WaPo raises the specter of an FBI investigation into McDonnell

There’s only one word for this most recent revelation in the Star Scientific/McDonnell wedding gift/Todd Schneider trial:


FBI agents are conducting interviews about the relationship between Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell, his wife, Maureen, and a major campaign donor who paid for the food at the wedding of the governor’s daughter, according to four people familiar with the questioning.

The agents have been asking associates of the McDonnells about gifts provided to the family by Star Scientific chief executive Jonnie R. Williams Sr. and actions the Republican governor and his wife have taken that may have boosted the company, the people said.

Among the topics being explored, they said, is the $15,000 catering bill that Williams paid for the 2011 wedding of McDonnell’s daughter at Virginia’s historic Executive Mansion. But questions have extended to other, previously undisclosed gifts from Williams to Maureen McDonnell as well, they said.

The interviews, at which Virginia State Police investigators were present, began in recent months as an outgrowth of a federal investigation of securities transactions involving Star Scientific, which produces a dietary supplement called Anatabloc. The company disclosed that probe in a regulatory filing last month, saying it had received subpoenas from the U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of Virginia.

Now, federal officials are trying to determine whether to expand that investigation into a broader look at whether McDonnell or his administration took any action to benefit Star Scientific in exchange for monetary or other benefits, according to the four people familiar with the interviews. It is unclear whether the probe will be broadened.

And later, just to make sure the speculative boot is put firmly in McDonnell’s backside, the WaPo adds this:

But if investigators gather enough other evidence, they may open a formal public corruption inquiry, the people said. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because the interviews are private and they are not authorized to discuss them.

“If” and “may.” Not the firmest of foundations. But just enough, from unnamed sources talking when they shouldn’t be about interviews that were supposed to be private, to paint the McDonnells with the dreaded corruption brush. Remember all this the next time anyone from the government tells you what you’re saying is held in strictest confidence.

But that’s only part of the story. We have to go to the RTD to find out who has been singing to the FBI. Lo and behold, it’s Todd Schneider, the former Executive Mansion chef who is awaiting trial for felony embezzlement:

Former Executive Mansion chef Todd Schneider told FBI agents and state investigators more than a year ago that he had information of “wrongdoing” by Gov. Bob McDonnell and first lady Maureen McDonnell and discussed with authorities their relationship to Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams, according to a court filing in Schneider’s felony embezzlement case.

The dismissal motion that Schneider’s attorneys filed Monday in Richmond Circuit Court, also argues that Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli pursued an indictment of Schneider despite having, months earlier, “conflicting personal, financial and political interests more substantial and pervasive” than the conflicts the attorney general’s office cited last week in a brief seeking to withdraw from the case.

The declarations in Schneider’s dismissal motion indicate an investigative inquiry — outside of Schneider’s embezzlement case — that further complicates the already complex relationship between Williams, the McDonnells and Cuccinelli.

Schneider’s legal defense team is doing what is has to do to defend its client. And it’s obvious that in the process, they intend to inflict as much pain on the McDonnells and the AG as they possibly can.

So far, though, we are only getting one side of the story — Schneider’s. We have yet to see the state’s case. Whether the state will use the same aggressive approach as the defense is yet to be seen. The early indications are that no one will emerge from this trial (if it is not dismissed) unscathed.

How does it play politically? With the Washington Post playing free and loose with the idea of an FBI corruption inquiry that may never happen, what is clear is that a narrative is forming…Bob McDonnell is a corrupt pol. And Ken Cuccinelli? Yup, he is too. The Washington Post, for one, will do everything in its power to see that this narrative not only survives, but thrives.

Fiasco? It sure is. But let’s hear the prosecution side, too, before we begin writing any political obituaries.

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