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Updates: Day 21 of the McDonnell corruption trial

August 25, 2014
Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, center, is swarmed by media as arrives at Federal Court with his daughter, Cailin Young, left of McDonnell, in Richmond on Monday. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, center, is swarmed by media as arrives at Federal Court with his daughter, Cailin Young, left of McDonnell, in Richmond on Monday. (AP Photo/Steve Helber)

Former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell (R) and his wife, Maureen, are battling a 14-count public corruption indictment that alleges that they lent the prestige of the governor’s office to a Richmond area businessman and that, in exchange, the businessman lavished them with gifts and money.

 Interactive: McDonnell gifts list | Twitter: Latest | Previous days: The trial | Photos Indictment

  • Matthew Zapotosky
  • ·

After his last exchange with Robert McDonnell,  Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Dry told Judge James R. Spencer his next topic would take about 15 minutes, and asked if he should proceed. The judge asked, “Are you anywhere near finished?”

“No, sir,” Dry responded.

“All right we’ll stop now,” the judge said.

Then, he turned to the jury.

“Maybe it’s just me, does this seem like the longest day in your life?” he said. “Hang in there, that’s all I can say. I’m with you all the way.”

  • Laura Vozzella
  • ·

Former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell said he never tried to hide anything businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr. provided to him or his family, which is why, he said, that he’d disclosed donations exceeding $100,000.

But wasn’t it true, prosecutor Michael Dry asked, those disclosures were for donations to his political action committee and campaign – in-kind donations that came about when Williams lent his plane to McDonnell for political travel?

“In your mind, is there no distinction between someone giving you $15,000 for your daughter’s wedding and someone giving you their jet so you can go to an RGA [Republican Governors Association] event?” Dry asked.

“I didn’t say that,” McDonnell replied.

“Is there no distinction in your mind?” Dry continued. “One is personally going in your pocket. Okay, it went to Cailin’s pocket.”

Dry also pressed Bob McDonnell on photos of the governor flashing his Rolex. Jurors had already seen one image of governor seeming to show off the watch while riding in the back of his state vehicle and were now shown three or four other shots snapped at that time. The series — all with his watch-clad left wrist held aloft, one with his right hand supporting the left – made it clear that the timepiece was, indeed, the point of the photo.

Former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell is seen wearing the Rolex watch given to him by businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr. The watch is engraved with the words "Robert F. McDonnell, 71st Governor of Virginia." (U.S. Attorney's Office)

Former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell is seen wearing the Rolex watch given to him by businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr. The watch is engraved with the words “Robert F. McDonnell, 71st Governor of Virginia.” (U.S. Attorney’s Office)

McDonnell repeated his assertion that he thought the watch might be fake but did not want to ask his wife too many questions about the gift.

“I didn’t probe,” he said.

  • Laura Vozzella
  • ·

Prosecutor Michael Dry asked Robert F. McDonnell why his spokesman told the press that the McDonnell family was paying for his daughter’s wedding when, in fact, Jonnie R. Williams Sr. picked up the $15,000 catering tab.

The former governor said he was only trying to make clear that taxpayers were not paying for any of the expenses.

“The question I got was, ‘Was the state paying,’” McDonnell said.

Dry suggested that McDonnell had misled spokesman Tucker Martin and, therefore, the public.

“You told him the family was paying for the reception,” Dry said.

“Yes,” McDonnell said, “not the state.”

Dry also pressed the former governor on when he knew that his wife still owned Star Scientific stock.

McDonnells said he believed that he’d told his wife to sell the stock when he claimed to have first found out about the purchase on June 5, 2011. He said he realized he she hadn’t sold it months later, around Thanksgiving of that year.

Dry suggested that Bob McDonnell should have been aware that she still held the shares.
“You didn’t look at bank statements to see if money came in [from the sale]?” he asked.

Bob McDonnells aid he did not have access to his wife’s account with Wachovia. The former governor acknowledged that he’d seen that his wife had received some mail from Davenport, where she’d opened a stock account. But he said he’d only seen the outside of the envelopes.

  • Matthew Zapotosky
  • ·

At day’s end, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Dry presented a last, unflattering piece of evidence for the former governor.

His staff seems to have compiled materials on where he could stay for free — and golf for free — on vacation.

Dry began by asking the governor if his staff “put together briefing books of places that you and your family could play golf for free?” Robert F. McDonnell responded that he did not remember, although he knew donors sometimes made offers, and it was possible his staff kept a list.

Dry then showed the governor two January 2013 e-mails between two aides. The e-mails show Emily Rabbitt, a deputy scheduler who later became McDonnell’s travel aide, asking Adam Zubowsky, a travel aide who ultimately married one of the governor’s daughters, about how to go about planning golf for McDonnell while he is on vacation. Zubowsky responds that Rabbitt should find people they know who own golf courses “and will let me and my family play for free, or at a reduced cost. Also finding out where to stay for free/ at a reduced cost.”

McDonnell testified that he never instructed staff to prepare such materials. The evidence is nonetheless damaging, presenting him as seeking handouts in dealings outside of those with Jonnie R. Williams Sr.

  • Matthew Zapotosky
  • ·
Jonnie Williams is said to have arranged and paid for outings for the McDonnells at Kinloch Golf Club in Goochland County, according to testimony.  (Trial exhibits)

Jonnie R. Williams Sr. is said to have arranged and paid for outings for the McDonnells at Kinloch Golf Club in Goochland County, according to testimony. (U.S. Attorney’s Office)

Robert F. McDonnell has acknowledged he failed to disclose on his state required forms — as he should have — two golf outings and a golf bag that Jonnie R. Williams Sr. gave him in 2011. He has presented himself as humble, contrite and accepting of the mistake he characterized as an oversight.

But as he was questioned Monday by Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Dry, he was forced to make a damaging admission. He signed the form on Jan. 16, 2012, just about a week after he again golfed on Williams’s tab.

Dry questioned how the outings “slipped [McDonnell's] mind” on Jan. 16, 2012, given the golf he played on Jan. 7. Then the prosecutor pressed further. On that unseasonably warm day in January 2012, he asked, “were you playing with Mr. Williams’s golf bag that he gave you?”

McDonnell said he did not remember.

  • Matthew Zapotosky
  • ·

At the questioning of Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Dry, former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell just went through a somewhat detailed accounting of how he reported a $50,000 loan to his real estate company on his state economic disclosure form for the year 2010, and how that differed from his handling of loans from Jonnie R. Williams Sr. to the same company.

The comparison is not one that is favorable to the governor — if jurors can follow it.

The issue is complicated, and able to confuse even a reporter with information that jurors lack. But the upshot is this: On his state disclosure form for 2010, McDonnell reported a loan from Virginia Beach Radiologist Paul Davis in his personal debts, listing the liability as simply to someone in “medical services.” He did so even though the radiologist had written a check to a real estate company he co-owned with his sister, MoBo Real Estate Partners.

That admission is important in a few aspects. First, it shows McDonnell viewed himself as personally liable for loans to the real estate company — or at least for the Davis loan to the company. Defense attorneys have argued that the governor was not personally liable for the $70,000 in loans from Williams because they went to MoBo, not him and there was no accompanying documentation. They have offered that as an explanation as to why McDonnell did not list the Williams’s loans on personal financial statements to secure other loans. McDonnell is now charged with lying on those statements.

McDonnell also did not list the $70,000 in loans from Williams on his state economic disclosure statement for 2012, though as of about 5 p.m., jurors had not seen evidence of that yet — and Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Dry had moved on to other disclosure dilemmas in between.

  • Rosalind S. Helderman
  • ·

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Dry is now trying to find out just how much former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell knew about some of his wife’s interactions with Jonnie R. Williams Sr. and his company, Star Scientific, in fall 2011.

For instance, McDonnell has testified that he didn’t know his wife attended a Star Scientific event at a Westin Hotel in Richmond in October of that year. But Dry had him read testimony from his chief of staff Martin Kent, who told jurors that Williams had actually requested that the governor attend that event but that Kent had nixed the idea, since McDonnell had just attended a Star event at the governor’s mansion two months earlier.

McDonnell stood by his testimony: He said Kent made that decision without consulting him, which he said was not unusual. He said he didn’t know Williams had asked him to attend the meeting, which was intended to impress investors and doctors, nor did he know that wife Maureen had gone instead.

Then Dry turned to a similar event held that month in Michigan. “I believe you testified that you did know your wife attended that event?”

“Yes,” McDonnell answered, before correcting himself. “Well, I didn’t know if it was an event.”

Several times now, McDonnell has said he knew his wife went to Michigan on Williams’s plane to learn more about research into his dietary supplement but did not know she had attended an organized Star Scientific meeting for company investors.

Then Dry showed McDonnell an e-mail exchange jurors saw earlier in the trial between his wife and an Italian doctor who had been at the event. The doctor wrote a long e-mail memorializing things he said he, Maureen McDonnell and Williams had discussed on the airplane. One of those topics: The possibility of testing Williams’s product Anatabloc on state employees.

Maureen McDonnell responded by saying that she would print out the e-mail and show it to her husband.

“Did your wife print that out and show it to you?” Dry asked McDonnell.

“I don’t remember having any recollection of seeing this contemporaneously,” McDonnell said, indicating that he saw the note after the investigation began.

Dry asked again: McDonnell didn’t recall this e-mail, with its notion of testing Anatabloc on state workers?

“Mr. Dry, I get hundreds of e-mails a week,” McDonnell said. “I can’t tell you whether this would have jumped out at me. I just can’t say if I saw it or not.”

Dry then asked, did his wife ever discuss this idea with him, of using state employees to test Anatabloc?

“Not that I recall,” he said.

“Is that something that you would recall?” Dry asked.

“Maybe,” McDonnell replied.

  • Matthew Zapotosky
  • ·

Former Virginia governor Robert McDonnell has said that he did not know his wife was involved in planning an Aug. 30, 2011, lunch at the governor’s mansion which coincided with the launch of Anatabloc, the supplement Jonnie R. Williams Sr. was trying to sell. His defense attorneys have sought to minimize his role in the function, noting that he showed up for only the last 30 minutes of the event that was otherwise arranged by staffers.

Federal prosecutors seem to have a different view.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Dry showed the governor e-mails from mid-August 2011, showing one of his top personal aides and his wife’s chief of staff in contact over the event, around the same time phone records show the governor and his wife talking. Jurors have already seen the e-mails, showing the governor’s aide asking for more info on what is to happen. The first lady’s chief of staff provides details, including that the lunch is timed to coincide with Anatabloc’s launch.

Dry asked: Did the governor know that?

No, the former governor said.

“We were in the car, and we made a scheduling decision,” McDonnell said. “That’s all I know.”

  • Matthew Zapotosky
  • ·

Former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell testified Monday that he talked briefly with Richmond businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr. while he was driving home from a vacation at the businessman’s lakeside home in 2011. But he denied knowing even then that Williams was supposed to meet with his wife the next day, or that Williams wanted a meeting with a state health official.

McDonnell said he merely thanked Williams for the vacation on the call, and it was not until he got home that his wife told him she was supposed to meet with the businessman to talk about his company, Star Scientific, the next day. McDonnell has testified previously that he then, of his own accord, asked his health secretary to send a representative to the meeting so that no promises or commitments would be extended.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Dry seemed skeptical of that account. The prosecutor noted that the first lady is not a public official.

“As such, she had no decision-making authority whatsoever, did she?” Dry asked.

“Not for official action. She made a lot of decisions,” McDonnell said. The words seemed carefully chosen, as prosecutors must prove that he and his wife performed or promised to perform “official” actions for Williams if they are to substantiate the corruption charges.

Dry continued to press: Did the governor really ask a health official to go to the meeting without knowing that is what Williams wanted?

“Absolutely,” the governor responded.

As Dry pressed the governor about other contacts his wife had with the businessman, McDonnell said: “It’s different at the governor’s mansion. Most people make appointments.”

That might actually help prosecutors, who are trying to prove that Williams enjoyed an unusual level of access.

  • Rosalind S. Helderman
  • ·
Former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell smiles while holding a bottle of the Anatabloc supplement. The photo used to be featured on the product’s Facebook page. (U.S. District Court)

Former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell smiles while holding a bottle of the Anatabloc supplement. The photo used to be featured on the product’s Facebook page. (U.S. Attorney’s Office)

Former governor Bob McDonnell says he can’t remember having his picture taken holding a bottle of Anatabloc, the product made by Jonnie Williams’s company.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Dry tried to get McDonnell to agree that the picture was taken at an event at the Commonwealth Club in Richmond in September 2011. But while McDonnell agreed that the picture appeared to be taken at that venue, he couldn’t remember it being snapped.

“I’ve had hundreds of pictures taken of me with products,” McDonnell said.

“Do you remember who asked you to pose with it?” Dry asked.

“No sir,” McDonnell answered.

“But … that is you holding up the Anatabloc, right?” Dry asked.

“Yes,” McDonnell said.

  • Rosalind S. Helderman
  • ·

Jurors have previously heard extensive testimony regarding the fact that at a Star Scientific event held at the governor’s mansion in August 2011, Maureen McDonnell and businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr. placed bottles of his dietary supplement Anatabloc at each table setting.

But Bob McDonnell says he didn’t see the bottles.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Dry pressed the point because McDonnell says he didn’t know the event was intended by Star to mark the launch of the new product. “Are you saying they were not there or that you do not recall seeing them?” Dry said.

“I’m saying I don’t remember seeing it,” McDonnell said, his voice starting to fill with exasperation.

Dry also noted that at the time McDonnell attended the event, the state was dealing with a series of emergencies, including a hurricane that had hit just days before the lunch. “Were you aware at that time about a quarter-million people in the Richmond area were without power?” Dry asked.

McDonnell responded that he did not know the exact number but knew the effects of the emergencies were still being felt.

Then Dry went through a now-familiar recitation: At this time, Williams had given $15,000 for catering at his daughter’s wedding? And $50,000 to Maureen McDonnell, $20,000 of which had gone to pay off credit card debt held by both of them? And golf outings? And a Smith Mountain Lake vacation? McDonnell agreed that each was the case.

And, Dry asked, had McDonnell told his policy adviser Jasen Eige, who attended the lunch with him, about any of that? McDonnell agreed he had not. Nor had he told his chief of staff or his two closest aides, Phil Cox and Janet Kelly.

  • Matthew Zapotosky
  • ·
Former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell is seen behind the wheel of Jonnie Williams’s Ferrari.  (U.S. District Court trial exhibits)

Former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell is seen behind the wheel of Jonnie Williams’s Ferrari. (U.S. Attorney’s Office)

Former Virginia governor Robert F. McDonnell testified Monday that his own spokesman might have gone too far in saying his boss drove home a Ferrari from Jonnie R. Williams Sr.’s home on Smith Mountain Lake as a favor to the businessman. McDonnell testified that he told the spokesman that he was asked to drive the car back from the lake, but he seemed to dispute ever characterizing that as a “favor” for Williams.

“I don’t believe those were my words,” McDonnell testified. “He may have construed that as a favor. I know we were asked to bring that car back.”

The testimony puts McDonnell somewhat at odds with his former communications director, Tucker Martin, and might cast doubt on his credibility. Martin told The Washington Post in 2013 that McDonnell had driven the Ferrari home as a favor to Williams, and there was no “recreational use” of it on the trip. Martin testified earlier in the trial that that information came from McDonnell himself.

McDonnell also acknowledged Monday that he drove the Ferrari to a clubhouse while on the trip, and he did not have to — his state police detail would have taken him there. Jurors might view that as recreational use.

The Ferrari has been a hot-button issue of the trial, and jurors might take particular note of it because they have seen photo after photo of the governor driving the expensive car. McDonnell said he did not see the car when he arrived at Smith Mountain Lake, and he could not remember when he first realized it was there.

Jurors know that Williams arranged for the car to be specially delivered for the governor’s use, apparently at the request of his wife. McDonnell acknowledged that Williams also rented a boat just so he and his family could use it.

  • Rosalind S. Helderman
  • ·
Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, leave the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia on Jan. 24 in Richmond. McDonnell and his wife Maureen pleaded not guilty to a 14-count criminal indictment from federal grand jury charging that the couple violated federal corruption laws.  (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, leave the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia on Jan. 24 in Richmond. McDonnell and his wife Maureen pleaded not guilty to a 14-count criminal indictment from federal grand jury charging that the couple violated federal corruption laws. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Dry wrapped up his discussion of all the vacations Robert and Maureen McDonnell took together by flashing three photos on the courtroom’s big screens, each in a row.

Each time, Dry asked McDonnell: “Do you recognize this photograph?” and McDonnell said that he did.

One photo showed the former governor and first lady walking into court hand-in-hand in January, when they were first arraigned after their joint indictment.

The second photo showed them sharing an umbrella, as they walked shoulder-to-shoulder into court for a motions hearing in February.

The final photo showed them again walking together into court for another motion’s hearing in May.

Dry did not ask McDonnell to comment on the photos in any way, but the suggestion that the couple’s current icy distance could be a trial strategy hung in the air.

  • Rosalind S. Helderman
  • ·

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Dry scored some particular points against former governor Bob McDonnell as he homed in on one vacation the former governor took with his wife in May 2012 to Kiawah Island.

“How much did that one cost?” Dry asked.

McDonnell explained he paid about $1,500 for the trip, but that Bill Goodwin, a Richmond businessman, paid $23,000 for the trip.

“Is Mr. Goodwin a personal friend?” Dry asked.

“I’d consider him a personal friend,” McDonnell said. While staff had included the trip on a draft of McDonnell’s annual disclosure, the governor had crossed the disclosure off, indicating that Goodwin was a “personal friend” from whom gifts did not need to be disclosed.

“How many times did you socialize with him?”

McDonnell explained that he had known Goodwin for 10 years (in a later answer, he amended that to six years) and had dinner with him once and talked to him various times.

“I’m still confused,” Dry asked after several back-and-forth questions on the topic. “How many times did you and Mr. Goodwin speak when it was not about business?”

McDonnell answered that they spoke numerous times, about both state business and personal matters and shared a common love of Virginia.

Then Dry asked: “How many children does Mr. Goodwin have?”

McDonnell paused. “I think he’s got three children,” he said.

“What are their names?” Dry asked.

McDonnell paused again. “I don’t know the family,” he acknowledged. “I knew he and his wife, Alice.”

  • Rosalind S. Helderman
  • ·

U.S. Attorney Michael Dry is attacking the notion that Robert F. McDonnell and his wife were on the skids by demonstrating that the two vacationed together 18 times over 22 months while he was governor.

After Dry asked McDonnell to confirm the number, McDonnell said he would need to see documentation. So Dry showed him. Trips to the state-owned home at Camp Pendleton. Trips to the Wintergreen Resort and to the Homestead. A 2011 trip to Florida. A second trip to Miami Beach in 2012, where the couple watched Notre Dame play in the national championship. An anniversary trip to Barboursville.

Repeatedly, McDonnell insisted these were trips taken not just with his wife but also his children and sometimes other people. “I tried to spend as much time as I could with my wife and my children,” he said. “What little personal time I had, I tried to spend with my family.”

But Dry’s point was made: Whatever troubles the McDonnells were having, this wasn’t exactly a couple refusing to  spend time with one another.

In this Oct. 31, 2009 file photo, then-Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell hugs his wife, Maureen, during a rally in Richmond, Va. (AP Photo/Steve Helber, File)

In this Oct. 31, 2009, photo, then-Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob McDonnell hugs his wife, Maureen, during a rally in Richmond. (Steve Helber/AP)

  • Rosalind S. Helderman
  • ·

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Dry’s tone is getting a bit sharper with former governor Robert McDonnell as the afternoon wears on.

He has just finished asking him about a series of gifts businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr. provided in the summer of 2011, in each case picking up Bob McDonnell’s own words that the gifts arrived “out of the blue.”

Dry noted that McDonnell had already testified that he believed his wife when she said that Williams had given $50,000 without being asked for the money.

Golf clubs to son Bobby, those came out of the blue? “That was the way it hit me, when I learned about the clubs,” McDonnell said. McDonnell agreed that he never called Williams to discuss the gift with him.

And golf clubs to son Sean? Out of the blue? “I didn’t know anything about them before they just showed up. I’d call that out of the blue,” McDonnell said.

And a golf bag to the governor himself? “So that was out of the blue?” “Yes,” McDonnell said.

  • Matthew Zapotosky
  • ·

Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Dry is now asking detailed questions about a variety of gifts and other events, apparently trying to highlight what he perceives as implausibilities, inconsistencies and too-good-to-be-true coincidences in former governor Robert F. McDonnell’s account of his dealings with Jonnie R. Williams Sr.

The questioning might be hard to follow for jurors, as it is moving quickly from topic to topic. Dry asked, for example, about a 2011 appearance McDonnell’s wife made at the Roskamp Institute in Florida to support Williams’s company, Star Scientific. The former governor has said he knew about his wife’s involvement in the event, but Dry asked: Did he know where she would be staying, and who would be footing the hotel bill?

“No,” the former governor responded.

“As far as you know going into that trip, your wife might have to pay for her own accommodations?” Dry pressed.

“I just didn’t think about it,” McDonnell said.

Dry probed, too, about the former governor’s knowledge that his wife had bought Star Scientific stock in June 2011. The former governor has denied that he knew about the purchase in real time. Dry presented him with handwritten notes about his family’s personal finances — apparently taken by his wife to give to their broker before their transaction — and inquired about the accuracy of the figures. McDonnell said they were accurate, but claimed his wife had not gotten them from him, despite the fact that he managed the family’s money.

He also denied knowing his wife had given the broker a $31,000 check to buy the stock at their daughter’s wedding.

Dry continued to press on the same topic: The former governor had testified earlier that the Star Scientific stock was purchased with Williams’s $50,000 loan to his wife, and his wife intended to put the stock in her children’s names. But he also testified that he considered the stock an asset that his wife held, which was in part why he did not press her to return the loan money to Williams.

“How is it an asset of your wife if it’s in the children’s names?” Dry asked.

“I might not have explained that as articulately as I could,” McDonnell acknowledged.

Finally, Dry asked McDonnell about a June 2011 letter he received from Williams and Star which suggested the possibility of state studies of its product, Anatabloc. Dry listed the gifts Williams had given the governor and his family by the time he received the letter — $15,000 for catering at a daughter’s wedding, a $50,000 loan to his wife, golf at an exclusive country club — and asked: “After you received this letter and realized that Mr. Williams wanted to get studies at medical colleges in Virginia that you, as governor, oversaw, you never contacted him, did you?”

McDonnell said there were “several parts to that question,” but said he did not contact Williams about the letter. He also acknowledged, at Dry’s questioning, that he did not move to return any of the gifts Williams had given him.

  • Rosalind S. Helderman
  • ·

Back from lunch, Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Dry is continuing to attempt to undermine former governor Robert F. McDonnell’s various explanations that he did not actually need any money from businessman Jonnie R. Williams Sr.

For instance, McDonnell had testified that Williams’s $15,000 check for catering at his daughter’s wedding wasn’t a necessity because he could have easily just written a “convenience check” off of a credit card to cover the cost of catering.

Williams wrote a $15,000 check from his family trust for catering at Cailin McDonnell's wedding.

Williams wrote a $15,000 check from his family trust for catering at Cailin McDonnell’s wedding.

So Dry has been exploring the topic of convenience checks. That’s a check written off of a credit card, letting the card holder get a cash advance but requiring him or her to pay back the money through some combination of fees, as well as monthly payments that include interest.

Dry showed McDonnell two examples of times when the couple wrote convenience checks off of a credit card held by Maureen McDonnell. In one month in 2010, they wrote three checks that totaled more than $12,000. One check went to pay off another credit card held by the first lady. Another went to pay off expenses owed by MoBo Real Estate partners. A third went to Bob McDonnell’s checking account.

In another month, a $5,000 check was written to Bob McDonnell off of Maureen McDonnell’s credit card.

In each case, McDonnell testified that though his wife’s name is signed on the checks, in fact, he signed those checks, with her authorization.

Though he didn’t spell out the point, Dry’s emphasis seemed to be that the couple’s finances were controlled by the governor, both those financial instruments that were officially in Maureen McDonnell’s name and those placed in the governor’s name. That’s an important point as prosecutors try to show that a loan from Williams made out to Maureen McDonnell in May 2011 was, in fact, a loan to both the governor and first lady.

Also, the convenience checks seemed to indicate that the couple allowed money to flow freely back and forth between the two of them, as well as with MoBo, the partnership McDonnell owned with his sister. Again, the point there, though not spelled out by Dry, is to suggest that checks Williams wrote in 2012 to MoBo were in fact loans to the couple and not to the corporate entity.

Finally, Dry asked, isn’t is it the case that between 2009 and April 2011, just before Williams provided his first loan to Maureen McDonnell, that the couple had drawn $40,000 in convenience checks off credit cards?

McDonnell said he did not know.

“And all of those would require monthly payments, yes?” Dry asked.

“Yes,” McDonnell answered.

But the loan Williams provided, “that didn’t require a monthly pay, did it?”

“No,” McDonnell responded.

“And there were no upfront fees?” Dry asked.

“No,” McDonnell agreed.

  • Mary Pat Flaherty
  • ·

The presiding judge has flashed his wit and some impatience during the four-week run of the McDonnell trial. Indeed, as Matt Zapotosky reports, Spencer was unhappy with the ex-governor’s responses as prosecutors had their first chance to poke at McDonnell’s testimony from last week about the state of the first family’s fiscal affairs during a period when a business executive gave them loans.

“Just answer the question,” Spencer told McDonnell on Monday. “Were there financial difficulties or not?”

Spence hasn’t yet put his rhetorical skills on full display. But they are available for viewing on a video from February, when Spencer was honored in Richmond and told the story of his time as an unimposing sophomore warming the bench for his high school team from Florence, S.C. Spencer concluded his acceptance, as he said he often does, with a message for younger people in the audience and launched into the tale.

He was perched “waaaaaay down” at the end of the bench during a game when the opposing quarterback was humiliating his team by running untouched to three touchdowns.

The coach wagged his finger and summoned Spencer,  who took the field with “my little heart racing” and his mind playing a loop of “please don’t let him come my way.”

Leaning into the microphone and adopting a modified crouch up at the dais, Spencer impeccably showed how he squared his then-165-pound frame and braced for impact as the quarterback headed towards him.

“He went through me like a knife through butter,” knocking the wind from Spencer and leaving him wondering “will I ever be able to breathe again.”

Laughter building in the room, Spencer told his audience that after he’d hobbled back to the bench, the coach clapped him on the shoulder and said “way to go,” as Spencer sputtered, “but that man destroyed me.”

“But you tried,” said his coach, and that, Spencer said in February, was the lesson. “Before great achievement comes great effort. … Take it with you.”

  • Matthew Zapotosky
  • ·

Just before the judge called a lunch break at 1:15 p.m., Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Dry was pressing Robert F. McDonnell on the role he played in his wife’s finances.

The point he was trying to make, so far, seems unclear.

Dry began the line of questioning by asking McDonnell about $15,000 Williams had given for catering expenses at his daughter’s wedding. The prosecutors’ aim there was clear: McDonnell had actually reviewed, made notes on and signed the catering contract. Dry showed that to jurors to demonstrate just how involved the governor himself was in paying that bill.

“You’re the only signatory on that, right?” Dry asked.

“Yes,” McDonnell responded.

“Neither your daughter nor Chris Young [her then-fiance] are contractually obligated to pay for the wedding, right?”

“Yes,” McDonnell responded.

Then Dry began probing McDonnell about what he meant when he said he had the “capacity” to pay for the wedding, and on the role he played in managing the family’s finances. The questions wandered, and McDonnell seemed to score a point with jurors when he accurately pointed out that the prosecutor had combined a few questions in one.

The judge called a lunch break. The proceedings are set to resume at 2:15 p.m.

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