Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell has put some distance between himself and a scandal involving gifts and loans from a wealthy Virginia businessman — about 7,000 miles.
The governor's office announced Wednesday that on the day Mr. McDonnell issued an apology for accepting loans from Jonnie R. Williams, CEO of nutritional supplemental maker Star Scientific Inc., Mr. McDonnell was halfway across the world on a five-day trip to Kuwait and Afghanistan. And in a television interview Wednesday from the Middle East, the Republican governor said he is not considering resigning.
A lengthy statement issued by the governor's office said Mr. McDonnell, an Army veteran, was invited by the Department of Defense as part of a delegation visiting soldiers stationed in Kuwait and Afghanistan, including members of the Virginia National Guard. Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, a Democrat, is also on the trip. The statement detailed Mr. McDonnell's activities during the weeklong trip and said he would return Friday.
"As an Army veteran, and the father of a daughter who served in the Army in Iraq, it is particularly meaningful to me to have had this opportunity to visit our troops serving in Kuwait and Afghanistan, including members of the Virginia National Guard," Mr. McDonnell said in the statement.
The statement notes that, for security reasons, details of the governor's trip were not publicly disclosed in advance.
Mr. McDonnell's public schedule for the week included only the first leg of the trip — a visit to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda that was closed to the press. That came after his schedule for last week indicated the governor was on vacation and would hold no public events. Some commentators suggested the governor's disappearance was also odd because Thursday marks the beginning of training camp for the Washington Redskins, the first time the football team will hold its preseason practices in Richmond.
The dearth of appearances fueled speculation that Mr. McDonnell was avoiding situations at which he might be asked about the growing scandal over gifts and loans given to his family.
The governor's office issued a statement Tuesday in which Mr. McDonnell apologized for any "embarrassment" the situation created and said he had repaid more than $100,000 in loans from Mr. Williams, with interest. The announcement came as federal and state investigations have been looking into gifts Mr. Williams gave the McDonnell family. The governor has denied any wrongdoing.
Mr. McDonnell discussed his Middle East trip in an interview with WRC-TV (Channel 4) Wednesday morning in which he also addressed the gifts scandal and acknowledged the appearance of impropriety it created.
"To the degree that some of the choices that I might have made in my personal life or my family might have made with some of those gifts that undermined people's sacred trust in me or government, I wanted to make it right. That's what I was hoping to signal yesterday," Mr. McDonnell said.
Asked if he had given any consideration to resigning as a result of the scandal, Mr. McDonnell said, "None. I'm not going anywhere. I love this job."
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