Both McDonnell and his wife have denied wrongdoing and repaid thousands of dollars with interest to Jonnie Williams Sr., the maker of dietary supplements from tobacco plants.
McDonnell apologized for the “problems and pain I’ve caused this past year” during his farewell State of the Commonwealth address earlier this month.
The disgraced governor has been seeking help from his colleagues. According to the Washington Post, he asked two top state lawmakers to call the U.S. Attorney’s Office on his behalf to attest to his character.
This isn’t the sort of situation Republicans predicted for their one-time golden boy a few years ago. Quite the opposite: the GOP placed the conservative front-and-center early in his term. Days after getting sworn in, the new Virginia governor was tasked with delivering the Republican response to President Obama’s first State of the Union in 2009. His name was floated as a possible running mate for Mitt Romney and even as 2016 presidential material.
Here are some of the party members who once sang his praises:
Mitt Romney The former Republican presidential candidate visited northern Virginia in 2011, fueling speculation about McDonnell as a possible VP.
“I say nice things about Governor McDonnell every time I have a chance,” he said. “He’s a terrific governor doing a great job here in Virginia.” Romney also referred to McDonnell as one of the “great leaders of the Republican party.”
Donald Trump In 2011, the reality TV star said: “Bob McDonnell is one of the most respected politicians in the country and I think he’d be an amazing running mate for anybody. And maybe an amazing first, but we won’t even say that– he doesn’t want to get into that– but he’d be an amazing running mate.”
Mike Huckabee The former Arkansas governor urged his Huck PAC supporters to contribute time and money to McDonnell’s 2009 gubernatorial campaign. During a Virginia Beach campaign stop, he credited McDonnell with bringing back the GOP from the brink after Obama took over the White House.
“Bob McDonnell is the reason that the Republican Party is going to see a resurgence,” he predicted.
Bobby Jindal In 2008, the Louisiana governor endorsed then-candidate McDonnell: “Bob McDonnell will be a strong, effective leader for Virginia. At a time when our nation is faced with an uncertain economy, the need for leadership that is proven and prepared to rein in spending and reform government is now more important than ever.”
Rudy Guiliani The former New York City Mayor, a self-described “big supporter of Bob’s,” praised McDonnell’s ”background” and “integrity” when the Virginian was running for governor.
“He’s the kind of person who’s dedicated to public service. He was in the Army, he was a prosecutor, he served as a delegate and now as attorney general,” said Giuliani. “That’s the kind of leadership that we need, not only in Virginia, but we need it throughout the country. “
Michael Steele The former Republican National Committee chairman, a “strong supporter of Bob McDonnell for governor,” said the GOP needed McDonnell’s leadership to help “take our common sense conservative message to every voter and every community.”
“Bob has a record of results,” said Steele. “ A true public servant, he has dedicated his life to helping his fellow citizens. He has done that as an army officer, prosecutor, businessman, delegate, and most recently as Virginia’s attorney general. In every position in which he has served, Bob has brought people together to get things done.”
Log Cabin Republicans The LGBT rights group commended McDonnell in 2009 for setting a positive example among his fellow Republican colleagues.
“Mr. McDonnell has rightfully said the government should not discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, and so we call on Republican leaders and candidates throughout Virginia to repudiate [then-Attorney General nominee Ken] Cuccinelli’s hateful remarks and stand with Bob McDonnell on this important issue,” said David Lampo, a for Log Cabin Republicans board member.