With the Democrats now holding all statewide offices in Virginia for the first time since 1969, the Virginia GOP still has another shoe that may drop soon after the new year begins: a federal indictment of out going GOP governor Bob McDonnell and his greed mad wife, Maureen. Sources indict that the Justice Department was ready to indict the first couple but decided to delay based on appeals from the McDonnell's attorneys. While an indictment does not guarantee a conviction, it would still be another blow to the GOP brand in Virginia. The Virginian Pilot reports on the situation:
Federal prosecutors told Gov. Bob McDonnell last week that he and his wife would be charged in connection with a gift scandal, but senior Justice Department officials delayed the decision after the McDonnells' attorneys made a face-to-face appeal in Washington, according to people familiar with the case.
Dana Boente, the U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, told the McDonnells' legal teams that he planned to ask a grand jury to return an indictment no later than this past Monday, people familiar with the conversations said.
The governor and his wife, Maureen, would have been charged with working together to illegally promote a struggling dietary supplement company in exchange for gifts and loans from its chief executive, the people said.
They also argued that if prosecutors proceeded with charges, they should wait until after McDonnell left office Jan. 11 to allow a smooth transition of power to Gov.-elect Terry McAuliffe.
Some element of the lawyers' arguments apparently persuaded the Justice Department to delay, according to people with knowledge of the case. They spoke on condition of anonymity because its sensitivity.
A final decision about whether to press charges is now not expected before Jan. 2 and could come as late as February, they said.
It is not unusual that a high-profile target, especially a sitting governor, would be allowed a chance to appeal a U.S. attorney's charging decision to top officials of the Justice Department. It would be very rare, however, for the Justice Department to ultimately overturn a decision made by a U.S. attorney.
McDonnell's attorneys have been pressing Justice Department officials to reconsider or delay - at least long enough for McDonnell to complete his four-year term and avoid becoming the first sitting governor in state history to face criminal charges.
It will be interesting to see what happens. I still suspect that Maureen McDonnell is the one who began this saga.