Former Va. Governor, Wife Plead Not Guilty to Federal Charges

Bob and Maureen McDonnell are accused of accepting gifts from a friend in exchange for political influence.
3:00 | 01/24/14

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Transcript for Former Va. Governor, Wife Plead Not Guilty to Federal Charges
I'm -- -- New York -- this ABC news digital special report just thirteen days after he left office. Former Virginia governor Bob McDonnell and wife -- entered a courtroom today to plead not guilty to an assortment corruption. It is. And with that federal judge set a trial date of July 28 the couple both of them facing charges -- fourteen count indictment. Will remain free up to and during the trial. For more on the story -- ABC news political director Rick Klein Washington -- happy Friday afternoon to you. So the back story for the uninitiated who is Bob McDonnell what what kind of pleased to have the Republican Party had just a couple of years ago and then I was -- charges he's facing now. Bob -- a Republican superstar elevated 2009 and seen as a potential presidential contender on Mitt Romney short list. -- back in 2012 now he is in serious hot water appearing in federal court today to try to answer charges for the first time but he and his wife face. For severe and significant corruption and they -- accused of taking a multiple gifts numerous gets tens of thousands of dollars worth it gets. From a political patron who lost -- business for the state giving -- a special treatment covering up the fact that -- a financial interest in this company. A major and stunning fall from grace from a former rising star I understand that there was a plea deal -- fact that he had turned down what do we know about the negotiations that went into that between federal prosecutors McDonald's. First of all this is knows that this has been no secret that federal prosecutors have been on this case for the better part of a year. The reports emerged publicly last summer they may actually try to indict him while he was still governor of Virginia he just left office a few weeks ago according to the Washington Post today it was a deal on the table last year that would have allowed. Bob McDonnell to avoid the worst of the charges and for his -- to avoid all charges he would. Cop to a felony charge that was significantly smaller in the potential punishment time in anything that he's facing now. And and again his wife would go off Scott free. If he does he however according to the post rejected that deal wants a fight it out of court he and his lawyers his legal team feel like they have. A very good case to make that they are able to say look. We know these things don't look good but Virginia has very lax laws when it comes to gifts. And according to Bob McDonnell and his lawyers they did nothing wrong leading user official capacity in any way to boost a political patron debut this is acts of extreme friendship and that's it. Well and that such -- that when a dive into a little bit deeper on because -- the specifics of the case here. The Washington Post put together. This we see a collection of all the gifts mcdonalds allegedly received from businessmen and friend Johnny Williams so what -- the government saying that Williams. Bought with these kinds of favors golf clubs shoes. And membership fees being waved. Here's where it gets tricky because it's hard to Trace an actual official action that benefited the company that would be to slam -- that would make -- very easy what we do have is multiple identity. Emails text messages. Communications between the governor -- disease that seem to try to support. Mr. Williams business is business technical -- Star Scientific is that dietary supplement derived from tobacco products. That was trying to get a more mainstream approval trying to get into some clinical trials trying to get more people to -- notice of them. We know that Bob McDonnell according to the indictment which is only -- -- -- -- story of course appears to have urged university officials. To -- to use it appears to urged that he's underlings that they would take -- more serious look at this potentially qualify for state grants helping along the process of of mainstream -- that acceptance of the product that's the allegation and they have the -- -- cooperation. Mr. Williams he's been given full immunity he is still a lot of -- given over a lot of documents a lot of testimony on this. About why and how in the timeline around how he was showered gifts on mr. and mrs. MacDonald -- Apparently in the expectation that he gets some kind of favorable treatment of the state level but that will be keeping to prove here and that's where Bob McDonnell and his wife. Feel like they could prevail that's why they didn't cut a -- that's why they're gonna see this out right now they feel like they can prove that there was nothing done here that was illegal even if -- it looks pretty well a little bit of that about -- -- -- his -- -- his compass and a as a small cigarette manufacturing company moved on to help supplement. Manufacture. What is his reputation though in the state of Virginia. He's known as a political operator someone who's very tight in Republican circles not someone who seeks out the limelight but is known as a big money man. And Virginia you can have a lot of big money men and women because there's very. Lax laws about the official gifts you can accept about funding for campaigns among the -- a single in the nation. So he was able to he was able to kind of put himself in a place of influence -- Virginia politics. And according to the indictment he didn't even know the McDonald's canceled shortly before. He was about to come into office but he was someone who would be known by prominent Republicans in the state someone as a political patron. Someone -- known to be able to to put a lot of largess into Virginia politicians that especially ones that have national ambitions like Bob -- did until this. Any time allegations or investigations begin with any kind of political ramification or taste to them. The question always gets raised how does the timing factor into law this and one of the trial began in late July -- -- three months. Before mid term elections so what are Democrats saying what is their response to the timing of all of this. While they're gleeful about the downfall of Bob McDonnell they like to circulate pictures of of him at the Republican Convention. Next the prominent Republicans he was the state of the union responder for the Republicans back in twenty -- was actually elected the same day as Chris Christie. In 2009 they were the two stars who heralded the beginning of the Tea Party movement that took over congress for Republicans the house Republicans. In twenty tent city are gleeful and reminding people -- -- ties he had the truth is he doesn't have a lot of ties to prominent national politicians. I could see some influence in Virginia. Where Ed Gillespie a former RNC official and chairman of -- Romney campaign operative who had ties -- the Republican Party and Bob McDonnell he's running for senate in Virginia this year this is going to be bad for him that for all Virginia Republicans as a state that has been trending. More -- the democratic side. I don't -- think this is the kind of thing that has huge national ramifications in in races across the country. Democrats from Anthony Weiner Eliot Spitzer on down -- that there is no monopoly in the Republican Party on politicians behaving badly. So that this is a particularly egregious and colorful example of misconduct. But I don't think it's something that by itself Democrats can seize on this -- hot. We've got Republicans just where they want and what we want on this here. And while the saying goes all politics is local certainly all political -- investigations -- allegations certainly grabbed national attention without doubt. That's exactly right and particularly in Virginia a state that -- in the past -- to people who were. Use it for national office right away and that's one of the stunning things on this talking to Republicans around it is that. Bob -- -- in Virginia can only serve one term as governor you're only there for four years he would have little incentive it would seem on its face to try to get rich off that job directly. He is a lawyer he could have gone out of office and and cashed out big time that's what he visited four. But it appears it according to the indictment -- his wife in particular started the conversations with Johnny Williams and then. A base of the -- him down for lots of little perks and big -- and Ferrari's enroll -- and Oscar Miller -- the shopping sprees along the way and of course the trial starts in July to a got five must look forward some more details will be trickling out. As -- approach that start date ABC's Rick I don't watch NBC Rick thank you for that appreciate it thank you oppressively recap right here -- abcnews.com for now on them that their New York with digital special report.

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

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