RICHMOND — Gov. Terry McAuliffe was upbeat Wednesday about Virginia’s prospects for landing the new FBI headquarters building under the incoming Trump administration — despite the governor’s ties to Hillary Clinton, a close friend of McAuliffe’s who he described as done with politics.
“I have known Donald Trump for 20 years, had dinner with him, golfed with him,” McAuliffe (D) said in an interview on WTOP’s “Ask the Governor” program. “When I ran [for governor] in ’09, he actually wrote me a $25,000 check. So I look forward to a productive relationship.”
Before becoming governor, McAuliffe spent decades in the orbit of Clinton and her husband, former president Bill Clinton, serving as a record-breaking fundraiser, confidant and political ally. He was chairman of Hillary Clinton’s unsuccessful 2008 presidential campaign and worked to deliver Virginia for her this year. She carried the state by five points.
Despite his friendship with the Clintons, McAuliffe said he sent Trump a congratulatory letter the day after the election. He said that he has not spoken with the president-elect, but that he is optimistic that Trump’s promise to boost military and infrastructure spending will benefit Virginia, the nation’s biggest recipient of Defense Department funding.
“Defense spending, infrastructure — if we can work together on those things, we’re gonna have a good, healthy relationship,” he said. “The elections are over. Politics is done. Let’s get to work.”
McAuliffe said that he has spoken to the Clintons and that the loss has been hard on them.
“I mean, this is hard on anybody,” he said. “I mean, can you imagine having to go through this? I’ve had many conversations with the Clinton family. We’re friends. It’s hard, very tough. I think on Election Day everybody felt pretty good. I think the Trump campaign thought they were gonna lose. And you know, this is what happens in elections.”
Asked if the Clintons are done with politics now, he said: “I think so, sure. I don’t think Hillary has any interest in running again. I’ll let her speak for herself. I haven’t asked her that. I think the president’s probably going to go back, working on all the good deeds he’s done before in helping people around the globe. You know, there are elections. We’ve got to move forward. As governor of Virginia, I’ve got to move forward.”
McAuliffe said he did not expect politics to play into where the federal government will decide to locate its new FBI headquarters to replace the dated and crumbling J. Edgar Hoover Building in downtown Washington.
But at the same time, McAuliffe noted that Virginia’s rival for the project, Maryland, has a political mark against it: Gov. Larry Hogan disavowed Trump — a fellow Republican — during the campaign, announcing publicly that he would not vote for him.
“It’s between us and Maryland,” McAuliffe said. “I don’t think politics should come into play. I don’t think the governor there endorsed Mr. Trump. . . . At the end of the day, forget all that. We have the best numbers. If you want to save taxpayer money, put this facility in the commonwealth of Virginia. Let the numbers speak for themselves. Simple as that.”
McAuliffe, who is entering the final year of his four-year term, acknowledged that Virginia might have benefited from his connections to another Clinton presidency — and from having Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) serve as vice president.
“Would I much prefer to have President Clinton and Vice President Tim Kaine from Virginia? Of course,” he said. “But it is what it is.”