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Live updates: Former Va. Gov. McDonnell and wife charged

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January 21, 2014
(Jahi Chikwendiu / The Washington Post)

(Jahi Chikwendiu / The Washington Post)

Former Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell and his wife Maureen were charged in federal court Tuesday with illegally accepting gifts, luxury vacations and large loans from a wealthy Richmond-area businessman who sought special treatment from state government. We’re bringing you the latest updates here.

  • Mark Berman
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We’re wrapping up our live coverage of the indictments for the night. Here are some key links going forward:

  • Mark Berman
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Laura Vozzella reports from Richmond:

“As with any criminal accusation, judgment should be reserved until the facts are fully known,” said Steve Benjamin, a Richmond attorney for former governor’s mansion chef Todd Schneider.

Schneider, after being accused of pilfering food from the mansion kitchen, tipped off investigators to the McDonnell’s relationship with Williams. The chef eventually pleaded no contest to misdemeanor charges.

  • Mark Berman
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Rachel Weiner reports from Richmond:

Sen. Richard H. Black (R-Loudoun) said that while he hasn’t read the indictment yet, he worries about the “political aspect” of the charges. 

“I am surprised because from what I can tell, Gov. McDonnell never took any action on behalf of Star Scientific,” he said. “I always view these political trials with a degree of skepticism, whether it’s a Democrat or a Republican.”

  • Mark Berman
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Rachel Weiner reports from Richmond:

Despite the indictment, Del. David B. Albo (R-Fairfax) said he stands by McDonnell.

“As far as I know Bob McDonnell, there is not a dishonest bone in his body,” he said. “If Rita and I died, I’d like Bob McDonnell to raise my kids. That’s how highly I think of him. … I can’t imagine that he would ever intend on breaking the law. But it’s up to the people of Virginia now.”

  • Mark Berman
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In his first public comment since the indictment, McDonnell stressed his innocence and called the charges against him “false allegations.”

“I repeat again, emphatically, that I did nothing illegal for Mr. Williams,” said McDonnell, who spoke for several minutes.

McDonnell, outlining his personal history and citing several achievements from his gubernatorial tenure, said he has given his “heart and soul” to the people of Virginia.

The investigation “has been incredibly agonizing,” he said, but he promised to fight against the charges.

  • Mark Berman
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Former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell plans to issue his first live comment on the indictments at 7 p.m. You can watch a stream of the comments here:

  • Mark Berman
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Pat Mullins, the chairman of the Republican Party of Virginia, said in a statement that the indictments should be a reminder that ethics reforms are needed.

“It is my fervent hope that the justice system will be allowed to take its course without sensationalism or partisanship,” he said. “But these indictments are a reminder that our Commonwealth needs to enact ethics reform that promotes open and transparent government.”

Calling the news “extremely disappointing,” Mullins said he spoke with McDonnell earlier Tuesday and said the former governor and his wife remain in Mullins’s prayers.

 

  • Mark Berman
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Chris Cillizza explains what other politicians can learn from McDonnell’s transition from party superstar (and potential vice-presidential pick) to political pariah:

The “new” part of this story is the rapidness with which McDonnell went from superstar to pariah…. What’s old in the McDonnell story is the semi-permeable line between wealthy donors who help politicians get elected and the politicians themselves. That is a story as old as time….

As we wrote in a post last summer, it is remarkable to consider that McDonnell, a politician whose cautious reputation proceeded him, put himself in a relationship with a donor that was quite clearly inappropriate, at best. He never realized he had crossed the line until he was so far on the wrong side of it there was no hope to make it back. The political life of Bob McDonnell then amounts to a sort of public service announcement for politicians everywhere.

Head to The Fix for more.

  • Mark Berman
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The McDonnells have been summoned to appear in a federal courtroom in Richmond at 11 a.m. Friday, reports Matt Zapotosky.

In addition, their attorneys have already launched into action, filing a motion for “discovery of the instructions provided to the grand jury when securing today’s indictment, as well as all other recordings of the prosecutors’ statements to the grand jury about the legal validity of the charge.”

  • Mark Berman
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Rachel Weiner reports from Richmond:

The indictments highlight the need for a better system to deal with ethics charges, said Del. Scott A. Surovell (D-Fairfax).

“I am disappointed that the only way the governor has faced accountability for his conduct is through the federal criminal justice system. … It highlights the need for an ethics commission,” he said. “It shouldn’t take a grand jury to investigate these matters.”

Calling the enforcement of ethics in Virginia “a joke,” Suvorell said this indictment will “be a real mark” on Virginia history.

“We let the governor’s chef be our one man ethics department,” said Sen. Chap Peterson (D-Fairfax).

Peterson called the indictment “unprecedented” on Tuesday.

“We’ve never had a governor indicted for corruption,” he said.

  • Mark Berman
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Rachel Weiner reports from Richmond:

For some in Richmond, the reaction was shock.

“I’m a little bit stunned,” Sen. Frank W. Wagner (R-Virginia Beach). “I’ve known Bob for 23 years… my heart goes out to him and his family, and I’m sure he’ll defend himself vigorously.”

Wagner added: “Everybody that I’ve known has been presumed innocent until found guilty.”

And in terms of how the state’s ethical reputation will be impacted, Wagner said he believes Virginia can recover. Ethics reform is going to happen this session regardless.

  • Mark Berman
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On page 42 of the indictment, there’s a list of items that the McDonnells will forfeit should they be convicted. The list includes several pairs of shoes, quite a few golf shirts, a pair of iPhones and a silver Rolex watch with “71st Governor of Virginia” engraved on it. Read the entire list below:

(From the indictment)

(From the indictment)

  • Mark Berman
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The top Republicans in the Virginia House of Delegates — Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford), along with House Majority Leader M. Kirkland Cox (R-Colonial Heights), Caucus Chairman Tim Hugo (R-Fairfax) and Majority Whip Jackson Miller (R-Manassas) — issued a statement Tuesday about the indictments.

“We are very disappointed by the news today,” they said. “We have all known Bob McDonnell for a long time. He is a good friend whom we deeply respect. He has served his country and Commonwealth for nearly his entire adult life. We know that he has always strived to serve with the utmost conviction and integrity. Admittedly, he has made mistakes in judgment. He has apologized for those actions, which we know all Virginians deeply appreciate.”

The legal system “must be allowed to run its course,” they added, saying they believe that the system will deliver the proper judgment.

  • Mark Berman
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The McDonnells arrive to vote on Nov. 5, 2013. (Steve Helber / The Associated Press)

The McDonnells arrive to vote Nov. 5, 2013. (Steve Helber/Associated Press)

A look at the people involved in the gift scandal that led to today’s indictments.

  • Mark Berman
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“I am obviously troubled by the charges that federal prosecutors have made against Governor McDonnell and his wife Maureen and the message that this period in our history sends about how government in this Commonwealth is run,” Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe said in a statement issued a few minutes ago. “As this case progresses, it is my sincerest hope that justice will be served and that Virginians get the answers to which they are entitled.”

McAuliffe (D) said he and his wife, Dorothy, offered the McDonnell family their thoughts and prayers.

“This is a sad day for Virginia, but I remain optimistic that we can work together to reform our system in order to prevent episodes like this from occurring ever again,” he said. 

  • Mark Berman
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The Post’s Rosalind Helderman, who broke the McDonnell story, last year explained why this scandal matters:

  • Mark Berman
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“I’ve served with a lot more questionable people than this guy,” state Sen. Richard L. Saslaw (D-Fairfax) told The Post’s Laura Vozzella, referring to former governor Robert McDonnell.

Saslaw, the top Democrat in the Virginia Senate, was asked by McDonnell to call the U.S. Attorney’s Office this month to attest to his character. Saslaw said he and House Speaker William J. Howell (R-Stafford) made the call together.

“I didn’t see it as a big deal. He called up and asked if I would do it, and I did,” Saslaw said last week about the call. “He’s not a criminal. He just is not.”

  • Mark Berman
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Maureen McDonnell’s attorney, William A. Burck, of Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan LLP, has sent The Post a statement:

“Maureen McDonnell is innocent. The Department of Justice has overreached to bring these charges. Thankfully, however, the Department is not the sole arbiter in our justice system, which ultimately is not ruled by the unfounded suspicions of prosecutors but rather the law and the facts as decided by the judge and the jury.”

  • Mark Berman
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  • Mark Berman
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In a statement issued Tuesday, McDonnell said he takes full responsibility for his “poor judgment” but said he did nothing illegal. The full statement:

“My fellow Virginians, earlier today federal prosecutors notified my attorneys that they have filed criminal charges against me and my wife Maureen, alleging that we violated federal law by accepting gifts and loans from Jonnie Williams, the former CEO of Star Scientific. I deeply regret accepting legal gifts and loans from Mr. Williams, all of which have been repaid with interest, and I have apologized for my poor judgment for which I take full responsibility. However, I repeat emphatically that I did nothing illegal for Mr. Williams in exchange for what I believed was his personal generosity and friendship. I never promised – and Mr. Williams and his company never received – any government benefit of any kind from me or my Administration. We did not violate the law, and I will use every available resource and advocate I have for as long as it takes to fight these false allegations, and to prevail against this unjust overreach of the federal government.”

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