Also, a meeting with the governor’s attorneys in August spurred prosecutors to seek more interviews, they said.
And prosecutors have not yet scheduled a key follow-up session with attorneys for McDonnell and his wife, Maureen McDonnell, at which they are expected to outline evidence they have gathered about the couple’s relationship with Williams, who has provided more than $145,000 to Gov. McDonnell’s family and a real estate company he owns with his sister.
For McDonnell, the timeline is likely to extend the uncertainty over his fate at a time that he had hoped would be the victory lap of a productive four-year term. Limited by the Virginia Constitution to a single term, McDonnell will leave office in January.
But the timing of the investigation could provide a critical boost for Republican gubernatorial candidate Ken Cuccinelli II, whose campaign has feared that a McDonnell indictment in the final weeks before the Nov. 5 election could tar the GOP brand and focus attention on Cuccinelli’s own ties with Williams.
A spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office declined to comment for this article, as did Jason Miyares, a spokesman for McDonnell’s legal team. But four people familiar with the investigation said the process has slowed in recent weeks.
They indicated that prosecutors had a window to bring charges in late August. But in a confrontational meeting, the governor’s attorneys displayed little appetite for possible plea negotiations and instead appeared prepared to fight any possible charges.
In separate meetings, attorneys for the governor and his wife also mapped out a defense strategy in which they argued that McDonnell was not aware of all the gifts his wife had accepted from Williams. Therefore, the governor could not be accused of improperly taking steps to help Williams’s company in exchange for those items, they said.
Those assertions prompted prosecutors to take a step back and review their evidence again, the people said.
Since then, government investigators have been described by one person familiar with their work as “dotting their i’s and crossing their t’s” in preparation for a possible trial if charges are filed.
One indication of the slowing process is a delay in setting up a new meeting with the governor’s attorneys, said a person familiar with the interaction.
Unlike the August meeting, at which attorneys for the McDonnells tried to convince prosecutors that the couple have committed no illegal acts, this meeting would be intended for prosecutors to lay out what they have found during months of investigating.