Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) adopted a new posture and defense strategy a few weeks ago, bringing new lawyers and damage-control experts to help him avoid resigning in disgrace. The strategy included some obvious elements, including returning the ill-gotten gifts, launching a statewide “opportunity” tour, etc.
The subtext wasn’t subtle: McDonnell, we were supposed to believe, was transitioning from the “humiliating revelation” phase to the “please let me stay in office for a few more months” phase.
And that’s arguably not a horrible gambit – or at least, it wouldn’t be if the scandal-plagued governor really had moved past the “humiliating revelation” phase, which he hadn’t.
We learned over the weekend, for example, that while the governor was helping Star Scientific and receiving luxury gifts from the company’s CEO, the governor’s wife, Maureen McDonnell, quietly purchased thousands of shares of stock in the company. Why didn’t the governor think to mention this before? According to his spokesperson, it’s because McDonnell had no idea what his wife was up to – she made the investment without the governor’s knowledge.
Oh good, we’ve apparently reached the “throw the wife under the bus” phase.
Making matters considerably worse, the Washington Post reports that the governor and wife will spend the day meeting with prosecutors – but not together.
Attorneys for Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, will spend Monday locked in separate hours-long meetings trying to convince federal prosecutors that the first couple should not be charged in the gifts scandal that has dominated state politics.
The meetings open a new, critical phase of the investigation, timed to help prosecutors decide over the next few weeks whether to file charges…. The central issues for prosecutors are what precisely McDonnell may have said or offered to Williams on his own and how much the governor knew about his wife’s acceptance of gifts from Williams and her actions to help his company just as Star was launching a new product.
Remember, it’s tempting at this point to think McDonnell should do himself and his commonwealth a favor by stepping down, handing over the reins to his qualified and competent lieutenant governor, and focusing of his defense full time. But the McDonnells’ meetings today aren’t about whether or not he can stay in the governor’s mansion until January; they’re about whether criminal charges are on the way.