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Mr. Goldman said another factor in the case is the reliability of Mr. Williams, a car salesman-turned-entrepreneur who has cooperated with prosecutors.

“He’s the basis of their case. How credible is he?” Mr. Goldman said. “How do you convict anyone in America on the say-so of a guy who has reason to lie? I’m not saying he is. [But] the man has a history of being on the federal scam radar for years [a] whole history of the guy who knows how to con people.”

A federal judge on Wednesday denied a motion from Mr. McDonnell’s legal team to push back his initial court appearance by a week, meaning both his initial appearance and arraignment are scheduled to occur Friday in Richmond.