RICHMOND — The prosecution kicked off its cross-examination of Bob McDonnell Monday with a barrage of questions about personal finances aimed at undercutting the former Virginia governor’s account that he was unaware of gifts and loans from a wealthy businessman and that he provided nothing in exchange.
Mr. McDonnell, who mixed contrition with proclamations of innocence during three days on the stand before defense lawyers last week, seemed less at ease Monday as he and prosecutors in his public corruption trial sparred over the timeline of financial dealings with Jonnie R. Williams Sr.
The government is accusing the Mr. McDonnell and his wife of accepting more than $170,000 in gifts and loans from the former CEO of nutrition supplement company Star Scientific Inc. in exchange for promoting Mr. Williams‘ business interests.
Mr. McDonnell acknowledged under questioning by prosecutor Michael Dry that as of August 2011, when there was an event at the Executive Mansion tied to the rollout of Mr. Williams‘ signature product, there would have been no way for anyone to know about a $15,000 check the businessman provided for the wedding of the governor’s daughter or of a $50,000 loan he had given first lady Maureen McDonnell unless Mr. McDonnell told them.
“It’s my wife’s loan, Mr. Dry,” he said.
Defense attorneys for both Mr. and Mrs. McDonnell have said the couple’s crumbling marriage over the period in question would have precluded any conspiracy to promote Mr. Williams‘ company, as the two were barely on speaking terms.
Mr. Dry pointed out, however, that the McDonnells went on 18 out-of-town trips over the course of 22 months. Mr. McDonnell said he tried to spend as much time as he could with Mrs. McDonnell and his family, and they were included on some of the trips.
But the portrait of the couple now living separately and barely communicating stands in stark contrast with even a few months ago. Mr. Dry showed photographs of the couple holding hands or appearing together at events associated with their trial earlier in the year.
The former governor also addressed issues about the disclosure of gifts from Mr. Williams. He acknowledged on the witness stand that there would have been no way to tell from economic disclosure forms he was required to file that Mr. Williams had given his wife the $50,000 loan because he had listed the liability as “medical services.”
Mr. McDonnell said he did not include more details because the form doesn’t require anything but the principal occupation or business from a donor.
Testimony about financial disclosures could be crucial because prosecutors are trying to show that the McDonnells shielded their relationship and dealings with Mr. Williams.
Mr. McDonnell has acknowledged and accepted fault for failing to disclose golf rounds and an equipment bag he received in 2011 from Mr. Williams. But Mr. Dry pointed out that the former governor played another round of golf on Mr. Williams‘ dime on Jan. 7, 2012, before failing to include the prior year’s rounds when filling out the forms little more than a week later.
“It was a mistake and it should have been on there,” Mr. McDonnell said.