In trying to understand Bob McDonnell's motivations, I came upon this blogpost by Chris Graham of the Augusta Free Press.
In Graham's view, McDonnell reasoned that during his trial "he’d turn federal prosecutors into overreaching partisans, not only beating the rap against the corruption charges, but using it as the basis for a political comeback, talking openly with reporters during breaks in his trial about his plans to run for governor in 2017, if he didn’t somehow end up on the national Republican Party ticket in 2016."
I couldn't find any other references to McDonnell's chats with reporters during breaks, so I contacted Graham re: his source. Graham said he heard it from a local reporter, who mentioned it on-air when reporting the verdict.
Graham's assertion makes sense, assuming the local reporter wasn't blowing smoke, & there's no reason to think s/he was. McConnell didn't take the plea deal because a felony conviction obviously would have put the kibosh on his future political plans. No presidential candidate is going to choose a convicted felon as his running mate, and Virginia voters might take note of his criminal record, too.
So McDonnell figured, as Graham hypothesizes, that he would "beat the rap," and that an acquittal in a failed prosecution would make him seem like an avenging hero -- the vindicated victim of government overreach. It fits right into the Reagan/GOP "government is the problem" philosophy.
The strategy might have worked, too, if McDonnell had not opted for a defense that exposed him as a cruel husband & extraordinary phony. Since the gifts themselves were legal under Virginia law, all Bob had to do was demonstrate that there was no quo for the quid in the quid pro quo -- that his acceptance of the gifts had nothing to do with the minor and ordinary efforts he made on giftor Jonnie Williams' behalf. After all, promoting Virginia businesses was part of the governor's job.
As for the appearance of impropriety, it's easy to believe that a governor working his heart out to serve his constituents would drop the ball on some personal matters -- like family finances & even adequate communication about them with his wife. "I'm sorry, I wasn't paying enough attention to this stuff," and "I didn't give Maureen enough support & guidance when she tried to take up the slack" might be a lame defense, but it's one with which we can all identify.
The truth may be that Bob saw himself as a victim of his wife's greed and carelessness. Incapable of accepting any personal blame for the debacle, Bob scapegoated the wife he already held in low esteem. Blaming Maureen wasn't entirely beyond the pale, anyway. It appears she was indeed a grasping, unhappy, unstable person who initiated & exploited the relationship with Williams.
One of the rules of life & politics is that you keep your marital problems to yourself. It's implied right there in the marriage vows. Secular law, to some extent, also recognizes this principle. In most circumstances, one cannot be forced to testify against her or his spouse in a criminal trial. Bob & Maureen were in just such a circumstance. But instead of asserting the spousal privilege, Bob did just the opposite -- he used the trial to savage his wife.
His testimony & that of the witnesses the defense called constituted a long-running demonstration of psychological spousal abuse. If this is the way he treats his wife on the public record, some jurors must have felt, then he probably treated her a lot worse in private. (The testimony of one of the McDonnell daughters suggested as much.) Intuitively, some of the jurors -- especially the women -- probably blamed Bob for being a prime cause of his wife's instability. I do.
The low regard in which he held his wife is not all that surprising, BTW. It was pretty clear to many women, even while he was maintaining his family-man pretense, that Transvaginal Bob holds all women -- except maybe the mythic Virgin Mary -- in low regard.
For years, Bob followed the marriage rules. He mugged with Mo for the cameras. He featured his family in campaign ads. He spoke and wrote about Christian family values. He appeared to be a partner in a normal, loving marriage. If the marriage was indeed a sham, it was a sham both Bob & Maureen kept secret. But all that seems to have changed when, in Bob's view, Maureen did something so egregious she got Bob in big trouble. The criminal charges seem to have pushed Bob over the edge. His long-simmering rage against his wife boiled over. He used his criminal trial as a vehicle to make public what he viewed as his personal trials.
As the AP reported, "Bob McDonnell's attorney, Henry Asbill, said his client did not receive a fair trial and will appeal. Asbill reiterated his previous statement that prosecutors sought to criminalize routine political behavior."
The appeal may be successful. His lawyers will likely argue -- as they did before the trial judge -- that the judge's jury instructions defined "criminal corruption" & conspiracy too broadly. An appellate court could agree. But in my view, it was not Bob who didn't get a fair trial. It was Maureen.
The final irony, of course, is that Bob was so blind in his hatred for his wife & so raw in his denunciation of her that his courtroom performance ended his political career. Oddly, he never saw that coming. Oblivious to the damage he caused himself, Bob McDonnell was still planning future political triumphs right up till the moment a court clerk read the first "guilty" verdict. The trouble is, more than half of voters are women voters. Women are not going to vote for Bob McDonnell again. Ever.
Update. What the Manicurist Says. Rosalind Helderman & Matt Zapotosky of the Washington Post go behind the scenes to reconstruct how the McDonnell prosecution came about: "Six months before the McDonnells were charged, the first lady made a stark prediction: Her husband would go to jail, she said, and it would all be her fault."