell a summary of their discussions. In it, he suggested it might be useful “to perform a study of Virginia government employees… to determine the prevalences [sic] of autoimmune and inflammatory conditions.”
7. Bob McDonnell Told Virginia Officials That He Took Anatabloc
On March 21, 2012, Bob McDonnell met with Virginia’s secretary of administration and one of the secretary’s aides, to talk about the state’s employee health plan, and ways to reduce costs. At that meeting, McDonnell pulled some Anatabloc out of his pocket. He allegedly told the secretary that Anatabloc had beneficial health effects, and that he was taking it, and that it was working well for him.
McDonnell allegedly suggested that they reach out to the “Anatabloc people.”
8. Maureen McDonnell Allegedly Lied To Law Enforcement
The indictment contains a number of examples of Maureen McDonnell allegedly trying to cover her tracks. One of the more overt instances took place in February 2013, when Maureen was interviewed by law enforcement officials about the money Williams had given the McDonnells in 2011.
According to the indictment, Maureen McDonnell “falsely claimed that there was a loan agreement that she had signed and that she was making periodic payments on the $50,000 loan.” She also “falsely claimed that [Bob McDonnell] had met [Williams] ‘many years ago.'”