Mitt Romney Pops Up In Bob McDonnell's Corruption Trial, Again — And It's Awkward

It's been a steep tumble from grace for Bob McDonnell. Once the hotshot Republican governor of Virginia and considered a potential frontrunner for the 2012 vice-presidential spot, he's since been forced to resign amid a federal corruption investigation, his political reputation in tatters. Now, Mitt Romney's name is linked to Bob McDonnell again — Romney's been mentioned twice during McDonnell's corruption trial, and what came out Monday is a hell of an awkward story.

This whole mess for McDonnell stems from his association with a company called Star Scientific and its CEO, Johnnie Williams. McDonnell and his wife Maureen are accused of accepting more than $165,000 in gifts from Williams, including payment for their daughter's wedding. And, as it turns out, Star Scientific won over a supporter in the process: According to testimony from former McDonnell campaign manager Phil Cox, Williams and Maureen McDonnell tried to arrange a pro-Star Scientific pitch to then-presidential candidate Mitt Romney in 2012.

And after the effort failed, Cox said, Maureen attempted to directly convince Ann Romney that a Star Scientific product (containing the chemical Anatabine) would cure her multiple sclerosis.

In short, it sounds awkward as hell, and according to the AP, that's clearly a feeling that Cox had at the time.

I was horrified. I didn’t think it sort of showed the governor in a great light.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Horrifying sounds about right. While it'll probably never be known for sure, Cox's fears of how that might impact the then-Gov. McDonnell's standing with Romney seem pretty reasonable. Mitt ultimately selected Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan to be his running mate, and there's no reason to think he would've done otherwise — in spite of McDonnell's overt desire to get the call. And according to Cox's testimony, Ann Romney listened politely throughout the, um, ill-considered pitch.

If true, Cox's testimony suggests a similarly tumultuous relationship between himself and Maureen. Cox stated that he was angered by a bust-up over the selection of an inauguration dress, which played out on Christmas Eve 2009, according to the AP:

It was sort of an insane rant of an email. Coming on Christmas Eve, it angered me. ... When she was happy she could be very sweet and caring. When she was unhappy she could be very difficult and mean.

It's not as though all Cox's testimony was damaging to the defense, though. He also described Bob McDonnell as "like the least materialistic person I know." The corruption trial is now through its sixth day of proceedings, and it's proven to be a fascinating follow so far — the McDonnells face a combined 14 charges in relation to the various gifts and favors they allegedly accepted from Williams.

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