FAIRFAX, Va. -- A day after his lawyers tried to convince federal prosecutors not to press charges against him and his wife, Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell declined to talk about those meetings or the gifts scandal that led to them. He did, however, reiterate that he has no plans to resign before his term is up, as some critics and previous supporters have called on him to do.
Central to the federal investigation are questions over whether hundreds of thousands of dollars in gifts from supplement-maker Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams compelled McDonnell to help Williams’ company. Recent reports also say McDonnell's wife Maureen bought stock in the company, which the governor’s legal team contends he was largely in the dark about.
Speaking to reporters after a speech on veterans’ hiring initiatives in Fairfax, with Democratic Sen. Mark Warner, a former governor, McDonnell was asked if he could comment on Monday’s meetings, responding, “No.”
“I came to talk about hiring veterans and why that's important, I can talk to you about the budget, we had a great day yesterday, but I don't have anything else to say about that. Any questions on that?” he asked, referring to veterans and the budget.
When pressed by a reporter on the issue, McDonnell repeated his request to talk about hiring veterans as well as his announcement of a budget surplus on Monday.
“Do you have any questions on that?" he asked. "Because that’s what I want to talk about. I don’t have anything to say on these other matters.”
McDonnell also said he will serve out the remainder of his final year in office, indirectly rejecting calls from some conservative commentators and newspapers to resign.
“I’m going to be governor of Virginia for another four-and-a-half months. I’ve got a budget to prepare; I’ve got major initiatives,” he said, listing several other priorities he wants to accomplish before his successor takes office.
Warner would not say whether he thought McDonnell, whom he called a “real friend and great Virginian,” should resign.
He did, however, say that Virginia should revise and update its disclosure rules, which would not have currently required McDonnell to disclose much more about the gifts than he did.
"Having served as governor, I am not going to be commenting on any of that issue until all the facts come out," Warner said. "I know there’s legal proceedings that are talked about, it’s just not appropriate for me to comment. I do think that going forward, Virginia ought to revise and update its disclosure rules and I think the legislature will take that on."
Warner also said he hopes both candidates vying to replace McDonnell for Virginia governor, Democrat Terry McAuliffe and Republican Ken Cuccinelli, cease trading the sort of barbs that have so far defined the race.
“I’m hopeful that as we get past Labor Day we’re not going to just continue to see the negative campaigning. I hope we’ll see from both campaigns more positive,” Warner said, adding that he thought McAuliffe, who has been dogged by reports about the travails at GreenTech, a car company he started, is “the right candidate to keep Virginia moving forward.”
First published August 20 2013, 12:17 PM