Less than three weeks after taking office in 2010, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell was positioned as a GOP savior. Clean-cut and handsome, he looked presidential. Some thought he might make it to the White House — as president or VP. Today, after a tumultuous four-year gubernatorial term, Bob McDonnell is on trial for corruption.
Back in January, The Washington Post reported that “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.” The Post added the feds “alleged McDonnell and his wife received gifts from [Jonnie] Williams again and again, lodging near constant requests for money, clothes, trips, golf accessories and private plane rides.”
As The New Civil Rights Movement reported then, Gov. McDonnell advocated for a state ban on same-sex marriage, and ushered in an administration openly hostile to its own LGBT citizens. In 2012, for example, Gov. McDonnell said gay parents threaten the ability of their children to achieve the American dream, and only straight parents can give children the right start in life. The year prior, McDonnell announced he wanted to block adoptions by same-sex couples. And just days after the newly-elected Governor Bob McDonnell took office, he signed a new state policy that specifically removed LGBTQ protections from state workers.
McDonnell, who graduated from Pat Robertson’s Regent University, wrote a 1989 thesis which proffered that the government should make policy favorable to married couples over “cohabitators, homosexuals or fornicators.”
But McDonnell was perhaps best known, thanks to MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, as “Governor Ultrasound,” for supporting a bill forcing women who were seeking an abortion to undergo a wholly medically-intrusive and wholly-medically unnecessary vaginal ultrasound. It was, of course, a GOP attempt to dissuade women from having abortions.
Today, Politico reports that “Bob McDonnell’s marriage was broken and his wife developed a crush on a businessman who lavished her with expensive gifts and attention, an attorney for the first lady said Tuesday during the couple’s corruption trial.
The McDonnells are charged in a 14-count indictment with accepting more than $165,000 in gifts and loans from former Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams in exchange for promoting his dietary supplements company. If convicted, they could face decades in prison.
Maureen McDonnell’s lawyer William A. Burck said during opening statements that the former first lady was “duped” by Williams into thinking he cared for her. Williams filled a “void” in her life, and she and her husband were pretending to be a happy couple although their marriage had “broken down” long ago, Burck said.
“There were barely on speaking terms,” Burck said.Burck said Williams and Maureen frequently exchanged text messages and phone calls, and that Williams often visited the Executive Mansion. Burck said the pair had a relationship that “some people would consider inappropriate” and that one potential witness may describe Williams as Maureen McDonnell’s “favorite playmate.” He did not indicate that their relationship was physical.