McDonnell Grift Trial, Week Two: This Handbag Could Get You a House in Detroit

Bob McDonnell was the Commonwealth of Virginia's 71st Governor. He left his job on January 11th of this year and was indicted on the 21st just for having a generous friend who makes this awesome stuff out of tobacco that is the best for your inflammation. Hey, have you guys tried Anatabloc?

Photo: US District Court, Eastern District of Virginia

After the shocking revelation during the first days of their corruption trial that Bob's wife Maureen was supposedly secretly in love with Jonnie Williams, the tobacco man who was showering, drowning, their entire family in gifts and cash, expectations were high for the wrap-up of Jonnie's testimony. Would Maureen throw herself at his feet and grab his ankles toddler-style when he left the stand? Would the former governor try to pick his pocket as he passed the defense table? Would we get to hear about his promising research into microwaving the carcinogens out of tobacco?

Wonkette's Political Grift Bureau brings you a touch of glamour and introduces you to the seamy underbelly of Virginia Beach Tool Parties in Week Two of the Trial of the Century of the Summer.

Photo: US District Court, Eastern District of Virginia

The former First Lady of Virginia has expensive taste. Because she is also an American, her taste can be expensive without always being good. Exhibit A: this Louis Vuitton handbag. Sure, it looks like it was bought from a sidewalk vendor outside the M&M Store in Times Square, and if it had come out that snake oil salesman Jonnie Williams had done that and sent the knockoff to Maureen McDonnell in Richmond with a sniggering note about how she was worth any expense, he would have definitely moved up a few notches in our estimation. Sadly, all signs indicate that this is an authentic rich-lady handbag, the purchase of which helped Jonnie secure the best seat in the house -- right next to Governor Bob -- at a dinner just hours after Maureen picked it out at a store in Manhattan.

Photo: US District Court, Eastern District of Virginia

In spring 2011, Maureen McDonnell found she did not have a thing to wear to her daughter's wedding. Looking around to see what she could trade for some designer clothes, she apparently thought of an upcoming trip to New York and guessed that her best friend Jonnie might be interested in being seen with her husband in public someplace. That should be worth about 20 grand in dresses and shoes, right? Jonnie tagged along to the Big Apple and took Maureen shopping for hours in exchange for the visible proximity to the governor that he craved.

Photo: US District Court, Eastern District of Virginia

If you believe the McDonnells' defense attorneys, Maureen was besotted with Jonnie Williams, which makes us curious about the dynamics of this whole trip to New York. We imagine that in the movie, Jonnie will be sitting on spotless white furniture in the shops while Maureen girlishly parades in expensive gowns and toe-baring shoes in front of him, and when she comes swanning back to the hotel with all her bags Jonnie will make meaningful eye contact with Bob behind her back as if to say I'm giving your wife what you can't. It's me she wants. 

Photo: US District Court, Eastern District of Virginia

Also shoes. She wants shoes.

Photo: US District Court, Eastern District of Virginia

Shortly after Jonnie got his first visit from the FBI and Virginia State Police to ask him about his gifts to the governor, Maureen McDonnell sent him a box with most of the clothes from that magical trip to New York, including a note saying Jonnie could give the dresses to his daughters now like they'd discussed before, right? "That was a fabrication right there," Jonnie testified, since both of his daughters wear size 0 and Maureen's stuff was all size 10. "I didn't buy these for my children."

Nonsense, Jonnie. What young lady in her 20s wouldn't want a used mother-of-the-bride dress that's several sizes too big?

Photo: US District Court, Eastern District of Virginia

After the snake oil salesman had ponied up $15,000 for one of the McDonnells' daughters to serve fancy vittles at her wedding, it would have been cruel if the next one to get married had been denied his generosity. Maureen called Jonnie up to let him know her soon-to-be second son-in-law was having a tool party (apparently a thing guys started doing because bridal showers looked like fun) and asked if Jonnie and his checkbook might be interested at all. Maybe he'd like to kick in a whole-house generator in case they lost power out there in Virginia Beach? Jonnie didn't want Maureen's little girl to be shivering in the dark during a hurricane, did he?

Jonnie testified that it was too much of a "production" to find out what kind of generator to buy, so he just sent the happy couple $10,000 instead. He was away in Florida at the time, so was not able to give vital testimony on what actually happens at these "tool parties." It wasn't 100% clear he'd even been invited -- Maureen had only asked him to "do the same thing for Jeanine that you did for Cailin" (i.e., use her wedding as an excuse to pay for something expensive that Bob and Maureen would almost certainly have to foot the bill for otherwise).

Any relief the McDonnells might have felt upon Jonnie's departure from the courtroom was short-lived, since federal prosecutors were ready with a seemingly endless parade of the couple's former aides and household staff. Each witness had unique bits of insight into the generally grifty atomosphere and Maureen's legendary temper, but perhaps most telling was a remark from Matt Conrad, Governor McDonnell's deputy chief of staff, who was concerned that something untoward was going on because the First Lady was hoarding "piles of gifts and things" in the closets of the Governor's Mansion that had not been accounted for.

We suggest that the staff of the executive residence check for loose floorboards and false drawer bottoms in the mansion, since our gut tells us that Bob and Maureen might have hidden a few of their treasures a bit too well and, like a squirrel loses track of some number of last year's acorns, they could have forgotten some of their stash when they left. There could be an entire Oscar de la Renta spring collection in the toilet tanks!

The prosecution is expected to finish presenting its evidence next week, with all five of the McDonnells' children and friend of the Wonket Ken Cuccinelli among the possible witnesses. To be honest, we here at Grift Central are more excited to see how the couple's defense attorneys set about convincing the jury that Maureen really had a crush on Jonnie and she alone led him to give the McDonnells $170,000 in gifts and "loans." Watch for a Hello Kitty notebook filled with page after page of flowery script spelling out Mrs. Williams ~ Mrs. Jonnie Williams ~ Mrs. Maureen Williams ~ Mrs. Maureen P. Williams ~ Mrs. Maureen Patricia Williams ~ Jonnie and Maureen Williams ~ Maureen and Jonnie Williams ~ Jonnie Jonnie Jonnie Jonnie Jonnie Jonnie Jonnie

[ Times-Dispatch / Style Weekly / WaPo ]

You can follow Beth on Twitter for up-to-the-minute gubernatorial spouse gossip.




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