Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell (R), appearing Tuesday at a Fairfax County event to highlight efforts by the technology sector to employ veterans, deflected a host of reporters’ questions about the scandal that has consumed the waning days of his tenure.
But McDonnell, a day after his attorneys met with federal prosecutors to argue against filing legal charges related to gifts and money he and his family received from a political donor, said he intends to serve out the rest of his term.
“I’m going to be governor of Virginia for another 4½ months,” McDonnell told reporters before listing several current initiatives of his administration, including preparing a budget, advancing regulatory reform and helping former prisoners reenter society. “That’s my focus, as it has been for the past 31 /2 years.”
McDonnell’s legal team spent nearly two hours Monday with federal prosecutors in Alexandria, hoping to head off charges against him related to thousands of dollars in gifts and loans from Star Scientific chief executive Jonnie R. Williams Sr. A separate team representing first lady Maureen McDonnell also met with prosecutors. Afterward, people familiar with the meetings said prosecutors were still weighing their options.
McDonnell appeared Tuesday with Sen. Mark R. Warner (D-Va.) at the headquarters of ICF International on Lee Highway to discuss the Northern Virginia Technology Council’s Veterans Employment Initiative. The program is an effort by NVTC members to match veterans with jobs.
The governor also was eager to talk about his administration’s most recent budget surplus. On Monday, McDonnell told members of the General Assembly’s money committees that the state had finished the fiscal year in June with a $585 million surplus.
McDonnell appeared relaxed at the podium before a crowd of business people and veterans as he touted Virginia’s efforts on behalf of former military personnel.
“We are the most veteran-friendly state in the country,” McDonnell said after listing programs to connect veterans more easily with jobs, such as allowing them to carry over licensing and certification in skills they had picked up while on active duty or in the National Guard.
But he was swarmed by reporters after he stepped outside the auditorium. Several pressed him about the gifts scandal. McDonnell, forcefully but with a smile, made it clear several times after several questions that he would not discuss the gifts he and his family received from Williams, or the legal jeopardy that he and his family now face.
“I came to talk about hiring veterans, and why that’s important,” McDonnell said. “I can talk to you about the budget, and what a great day yesterday [was on the budget surplus]. But I don’t have anything to say on that. Any questions on. . . .?”
“You don’t feel reassured at all?” a reporter asked.
McDonnell again made it clear that he wouldn’t go there.
“I want to talk about veterans because I’m a veteran and my daughter’s a veteran. And I’m going to talk about the importance of people being hired by the technology community, our veterans. And I want to talk about the great news we had yesterday about the surplus,” McDonnell said. “I mean this is what, traveling around the state for eight days, this is what people are asking me about, and this is what I want to talk about. So you have any questions on that?”