Rachel Maddow does a great job separating the distractions from the real issues in the McDonnell trial, and she highlights a few key gifts the former Governor of Virginia had difficulty explaining away.
Some of the excuses are credible; others are pretty lame. Here's a sampling, from the Washington Post liveblog:
When a new set of golf clubs arrived on the doorstep for his son, McDonnell said "It seemed different than the wedding present. It came out of the blue. There was no event. My feeling was that the gift was a little much."
But they weren't sent back.
On the $50,000 loan made to Maureen McDonnell by Jonnie Williams, McDonnell explained that he "intended to report it."
When he did report it, it was buried as a liability on his balance sheet, didn't disclose the lender's name, but described the creditor as "being employed in medical services."
The flights for his kids to a Virginia resort? He's not sure he even remembers those.
The vacation wasn't a gift; it was "free time with [his] family."
About the golf games at the expensive -- okay, very expensive -- golf resort? He had no idea it was so much money to go there. Rachel mocked him pretty seriously on this one, because he told the jury, "Somehow we did end up with some shirts."
Once again, the non-disclosure isn't McDonnell's fault, but Jonnie Williams' because he didn't submit the cost of those outings to McDonnell's office.
There's a pattern here. Nothing is ever Bob McDonnell's fault.
And then we get to the Rolex. I will just quote the liveblog directly on this one:
McDonnell said his wife gave it to him as a Christmas present in 2011 — wrapped in a non-Rolex box, with no accompanying paperwork. “The packing that I got said, ‘From Santa,’” McDonnell said, “but that’s something my wife typically does.”
McDonnell testified that his wife also frequently bought him watches — the one he wears now, he says, is a 15-year-old Seiko, from her — so the gift itself was not entirely unusual. But he said he knew it was “expensive,” and figured a job Maureen McDonnell had recently obtained with philanthropic arm of one of the state’s major coal companies made it possible for her to afford the purchase.↓ Story continues below ↓
“I didn’t interrogate her,” he said. “I didn’t question her about where it came from or any of that.”
McDonnell said the watch appeared to be new, but because of its packaging and lack of paperwork, he suspected that “maybe it’s not real.” He said he wore it for a couple weeks and said that two staffers soon advised him not to. Some time after that, he said, he began wearing it only on special occasions, mostly around family.
“Did you like the watch?” defense attorney Henry “Hank” Asbill asked.
“Not really,” McDonnell responded. “It was big. It was gawdy [sic]. It wasn’t my kind of watch.”
But McDonnell had to acknowledge he was photographed in December 2012 wearing the timepiece, and that photo ended up in Williams’s hands.
It came from Santa! And Maureen, the wife he barely spoke to was the one he thought gave it! And it was gaudy!
And look at that sh*t-eating grin on his face when he displayed it for the world to see.
I don't know what the jury will do with this case. It strikes me as extremely cynical to toss Maureen McDonnell under the Ferrari and then run over her a few times. The emails and letters the defense put out there show that their marriage had some real problems, but that isn't really relevant to the question of the Rolex and the vacations and the loan and the Ferrari.
Is this former Governor of Virginia who rained hot hell on women all over his state really going to sit up there and claim he was pussy-whipped?
Yes, he is. The only question is whether he'll get at least one juror to buy it.