The Five Weirdest Revelations From the McDonnell Trial
What could be worse than being tried for corruption? All the strange things that leak out. From pathetic love notes to living arrangements, get up to speed on the ex-Virginia governor.
In his ongoing federal trial for corruption, the former GOP chief executive of the Old Dominion described his relationship with his wife, Maureen, in detail on the witness stand over the past day and half. Together the two are facing a 14-count indictment accusing them of improperly using their influence to aid a businessman in exchange for gifts and loans. But it wasn’t a functioning partnership—Bob McDonnell’s testimony seemed intended to show that their marriage of nearly 40 years had broken down so completely that the two could not conspire together. As a result, much of what the former governor has said in court makes their marriage look more like Sid and Nancy than Ozzie and Harriet. Here are five of the strangest revelations from the stand:
1. Maureen McDonnell’s pitch to Ann Romney—suggesting Anatabloc could help her multiple sclerosis—was a “train wreck.”
The trial revolves around whether McDonnell and his wife used his office to benefit Jonnie Williams Sr., of a company called Star Scientific. Williams was trying to promote Anatabloc, a dietary supplement developed by his company. Jurors must decide if the McDonnells inappropriately aided in that effort in exchange for loans and gifts. Maureen McDonnell was particularly enthusiastic about the product and went so far as try to pitch Ann Romney about the drug’s benefits. While the McDonnells were stumping for Mitt Romney before the South Carolina primary in 2012, Maureen cornered Ann Romney on the campaign bus and started to tell her about Anatabloc, which she thought might help Romney’s multiple sclerosis. Aides quickly stopped the conversation, which one previously described in testimony as “a train wreck.” But they didn’t act quickly enough, and as a result the Virginia governor felt “a little embarrassed.”
2. Bob to Maureen: “I want to be in love, not just watch movies about it.”
A heartfelt and somewhat pathetic note the then-governor wrote to his wife in September 2011 was revealed in court on Thursday. In the note, which began, “I love you,” McDonnell wrote: “I am sorry for all the times I have not been there for you and have done things to hurt you. I know I am a sinner and keep trying to do better. But I am completely at a loss as to how to handle the fiery anger and hate from you that has become more and more frequent.” He then went on to admit, “I am very lonely sometimes” and expressed his regret that “our private life though has great heartache.” McDonnell ended by noting, “I love you and want to help make you happy and our family endure. I will do anything possible to try to fix our marriage if you will work with me.” She never responded.
3. McDonnell was hurt by his wife’s relationship with Williams.
The former Virginia governor said he was “hurt” when he discovered his wife had exchanged 950 phone calls and text messages with Jonnie Williams in 2011. By contrast, McDonnell said he exchanged a few texts with Williams and left one phone message for him that year, a claim disputed by Williams. Despite the alleged lack of long-distance communication, McDonnell still vacationed at Williams’ lake house, played rounds of golf at a country club on Williams’ tab, and drove Williams’ Ferrari.
4. McDonnell is out of the house and living with his priest.
McDonnell revealed in court that he had moved out of his house about a week before the trial and was now living with his priest in the rectory of St. Patrick’s Catholic Church in Richmond. The former governor said he felt that returning home during the trial would cause even more tension in a marriage that he already described as “basically on hold.”
5. A phone call from President Obama stopped a fight between the McDonnells.
The morning after McDonnell was elected governor in 2009, his wife was screaming at him about what she would wear that day. Amid the noise, McDonnell’s phone rang several times. When he finally picked up, the voice on the other end asked him “to hold for the president of the United States.” The governor-elect then proceeded to have a seven-minute conversation with Obama that apparently defused the domestic situation.