Virginia Republicans who fear that the corruption trial this summer of former Gov. Bob McDonnell could have some effect on their efforts to unseat Democratic Sen.Mark Warner this November may have gotten a small break this week. Five former Virginia attorneys general–three Democrats and two Republicans–have said in a memo to the federal judge who will preside over the McDonnell trial that the case should be dismissed and that the Justice Department attorneys used a wrongful and “expansive interpretation” of the federal law to prosecute both McDonnell and his wife.
The attorneys general have challenged the heart of the 14-count indictment against them, insisting that federal prosecutors were wrong to describe as “official acts” what McDonnell did to benefit a wealthy businessman who gave thousands of dollars in gifts and loans to the McDonnells. Their interpretation, they said, creates the possibility of federal prosecution for “normal participation in the democratic process.”
The attorneys general said that it is “perfectly clear” that both federal and state law would be “violated if, in exchange for something of value, a governor appointed someone to a state board or commission or offered a government job, awarded a state contract or spent public money.
“But the indictment does not allege that Governor McDonnell did any of these things or anything similar.”
The former attorneys general said that “[W]e obviously recognize that the gifts alleged by the indictment may raise issues of the appearance of impropriety, but that is a different issue from whether any law has been broken.”