Former VA Gov. Bob McDonnell Indicted

Potential presidential candidate could face prison time for felony corruption charges
3:00 | 01/22/14

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Transcript for Former VA Gov. Bob McDonnell Indicted
This is a special room. Hello I'm tired and is in new York -- this is an ABC news digital special report less than two weeks after he left office the former governor of Virginia Bob McDonnell. Along with his wife -- now face a new term. This prison after being hit with felony corruption charges. ABC's Karen Travers is in Washington now with the latest -- care. Good afternoon attack this 43 page indictment is a fascinating read and once he take away is how they Google rolled Maureen McDonnell play in all of this she was pushing for -- to gets -- you name it. But -- the charges are against both of them and they are very serious. He was considered a rising star in the Republican Party -- -- presidential and vice presidential hopeful. Now former governor Bob McDonnell is facing federal corruption charges. I come before this evening as someone who has been falsely and wrongfully. Accused and his public service. Has been wrongfully attacked. The fourteen count federal indictment is a stunning page turner focusing on the relationship between McDonnell -- his wife Maureen and Johnny Williams. Former CEO of Star Scientific. -- dietary supplements company. The fence say the McDonald's accepted thousands of dollars in lavish gifts from Williams designer clothes golf outings and two Rolex watch. That's in addition -- tens of thousands of dollars in cash including paying the catering costs at McDonald's daughter's wedding. All allegedly in exchange for promoting Williams company prosecutors didn't charge this case has. Out and out bribery they're charging it more in the realm of fraud. More of seeking some kind of quid pro. While Maureen McDonnell is at the center of the controversy accused of repeatedly hitting a Williams for money and -- Just after her husband was elected governor in 2009 she emailed Williams we are broke having unconscionable and -- credit card debt already. This inaugural -- killing us I need answers and I need help. I did nothing illegal. Or mr. Williams. In exchange for what I believed was his personal friendship. And his generosity. If convicted -- McDonald's would face a maximum of thirty years in prison but high it's unlikely they would serve that. -- to appear in court on Friday for an -- -- all right Karen what's next for the former governor. His political career is over hi this is somebody that was really on the short list list for the vice presidential nomination and he -- also talked about as a contender for the Republican nomination in 2016. But -- -- safe to say his political career is over now he's essentially. Fighting to stay out of federal prison. And -- it's been an interesting couple weeks for those names that we -- certainly talked about so much for 2016 Bob McDonnell cross him off the list and of course New Jersey governor Chris Christie -- it's essentially putting his 2016 campaign hopes on hold for the next year and focusing on his own scandals back in New Jersey. -- already BC's Karen Travers thanks so much for joining us from Washington. And for more on the case and what it could mean for Republicans around the country we're joined now by ABC news political director Rick Klein hello Rick. To do -- -- -- corruption charges leveled at McDonald's for months now why did federal prosecutors wait until now to bring them formally they were under intense pressure. In Virginia and nationally not to monkey around with the political schedule it was a competitive election. In Virginia just last November to replace governor McDonnell that feeling was that if they came down with corruption charges just before that -- could tip the balance they waited for the smoke to clear they got the ducks in a row and and they brought the hammer down and wow was it a stunner this was. Far more significant according -- these allegations than anyone imagined. And either the public reporting saw before that these debts that they went to to try to solicit favors. And presumably it is according to there's evidence -- from Johnny Williams the founder of Star Scientific has vitamin company energy company. They went so far in just in terms of the documentation that was out there. And prosecutors painted a very compelling tale of for a couple the for former first couple of Virginia. Who were actively soliciting favors and little gifts is apparently in return for support for this company. Have little or not so little lowered target -- Rolex Watches and cars. Wedding catering. Rick we do have more from McDonnell's statement last night the former governor discussing his dealings with -- who he describes as his friend John. But it. I never promised and mr. Williams and his company never received. Any government benefit. Of any kind for me or from my administration. No contract loan grant. Funding. Legislation budget appropriation. Regulation. Border commission assignment. Or any other official state benefit. I -- Ricky basically saying hey this is a friend of friend didn't give me yes what's so bad about that -- -- the feds say this. A couple of things to know about this quote -- friendship first of all they didn't strike the friendship up until right before. Governor McDonnell's about the take office and according to the indictment. -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- -- So that's how they started and then as the friendship evolved. They were multiple direct requests according to the information in the indictment emails the cooperation of Johnny Williams is the man at the senators Star Scientific. All part of this that had the governor's wife and -- it's for the governor directly asking for things over and over again and then turning around and at times. Soliciting they are folks folks around -- to -- make sure that that their products are being featured in. And displayed and and maybe even tested by the -- -- officials. And they add to that the fact that they had a financial interest in the company that was not disclosed by under the state disclosure laws because some. Some questionable Wesley -- maneuvering is around those documents. And you adds up to a portrait of a couple that thought they were gonna get away with Quidel quite a lot in return for what what friendships and that is not how the for the federal prosecutors view this. And I think in the view of most observers on this there is a very strong case that has been that is represented here that it takes this former rising -- down a significant -- A little bit -- Or about Johnny Williams he's the former chief executive of Star Scientific. Selling nutritional product and it -- and it sounds like an odd. Kind of company or our our you know -- business to get involved with anyway in terms of the McDonald's -- how to they took happen and what can you tell us about Johnny Williams. He made his money in the tobacco industry originally and is actually. Via the product that he was trying to develop for Star Scientific. Actually is tobacco base and there's issue would be of -- interest in Virginia for a variety of reasons. Well known in Republican circles particularly in Virginia as someone that that has lots of political generosity. Toward politicians. Very very wealthy and and -- -- the extent of the -- as evidence in evidenced by the fact that that that private jet and that couple 100000 dollar Ferrari that the first couple wanted to use as well a lot of colorful examples that are assaulted throughout this. And someone again who who was known in political circles but was not particularly close to. To Bob McDonnell any point in fact there's an allegation -- there that they even lied about that part of the association a suggestion. By -- acknowledge they did that Bob met Johnny Williams up through the army reservists thirty years ago forty years ago in fact they net. Just before the time of the inauguration so. He his cooperation here is so important and -- something that. Bob McDonnell and his team are gonna focus on -- saying that he is providing. Evidence to try to get him out of it himself out of trouble. He was given immunity by prosecutors as part of this and the fact that he's ready apparently to stand ready to testify against the McDonald's is a very important piece of this case. -- let's sort of little a little bit about Maureen McDonnell. Clearly we see through the emails what her alleged role was she's pretty open and -- dinner emails about their needs. She didn't have an official role in the government what does this mean though in terms -- obviously she's the governor's wife I mean what does this mean in terms of the prosecution's case have they connected. Her emails to her husband and his role as governor. They have in -- him mrs. MacDonald former Washington Redskins cheerleader you might want -- add as a biographical retail. It seems to be the person that is created this according to the timeline and the -- of these things. Are documented in the indictment it seems like it was her idea to start soliciting gifts large and small. From Johnny Williams he -- there are others involved as well -- the indictment limited to Johnny Williams. And it seems -- over time only did Bob McDonnell himself get drawn into that so she seems to be kind of the mastermind of this -- in in involving and it. And in directly asking in in very as you say kind of almost shocking language. Talking about how hard up they are for money and how they'd like this the -- that it paints for immediately east is that. This is a couple that in a very successful would never had a lot of money they're suddenly exposed to a lot of money crazy money. In the case of Johnny Williams -- the other donors involved in Virginia politics very lax rules of Virginia perhaps the lapses in the nation about what kind of gifts. That you can receive as a state official so long as you report them it's -- long -- you don't trade business for them and those -- the two points that has that we have McDonald's right now. In a lot of legal hot water the suggestion from the -- team is that is the politics the play in this that this is a successful. Former Republican governor who who was being targeted by prosecutors potentially with a political ax to grind. But -- it's fair to say that kind of allegations in here. If at all true would be far larger than party lines I want I can't imagine that -- need any Republicans defending the McDonald's conduct the. And you can just imagine jury selection. Perhaps -- party affiliation will matter more than anything in terms of selecting the jury but. I also wanted to bring up the point that before it was governor McDonnell was Virginia's attorney general you talk about the rules of the state. Bring pretty lax in terms of -- but he. On top of anyone should know state -- pretty well. Certainly that I think there's no question that he would no state law very well and you -- listen to that response when he talks about the generosity. Johnny Williams in the fact that he did not break any state laws they are hoping his expectations still is that -- be -- out -- court of law that's one reason I think we haven't seen a plea -- throughout this this is being any different. The better part of a year now we've known the prosecutors are ready in this case the Washington Post among others. Very aggressive in the reporting -- -- -- this so we've known that there have been in talks for a long time on the timing of this. Clearly you would hope if you Bob McDonnell you try to find a way to avoid prison time. He still thinks that he could have the law because of the way that the written in Virginia on his side and that will be the subject of what I expect to be a protracted in rather intricate legal battle look forward. Karen mentioned in her piece Republican governor Chris Christie and other potential White House. The hopeful caught in that nasty scandal. He's currently fighting Chris Christie is this. Concern for the Republican Party in terms of connecting these two cases are they. In a very different in terms of the facts that we have. On the ground. Let's go back four years about fifteen months almost exactly as a matter -- election night. 2009 and remember President Obama had just taken office about ten months earlier with -- historic sweeping election Democrats had control both houses of congress. Democrats had the governor's mansion in both Virginia and New Jersey. And all of a sudden these two superstars were born on the same night Bob McDonnell and Chris Christie they won in 2009 they gave Republicans to key state houses. And they presaged the Tea Party take over the Republican takeover. They came just a year later so so much was riding on these two men as saviors potentially of the Republican Party. And and strangely now when you look back it was Bob McDonnell who was viewed as presidential timber at -- time more than Chris Christie was it Chris -- people knew that was political talents that he realized how far he would get. In the space of four years now fast forward. Tune out what early 2014 Bob McDonnell fighting to stay out of prison Chris Christie -- -- significant scandal that is that it has the potential to overshadow the next six months maybe a year all the time he was gonna use in the run up to a presidential race to these two -- -- both of whom. Were presumed to have major 2016 ambitions sees an extremely tough times now I always hesitate to -- these things nationally I think there are. No shortage of a political scoundrels and wrongdoing on both sides of the -- as as history teaches us over and over again. However is a lesson in how hubris and how a couple of missteps can lead to things these -- self inflicted wounds in both cases this wasn't about. Policy positions this wasn't even about political battles necessarily in the case of both Chris Christie and Bob McDonnell they're facing things that that -- stand. Directly from their own actions are there are allegations surrounding their actions silly it's a tough business politics and and I think -- these two men have learned. When you're up one day the next -- to be quite a bit different. -- tough and quite unpredictable as -- you've seen over the past several months ABC news political director I think so much for joining us thank you. And from -- latest on the felony corruption charges against the recently departed of Virginia governor Republican Bob McDonnell right here. Stay tuned to abcnews.com.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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