McDonnell Trial Day 19: Bob McDonnell Continues Testimony
?Former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell resumed testifying Thursday in his public corruption trial in federal court in Richmond. The former governor and his wife, Maureen, are charged with accepting more than $165,000 in gifts and loans from former Star Scientific Inc. CEO Jonnie Williams in exchange for promoting his company's dietary supplements.
On Wednesday McDonnell took the stand and testified Maureen showed anxiety over her new role as first lady the day after he was elected in 2009. His attorney was about to ask him more questions about the marriage when court adjourned, leaving that topic for Thursday. Defense attorneys have suggested that the McDonnells could not have conspired because their marriage was crumbling and they were barely talking.
Thursday Bob McDonnell started his testimony telling jurors that his time in public office took a toll on his marriage. He said Maureen developed something of a separate life from him as she raised their five children and he devoted time to being a state legislator, Army reservist, and lawyer in private practice.
McDonnell testified that it was, "very, very" difficult to talk about his marriage and finances. He talked about meeting Maureen, saying the first years were nice in Germany, traveling time was nice, and they were just starting to have children. He said it was during this time that Maureen started selling supplements.
In 1991 he was elected to the General Assembly. He described it as a difficult time. He said Maureen became pregnant with twins and had them six weeks before he took office. He said he was away from home a lot with the General Assembly and the Army Reserve. He was living in Richmond while Maureen was taking care of five kids in Virginia Beach. He said they led separate lives and their relationship focused on the needs of the kids.
He testified that he noticed anxiety in her in 1990. He said their relationship was strained, saying communication wasn't good, and they often had arguments. He said the tension even pervaded vacations. He said the tension continued through the late 1990s. When asked if he was angry with her, he replied, “I wasn't angry at her, she was angry at me. She wanted me around more.”
He then testified about the time when he started running for attorney general in 2002. He and Maureen talked about it and she supported his decision but wondered what it all meant. He said ‘you don't know until you live through it.' He said Maureen liked the social events but was very anxious about being in the public eye.
He said for the first six months as attorney general he was in Richmond while she was in Virginia Beach, then the whole family moved to Richmond. He said she had a very hard time with that, it removed her from all people she knew, her support group. In his first year as attorney general, he decided to run for governor. He said they were living together at that point but their communication did not improve. He stated they didn't communicate about one another, they talked about the "business of living" rather than “us.”
He testified he told her running for governor might change what she could do with nutraceuticals, to avoid conflict of interest. He said he wanted to make sure his and her work didn't crossover. He said she wasn't happy about it. He said that even though he told her to pare back selling nutraceuticals, it seemed like she wasn't. He testified that at one point Maureen used one of his campaign lists as a marketing list for her nutraceuticals. He said it upset him and he told her she cannot use those lists.
Bob spoke about his first run for governor saying Maureen had mixed emotions about it, but supported the decision. He said the campaign was much more involved and included Maureen much more. Staff members were allocated to Maureen and she just went through them. He heard reports of her yelling at staff, often about things that were not important to the campaign. He testified that Janet Kelly told him she wasn't working for Maureen if hired. He said that hurt him quite a bit.
There were some concerns expressed about possible emotional concerns or problems, but, between the move to Richmond and her mother passing away, he thought the transition was just difficult amidst all that and the campaign. He said they talked about seeking therapy or marriage counseling in Virginia Beach but she didn't want to go.
He said Maureen was fearful and anxious about the future of the governorship and her role as first lady. He said he tried to figure out how to staff the situation. He had heard some rumors about issues and wanted a chief of staff that could handle it. He hired Mary Shea Sutherland for the position.
He said Maureen had trouble making decisions on rudimentary things, and communication was not good. They had arguments about the inaugural dress and "Mr. Williams' business."
Maureen's father died in June 2010. Bob McDonnell testified that Maureen said she felt like orphan, with both parents both gone. Around the same time their twins left for college. Bob said he was traveling extensively during this time and it was hard to console her for months.
He said she got $25,000 from her father's estate. He said when the check came, she wanted to buy stock for the kids, as her father had done for them that helped back in law school. He said he had bills they need to pay. He said she was upset with this, sobbed and threw the check on the table. He testified he felt he was wrong and unfair. He said he shouldn't have done that.
Bob McDonnell said the public part of the first lady's office was going well but the private part was a disaster. He testified that in 2011 there was a lot of arguing, yelling at staff, last minute changes and not taking responsibility. He said at one point he told her "it is absolutely inappropriate to talk to people in a demeaning way." He said sometimes she listened and other times she didn't. He said she accused him of taking sides and told him, "I'm not staff, I'm your wife." He said he told her "You need to take care of staff like you love them, because they are going to take care of us."
McDonnell testified it was really hard for him because Maureen was yelling a lot. He said he had to make a decision on getting his job done, so he ended up staying in the office later. He said every time he came home there was a complaint.
He talked about Jim Burke's recommendation of counseling. McDonnell talked with Maureen but she said no, saying she was concerned it would go public. He said he tried to convince her, explaining that it would be a doctor - patient relationship, but she said no, so he went with that.
Jurors saw an email former Gov. Bob McDonnell wrote to his wife three years ago trying to save his marriage, telling her she was his "soul mate." McDonnell choked up as he described Labor Day 2011, when his wife rejected his efforts to spend the weekend with her. He wrote he was at a loss to deal with her anger. Click here to read the email.
With sadness in his voice, Bob McDonnell told the jury Maureen argued and yelled so severely when he was governor that he emotionally checked out. He said "I put the marriage on hold.” McDonnell testified that is when he believes his wife became vulnerable to Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams.
McDonnell testified that he did not think Maureen was having an affair with Williams. He said he felt they had an emotional attachment but did not think they were having a physical affair. When asked if Maureen was getting emotional support from him, he replied ‘no.' When asked why he allowed that to happen, he said she was in a better mood, Williams was married, and he never thought it would be a problem. He said Maureen being happier was helpful to him.
McDonnell testified about Williams offering to buy Maureen a gown for the inauguration in 2009. He said he wasn't going to have it, but didn't say something at the time without talking to his wife. He said he didn't want to do it in public. He was asked what he thought of Williams at the time, he said he seemed “all right.”
Bob testified that around that time he wanted to reduce the couple's credit card debt. He talked about an email Maureen wrote claiming that the couple was broke and Bob was screaming at her. He testified that part of it was true, but he didn't scream at ther. He said he did tell her they needed to be careful, but they were not broke. He said he was comfortable with their living.
McDonnell testified about a California trip in 2010 on Williams' airplane. He said his assistant made the arrangements and that he did more listening to Williams than talking on the trip. He said Williams seemed interesting. He pointed out that situations like that happen thousands of times, with a donor on a plane pitching their products or services. He said he did suggest a meeting with Virginia Secretary of Health and Human Resources Secretary Bill Hazel, saying it's normal, he didn't necessarily expect more to come of it and he did not tell Hazel to do anything for him. He said it's what he does - connects? people.
McDonnell denied knowing Williams took his wife on a lavish shopping spree in New York. He said he saw shopping bags but assumed his wife bought the merchandise and that he would eventually see the credit card bill.
McDonnell testified that he felt as a couple they should have a more normal life, have dinner with friends every so often and reconnect with people they knew. He said Maureen recommended Jonnie Williams and his wife. He spoke about a dinner they held in the upstairs library at the Executive Mansion in April 2011.
His voice quivered on the stand as he spoke of the day. He said it was a very emotional day. He said he attended a funeral in the morning, toured tornado damage in southwest Virginia, and counseled a man who lost his grandmother. He said he doesn't remember the whole dinner. Bob said they did not discuss loans at the dinner. He said Williams talked a lot about Star Scientific. He said when he heard about clinical trials for Anatabloc, thought ‘yeah, we should have them in VA.' He said he felt he had a friendly relationship with Williams and his wife.
He said he was told that Williams and his wife wanted to pay the $15,000 catering bill as a wedding gift to his daughter Cailin, after she had accepted it. He said that he had wanted to pay for the wedding, and had already made the first two payments on the catering bill. He said that Williams offer was generous, but he thought the gift was OK.
As for the $50,000 loan from Williams to Maureen, he says he didn't know about that until after it was given and spent to buy Star Scientific stock. When asked why he didn't tell her to give the money back, he said he had to pick his battles. He said he felt he was wrong to force her to give up inheritance from her father she intended for stock.
McDonnell testified about his use of Jonnie Williams' Ferrari. He McDonnell said it was fun to drive it back to Richmond from a vacation at Williams' Smith Mountain Lake house and he did not think it was "big deal." He said he wanted to drive it because it was a Ferrari and thought he was doing Williams a favor by driving it to Richmond. Jurors have been shown several photos of McDonnell driving the Ferrari, which is one the world's most expensive sports cars.
McDonnell said he accepted gifts but did not give Williams anything more than he gave other citizens in Virginia. Speaking about the vacation gifts, he said he didn't see a ticket or event but really saw it as time with his family.
McDonnell testified that he now lives apart from Maureen. McDonnell said he lives with his pastor because going home to his wife and having to rehash the days events from the trial would be too emotionally exhausting.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.