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The latest 'ominous sign' for McDonnell

Associated Press

As the corruption scandal surrounding Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell (R) has intensified in recent months, a lingering question has hovered on the periphery: where are all these scoops coming from? For a while, it seemed like the public heard new, juicy details nearly every day about McDonnell's connections with his generous benefactor, Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams, and it was hard not to wonder whether Williams himself was dishing the revelations.

Those questions came into sharper focus over the weekend, when the Washington Postreported that Williams, hardly a stranger to investigations and suspicions of wrongdoing, has been "cooperating for several months with federal prosecutors" eyeing the Republican governor.

Jonnie R. Williams Sr., chief executive of Star Scientific, has turned over personal financial records and sat for interviews in which he provided firsthand accounts of luxury gifts and more than $120,000 given to McDonnell (R) and his family members since 2011, [three people familiar with the probe] said.

Star has given prosecutors access to corporate records and offered information from other company officials. The three spoke on the condition of anonymity because the case is in a sensitive stage.

The cooperation is an ominous sign for McDonnell, suggesting that federal prosecutors are focused on trying to build a potential criminal case against him.

Quite right. In case there were any doubts about whether investigators were pursuing these leads in the hopes of building a case against Williams, this report suggests the Star Scientific chief isn't the one law enforcement is interested in.

In fairness, I should note that this doesn't necessarily mean that Williams has been dishing dirt on McDonnell, but the fact that he's cooperating with prosecutors against the governor suggest he's not on the governor's side in this scandal, and it would help explain how so much sensitive information -- which very few people would have direct knowledge of -- landed in the hands of interested reporters.

But don't worry, Gov. Ultrasound, you may not have many friends left, but Louisiana's Bobby Jindal still likes you.

As for the Republican who hopes to replace McDonnell, state Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, the GOP gubernatorial hopeful said last week he wouldn't pay back the gifts he received from Williams, and so far, Cuccinelli has not yet changed his mind.