Whether or not they are guilty of corruption, Bob and Maureen McDonnell have not come off well in the first week of the federal trial against them.
The former Virginia governor and his wife are charged with illegally accepting gifts, vacations and loans from a wealthy businessman, Jonnie R. Williams, Sr. The scandal has taken McDonnell from being a potential Republican occupant of the White House to being a potential occupant of much more modest federal housing accommodations.
The defense strategy for the McDonnells has essentially been to argue that their mistakes stemmed from a failing marriage, not graft. But thus far, the trial has produced one embarrassing revelation after another:
Maureen Had 'A Crush' on Williams
Maureen McDonnell's own attorney, William Burck, chalked up her tight relationship with the supplement salesman and demands for expensive gifts to a harmless "crush." In Burck's words, Williams was the first lady's favorite "playmate" who "showered her with the attention she craved," according to the Richmond Times-Dispatch.
The Earthquake That Felt Like Sex
Williams and Maureen McDonnell certainly were chummy. Remember that 5.8 magnitude earthquake centered in Virginia that rattled the East Coast in 2011? You can bet Maureen does. According to evidence introduced in her defense, she wrote an email to Williams on the day it happened comparing the shaking feeling to love-making:
Maureen #McDonnell email to Williams on day of 2011 earthquake: 'I just felt the earth move and I wasn't having sex!!!!"— Laura Vozzella (@LVozzella) August 1, 2014
Pitching Ann Romney on a Cure for MS
Throughout the 2012 campaign, Bob McDonnell had been seen as a top contender to be Mitt Romney's running mate, but his wife may not have helped his cause when she sought out first Mitt and then his wife, Ann, to pitch them on the dietary supplement that sold by Williams' company, Star Scientific.
Ann Romney has multiple sclerosis, and when Maureen McDonnell got a chance to bend her ear on a campaign bus in South Carolina in 2012, she told her that the supplement, Anatabloc, "could potentially cure MS," according to testimony from Phil Cox, Bob McDonnell's top political adviser at the time. Cox did not think that was a good idea, The Washington Post reported.
“I was horrified,” Cox testified. “I thought it was a train wreck.”
Maureen 'Hated' Her Husband
That stinging assessment came not from the prosecutor but from the former governor's own defense attorney, John Brownlee, according to the Times-Dispatch.
“She said she hated him,” Brownlee told the jury.
“He did everything he could to help Maureen and give her confidence and self-esteem,” Brownlee said, but there wasn’t enough time spent at home, or enough money.
The result, said Brownlee, was “a rift so wide” that “an outsider could invade and poison the marriage.”
It Was All About the Money
Witnesses for the prosecution have testified that while Williams was a great salesman, Maureen McDonnell fell more for his wallet than his charm.
When asked about whether Maureen McDonnell liked Williams' wealth, Block responded, "who doesn't like a friend with a lot of money".— Jeff Goldberg (@jgoldbergABC7) August 5, 2014
The trial centers on purchases of a Rolex watch, a $5,000 inaugural gown and other gifts that Williams made for Maureen McDonnell. The first lady liked Williams "because he's loaded," Bob McDonnell's former scheduler, Monica Block, testified.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.
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