Revisiting remarks from Bob McDonnell on gifts scandal

RICHMOND, Va. (WAVY) — 10 On Your Side interviewed then Governor Bob McDonnell on August 13, 2013. The gifts and loans scandal was just breaking, and he was visiting the Sugar Plum Bakery in Virginia Beach.

More than a year later, his future is not his. His future is in the hands of a 12-person jury deciding whether he and his wife Maureen go to federal prison on corruption charges.

Back in 2013, he wanted to talk about the good things, and there were many: “We’ve got the lowest unemployment rate in the southeast, we have tripled the rainy day fund, we’ve had four surpluses in a row, we have historic reforms in transportation and higher education.”

Sadly, for all the good, the black mark was darker than the light. No one wanted to talk about the good stuff, they wanted to talk about Star Scientific’s Jonnie Williams, who showered the McDonnell family with over $170,000 in gifts and loans. WAVY.com reminded McDonnell he just rattled off all these great things he’s done, but he’s forced to talk about Star Scientific and Jonnie Williams.

He responded, “I wouldn’t be talking about it, if you weren’t asking me about it. I’ve traveled the state, and I know what people are really concerned about.”

Well, polling numbers showed people cared about the growing scandal. A poll back then showed his popularity falling from 62 percent to 46 percent. He responded to that back in August 2013: “I’ve made mistakes in my life. On the gift issue, I’ve returned all the gifts. I’ve repaid loans. I have been as diligent as I can in following the law in terms of what is required to be disclosed … I made apologies for things that have been a distraction for the people of Virginia because I have enjoyed the trust of the people  for a long time in office.”

That is to be determined by a jury that has an instruction that the loans whether to Bob McDonnell or his business, MoBo LLC, should have been disclosed and reported to banks he was doing business with. It made it look like he may be trying to hide the hand shake loan deals he had with Jonnie Williams.

10 On Your Side asked him about that Rolex watch, which is symbolic of how, in McDonnell’s own words, he allowed himself “to get out of balance.” In court, witnesses testified Bob McDonnell was the least materialistic person they know. Back to August 2013, we reminded McDonnell he is not a $6,5000 Rolex kind of guy.

“There are some things at this point I can not talk about. There are still reviews being done, Andy,” McDonnell said.

The one thing Bob McDonnell always seemed to have was the trust of the people. He has never lost an election. Even today his former staffers, one by one, said there is no one in politics they respect more, that they would work for him again, even after all the scandal.

A jury instruction: evidence alone of good character can create reasonable doubt and set McDonnell free from federal felonies.

At that same gathering in August of 2013, WAVY.com found Dr. William Hazel, who was McDonnell’s Secretary of Health and Human Resources. Dr. Hazel met with Jonnie Williams at McDonnell’s urging.

For Hazel, the story is what he testified to on the stand one year later: “We meet with people the governor sends us. We meet with people who just come in. It is part of our job to learn what is going on in the  world and to see how it might apply to government.”

Dr. Hazel insists nothing was ever promised or given to Jonnie Williams.

We asked McDonnell back then, do you regret taking the gifts in the first place, regret taking the loans in the first place? “Loans are a part of running a small business. My sister and I have a small business. I assume if the loan came from a bank, nobody would be talking about it,” McDonnell said.

Of course, we now know those loans not reported to banks are some of the toughest challenges in McDonnell’s defense.

McDonnell, a Republican, is just as confident now as he was back in August 2013 that he has done nothing wrong.

“We have a complete audit by the former Democratic Attorney General, Tony Troy, who has said there is not a dime of state money that has gone to Star Scientific or Jonnie Williams, no grants, no budget monies, no board appointments, and I knew that from the beginning,” McDonnell said in 2013.

What a difference 13 months can make. Tune in to WAVY News 10 on Thursday for live reports from Richmond, as the trial moves forward.

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