Ex-Va. governor’s confidante testifies at trial

RICHMOND, Va. – One of former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell’s closest confidantes made it clear in testimony Monday that he doesn’t have much regard for McDonnell’s wife or the wealthy businessman who, according to prosecutors, bought their influence to benefit the nutritional supplements company he headed.

Bob and Maureen McDonnell are charged in a 14-count indictment with accepting more than $165,000 in gifts and loans from Jonnie Williams, the former CEO of Star Scientific Inc., in exchange for their help promoting his company’s products. Williams testified under immunity that he was not friends with the McDonnells and only plied them with designer clothes, vacations and secret loans so they would help him.

Phil Cox, who managed McDonnell’s 2009 campaign and later ran his political action committee, testified that he aired his concerns after he noticed Williams frequently hanging around the McDonnells.

“He definitely raised some red flags for me,” said Cox, now executive director of the Republican Governors Association. “I thought he was a little bit of a snake oil salesman.”

Prosecutor David Harbach asked if he thought Williams, who often loaned his private jet to McDonnell, wanted something from the governor.

“A lot of donors are looking for something,” Cox said.

He also testified that in 2012, Williams and Maureen McDonnell tried unsuccessfully to get a meeting with GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney to pitch Star Scientific’s signature product, the anti-inflammatory Anatbloc.