Jurors now know what Robert F. McDonnell wanted from his lawyer and policy adviser when he told him in a February 2012 e-mail: “Pls see me about anatabloc issues at VCU and UVA. Thx.”
The governor was seeking answers about why no one at the state universities was returning calls from Jonnie R. Williams Sr.
Addressing a string of potentially damaging e-mails that chronologically link his inquiries about studies of Williams’s supplement, Anatabloc, to communications with the businessman about a possible loan, McDonnell acknowledged that he wanted to talk to the policy adviser about how Williams, a significant donor, was being handled by officials at the universities. Though he said he could not recall specifically whether he and the adviser, Jasen Eige, ever met to discuss Anatabloc, he said he knew “what I was going to tell him.”
“I was going to ask Mr. Eige to find out just what was going on,” McDonnell said.
McDonnell said his wife had e-mailed him earlier that month to complain that no one at the University of Virginia and Virginia Commonwealth University was returning Williams’s phone calls about possible Anatabloc studies. He said that he felt that because Williams had donated $200,00 to the schools, he “deserved at least a call back.”
Prosecutors have alleged that the governor used the power of his office to influence researchers at the state schools to study Anatabloc — just one of the things they say McDonnell did for Williams in exchange for $177,000 in gifts, loans and luxury goods.
Notably, McDonnell sent an e-mail to Williams on Feb. 16, 2012, asking about loan discussions — just before his early morning Feb. 17 note to Eige asking about VCU and U-Va.
The studies never occurred, though, and McDonnell seemed to minimize his involvement with the universities. He disputed his wife’s assertion in an e-mail that he was pushing for the studies and said he never talked to any officials from the schools himself about state grant funding of the studies, as Williams wanted.
“It would certainly not be accurate to say that I wanted to get this going,” he said. “That was between Mr. Williams and U-Va., VCU.”
Eige wrote back to the governor that they needed to be “careful” with the issue, though McDonnell said he “wasn’t exactly sure” what that warning meant, “other than what we should do, if anything, with the private sector.”
“My answer was very simple, he should get a phone call back and just find out what’s going on,” McDonnell said.
McDonnell also downplayed the timing of his inquiry about the loan and his inquiry about the studies. He said he sent the e-mails on a day he sent many others — some of which jurors saw — as he tried to tie up loose ends before a political trip to Ohio, Kansas and Missouri.