<![CDATA[NBC4 Washington - Politics]]> Copyright 2014 http://www.nbcwashington.com/news/politics http://media.nbcbayarea.com/designimages/WASH+NBC4+BLUE.png NBC4 Washington http://www.nbcwashington.com en-us Wed, 27 Aug 2014 21:37:08 -0400 Wed, 27 Aug 2014 21:37:08 -0400 NBC Owned Television Stations <![CDATA[Maureen McDonnell's Defense Rests in Corruption Trial]]> Wed, 27 Aug 2014 20:39:47 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/edt-453005582.jpg

The defense for Virginia's former first lady rested its case Wednesday afternoon in the public corruption trial against the former first couple of Virginia.

Bob and Maureen McDonnell's eldest daughter took the stand in her mother's defense Wednesday morning. Jeanine McDonnell Zubowsky portrayed a difficult relationship between her parents as she grew up -- one that didn't improve over time -- and said her mother had a "mild obsession" with businessman Jonnie Williams.

While her father was in law school, her mother was waitressing with three children at home, Zubowsky said. "I just knew we didn't have much money."

Her mother would buy things and then hid them from her father "until the bill came, and then there'd be an argument," she said.

Zubowsky testified that her father was around less and less after he entered politics, and for him, "kids were a priority and my mom came last."

To cope, her mother would drink and take long baths, Zubowsky told jurors. "I think she was depressed, so she'd try to escape," she said.

Bob and Maureen McDonnell are accused of accepting more than $177,000 in gifts and loans from Williams, then the CEO of Star Scientific Inc., in exchange for promoting his company's dietary supplements.

Defense attorneys have suggested the couple could not have conspired to provide special favors to Williams while McDonnell was in office because their marriage was crumbling and they were barely talking.

Zubowsky said her parents struggled after entering the political spotlight. "I think they thought they were ready.... The fantasy of what they thought it would be like was a lot easier to accept than the reality....," she said.

Zubowsky testified she watched communication between her parents decrease and arguments escalate.

On a vacation at Camp Pendleton, after a fight between her parents, her father confided in her about her parents' relationship, something that had never happened before.

"He actually opened up and said, 'I don't know what do do anymore. I can't make her happy anymore. I don't know what to do'.... It was a new low he reached," said Zubowsky, who is expecting the McDonnells' first grandchild.

She said during frequent fights between her parents, her mother would always raise her voice. "I've never in my whole life seen him raise his voice," she said of her father.

During a break, her mother cried and supporters consoled her, and her father appeared to wipe a tear from his eye, Northern Virginia Bureau Chief Julie Carey reported.

She also testified that her mother had a "mild obsession" with Williams.

When asked if Williams and her mother were good friends, Zubowsky said yes. When asked if they were business associates, she said no.

Among the gifts, trips and loans Williams lavished on the family was a $10,000 monetary wedding gift to Zubowsky.

Asked when she returned the money, Zubowsky had an icy reply: "When I realized Jonnie himself was a criminal."

Prosecutors immediately objected.

"As a defense attorney that is what you hope for, because for all intents and purposes the question was asked, the answer was given, and while there was an objection, the answer was already out there, and the adage that you can't unring that bell certainly proves true," said lawyer Charles James, who was observing the trial.

Zubowsky was also asked about a tool shower held for her soon-to-be husband, Adam Zubowsky, in October 2012. She said that when her mother arrived at the event, she explained that Williams wanted to give the couple a special gift but couldn't attend because his wife was ill.

Zubowsky said Williams called during the party and, over speakerphone, informed her that he wanted to get a generator for the young couple. Some days later, a Michael & Son contractor called to say he wanted to take measurements for a full house generator.

Zubowsky said her reaction was, "What kind of generator is this?"

She said she'd expected the gift would be a small generator from Home Depot or Lowe's. But after the contractor visit, Zubowsky said Williams' administrative assistant called to explain the logistics were too complicated and that Williams would send a $10,000 check instead.

What was her reaction to a check of that amount?

"I was overwhelmed. I thought that was a very large amount of money but we also put it in perspective," she said, explaining that she knew Williams was wealthy and that he had planned to fly in his private jet to the tool shower, which would cost more than $10,000.

She said the couple deposited the check into a savings account and never touched it until they decided to return the money.

The prosecution later asked Zubowsky whether it was right for her family to take the gifts, asking, "Isn't it true ... that you thought it was overboard and a little inappropriate for your family members to be taking these things?"

"Yes," she said.

Lawyers for the couple wrapped up their case Wednesday. Prosecutors called two rebuttal witnesses and could call another Thursday. Closing arguments could come Friday.

Earlier Wednesday, Maureen McDonnell's friend April Niamtu became the first wtiness to testify in Maureen's defense.

Niamtu told jurors that when she and Maureen met in 2009, Maureen was "passionate" about nutraceuticals.

Maureen McDonnell's attorney is trying to show that the former first lady of Virginia had an affinity for healthcare products and suggesting them to friends, and that she wasn't only focusing on Williams' products.

On Wednesday morning, defense for Bob McDonnell rested. The former governor testified in his own defense for more than four days, but Maureen McDonnell's lawyer said the former first lady's case should take about three hours.

Once it wraps up, that will leave only closing arguments and instructions from the judge before the case goes to the jury.

Bob McDonnell wrapped up his time on the witness stand Tuesday by acknowledging using bad judgment, but firmly denied criminal wrongdoing.

The prosecution grilled McDonnell on the specific timeline of when he received the gifts and loans from Williams, trying to make the case that it lines up with McDonnell promoting Williams' company and its tobacco-based supplement Anatabloc.

But on the stand, McDonnell was adamant that the money he received from Williams in 2012 was in the form of loans for MoBo, the small real estate company he owned with his sister -- not for him personally and not in exchange for favors.

McDonnell got stern at times, telling the prosecutor, "If you're suggesting that I got a $50,000 loan for MoBo in order that I get Mr. Williams' calls returned then you're completely off base."

The prosecutor responded, "No sir, that's not what I'm suggesting."

McDonnell insists the loan from Williams was a business transaction between friends, not payback for his help in promoting Anatabloc.

Prosecutor Michael Dry asked point blank, "You knew that March 6, 2012, loan was really a personal loan to you?"

McDonnell replied loudly, angrily: "Mr. Dry, that is absolutely false! It is a loan to MoBo."

A harsh portrait of Maureen McDonnell has emerged through weeks of testimony. Former governor's mansion staff members have said that she was quick to anger and seemed uncomfortable in her role as first lady.

As he entered the federal courthouse in Richmond last week, Bob McDonnell said seeing that portrayal of Maureen was "very difficult." 

He told reporters, "No one likes to talk about their marriage in front of the entire country, but this is part of the case." McDonnell also testified that he moved out of the home he had shared with Maureen the week before the trial.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC4 Washington



Photo Credit: The Washington Post]]>
<![CDATA[Sherwood's Notebook: Nothing’s Out of Bounds...]]> Wed, 27 Aug 2014 05:56:11 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/classroom5.jpg

If there were any doubt that schools would be a significant issue in this year’s mayor’s race, Monday cleared that up.

Using opening day of the new school year as a backdrop, independent mayoral candidate David Catania threw more cold water on the plan to redraw school boundaries for the first time in 40 years.

He said that, despite hard work by a lot of people, he thinks the boundary change will send too many students to lower-performing schools. Even if you like the school boundary changes — and many don’t — Catania said he didn’t think the school bureaucracy could handle the change in time for the school year that starts just 12 months from now.

“For these reasons, among others, I intend to take action to delay implementation of the [boundary changes] until at least school year 2016-2017,” the chair of the council’s Education Committee said in his announcement. That’s two years from now.

As of Monday night, Democratic mayoral nominee Muriel Bowser had not weighed in on the final boundary plan that Mayor Vincent Gray announced Aug. 21.

Last spring, Bowser initially said the Gray proposal, still under development, contained some “very good ideas.” Some parents and others reacted badly to that proposal, disliking the cluster plans and lotteries included. A few days later Bowser clarified that she would support only “neighborhood school assignment.”

As Catania has sought to make schools a focus of his campaign, Bowser also has changed positions on whether she would commit to retaining Chancellor Kaya Henderson. The Ward 4 council member initially said she would not discuss potential appointees until winning the mayor’s race. But in June, Bowser told supporters she would keep Henderson.

Catania has praised Henderson but has kept to his position that he won’t discuss jobs unless and until the people give him the job as mayor. Catania reiterated that last week when he was asked about another popular official, Metropolitan Police Department Chief Cathy Lanier.

But Catania has made school reform his central issue. Although only a fraction of voters have children in the public or charter schools, they tend to be very active in their communities.

In a move that his critics call overtly political, Catania has spent the past 18 months visiting 144 of the city’s nearly 200 schools. Catania meets with students, parents and school officials. At the very least, it provides him with a heck of a contact list. Although Catania seems to be outflanking Bowser on education, she’s not standing still. Her website says, “Improving our school system remains the single most important thing we have to do as a city.” She says there is a “crisis” in the middle schools.

While Catania passed legislation directing $80 million to schools with more at-risk students — a break in the long-used per pupil formula that treated every student the same — Bowser backed free Metro rides to eliminate one reason children don’t get to school.

Independent Carol Schwartz issued a statement praising the thrust of the latest school boundary plan while criticizing parts of it. Neither she nor Bowser has joined Catania’s call for delay.

However school reform shakes out in this campaign, you can expect to hear a great deal about it — and nothing’s out of bounds. We’ve come a long way from the control board era and its stumbling effort at school repair in the 1990s. Mayors Tony Williams and Adrian Fenty really got the school reform movement going, and Mayor Gray has embraced it, too.

The next mayor will have no choice. It’s just a question of how aggressive that mayor will be.

■ Looking up, up, up. Although official numbers will come later, Chancellor Henderson was touting a great first day of school on Monday.

“We are going big this year,” Henderson said in stats-filled statement that said initial enrollment of about 47,000 students is the highest in five years. Charter schools account for about 38,000 other students.

Henderson noted the school system has instituted a host of classroom-level improvements. In part, she said, the schools have hired an additional 300 teachers, 29 new counselors, 24 new librarians, 13 social workers and six new coaches. (We’re sure there’s a partridge in a pear tree somewhere in there, too.)


Tom Sherwood, a Southwest resident, is a political reporter for News 4.

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<![CDATA[D.C. Council Spent More Than $40K on Travel in 2013-14]]> Tue, 26 Aug 2014 19:28:55 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/DC+Council+ITeam.jpg

D.C. Council members have spent more than $40,000 in taxpayer money to travel outside the region since early 2013, including expenses for a hotel room costing more than $500 per night.

A review by the News4 I-Team found the council lacks a system to ensure discount pricing or savings are sought for out-of-town travel.

The I-Team also learned the council secretary made zero formal requests to refuse pricey trip costs by council members or staff in 2013 or2014. The council secretary must formally approve council member and staff trip costs and reimbursements. Taxpayer watchdogs said the council’s travel system is lacking in oversight and is at risk of squandering taxpayer money.

The I-Team’s review of council travel during May 2013 and May 2014 revealed several D.C. Council members spent wildly different amounts of taxpayer money to attend a retail industry conference in Las Vegas, Nevada.

An I-Team review of expense reports found council members stayed separately at different Las Vegas resort hotels. Some secured hotel rates for less than $300 per night. Jack Evans, during his 2013 trip to the conference, reserved a room at the Wynn Resort, costing more than $700 per night. Muriel Bowser, who stayed in Room 3404 at the Trump Resort during her May 2014 trip, paid more than $500 for her room May 17 and May 18. The room, which Trump classifies as a “deluxe room,” cost about $400 May 19 and about $250 May 20. The Trump Resort’s “deluxe rooms” include floor-to-ceiling window views of the city and a European-style kitchen.

“There needs to be better planning by each council member,” said David Williams of the Taxpayers Protection Alliance. “There needs to be common sense. Everyone must say we can get better rates and we can do better for the city.”

Bowser said her average room rate in Las Vegas was “not far off from the average cost of hotels” at the May 2014 event. She said hotel rates tend to be pricier during the days of the year in which the retail industry conference is staged.

Evans said his 2013 hotel room rate was too expensive. He said his office mistakenly waited too late to book the room and was subjected to a higher price because of it.

The I-Team’s investigation found other local government agencies are subject to stricter, more uniform travel policies, which encourage less expensive travel costs. Employees of the Washington, D.C., government’s executive agencies, those who are employed under the authority of the mayor, must file formal travel requests with the Office of the City Administrator. The administrator’s staff must approve the employees’ trips and review likely travel expenses.

A sample of internal emails exchanged by staffers of the Office of the City Administrator reveal agency staff instructing a city employee to detail and justify rental car costs for a government trip to Florida. Another set of emails show the Office of the City Administrator instructing another city to stay at a Ramada Inn during an official government trip, to help save money.

Montgomery County, Maryland, county council staffers and members are subject to county travel expense restrictions. The I-Team’s review found travel authorization must be given by a county administrator before employees can seek reimbursements for expenses.

Prince George’s County officials said their employees, including the county’s council members and executive staffers, are also subject to out-of-town travel restrictions.

“All official County Council business travel is booked through the Finance Division of Council Administration,” a county spokeswoman said. “For the Legislative Branch, a separate branch of the Prince George’s County Government, the council administrator is responsible for final approval of travel requests.”

The I-Team’s review of travel records shows Prince George’s County Executive Rushern Baker also attended the May 2014 retail conference in Las Vegas. Baker spent an average of $244 per night for his hotel room. D.C. Council members spent an average of $329 per night for hotel rooms at the same conference, according to the I-Team’s investigation.

D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson said the council should consider a program in which staffers and council members reserve “blocks” of hotel rooms while traveling out of town to ensure lower prices, and Mendelson said council members should consider staying at the same hotel while traveling.

“From the standpoint of council members developing better relationships with each other, it'd make sense for them to stay at the same place,” he said. “Plus, you wouldn't have disparities in rates."

Bowser said she too would support the creation of a group travel system for D.C. Council members.

“I don’t see anything wrong with exploring a system for traveling in blocks,” she said.



Photo Credit: NBCWashington.com]]>
<![CDATA[Obama Taking Executive Action on Mental Health Services for Veterans]]> Tue, 26 Aug 2014 13:45:01 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000007640954_1200x675_322169411873.jpg NBC's Senior Political Editor Mark Murray explains the excutive action President Obama is taking on mental health services for veterans.]]> <![CDATA[School Boundary Changes Not Ready: Two Mayoral Candidates]]> Tue, 26 Aug 2014 19:14:13 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/Woodrow+Wilson+HIgh+School+DC.jpg

The two leading candidates for mayor in Washington, D.C. say the plan to change school boundaries for the first time in 40 years is moving too fast.

Current D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray has worked on the plan for more than a year.

"We're going to continue to work with the community, let people know what's fully in this plan," Gray said. 

Council member Muriel Bowser, the Democratic nominee for mayor, believes Gray's plan is "not ready" and will "exacerbate educational inequality."

"It lacks the necessary budgetary and leadership commitments to bring about a truly fair neighborhood school assignment policy. I cannot accept these recommendations," Bowser said in a statement released Tuesday.

Meanwhile, Council member David Catania, chairman of the council education committee and an independent candidate for mayor, announced Monday that he would seek to block the changes, adding that too many schools are unprepared for the boundary changes that are to take effect in September 2015.

"There are a whole lot of unanswered questions and additional work that needs to be done," Catania said. "You're essentially sending some schools up to fail by virtue of how these schools are being rearranged."

Catania said he may seek legislation postponing the changes until 2016 or later if necessary.



Photo Credit: NBCWashington.com]]>
<![CDATA[When and How Should the U.S. Pursue Strikes Against ISIS?]]> Mon, 25 Aug 2014 13:11:35 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000007626179_1200x675_321814595614.jpg NBC's Senior Political Editor Mark Murray explores the potential for U.S. military strikes Against ISIS, and he also explains Sen. Rand Paul's trip to Guatemala.]]> <![CDATA[Ed Gillespie Touts Blue-Collar Roots in New Ad]]> Fri, 22 Aug 2014 14:07:20 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/2014-08-22_1405.jpg In a new ad, U.S. Senate candidate Ed Gillespie touts his blue-collar roots. Gillespie, a Republican, is challenging Democratic Senator Mark Warner. NBC's Senior Political Editor Mark Murray has more.]]> <![CDATA[Perry in NH: Charges All Politics]]> Fri, 22 Aug 2014 23:03:05 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/edtAP259994489655.jpg

New Hampshire wasn't kind to Texas Governor Rick Perry back in 2012. He's hoping voters in the granite state will give him a fresh start as he considers another presidential bid in 2016.

On Friday, Governor Perry returned to New Hampshire for a series of GOP sponsored events.

He met with business leaders in Portsmouth and focused many of his remarks on border concerns and the growing threat of ISIS, even connecting the two by speculating members of ISIS could enter the U.S. through unsecured borders.

"ISIS has said we are coming to America and they are going to attack us, I take them at their word," said Gov. Rick Perry.

Governor Perry also addressed his recent indictment on coercion charges by a Texas grand jury. He called the charges politically motivated and said he will fight them with every fiber of his being.

He also acknowledged making mistakes in New Hampshire back in 2012, saying he didn't spend enough time in the state and wasn't as prepared as he would have liked.

Governor Perry will make several more stops in New Hampshire through Saturday.



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Sherwood's Notebook: Seeing and Saying Something…]]> Wed, 20 Aug 2014 10:34:09 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/AP4155984214871.jpg

Americans since 9/11 have been urged by their federal and local governments to maintain a fear of terrorism and be sure to remember, “If you see something, say something.”

Well, a lot of people are seeing and saying something about Ferguson, Mo.

Not the least of these is the governor of Missouri, Jay Nixon.

"All of us were thunderstruck by the pictures we saw, I mean, the over-militarization, the MRAPs rolling in, the guns pointed at kids in the street," the governor said on ABC News this weekend. (MRAPs are "mine-resistant, ambush-protected" military armored trucks.) The governor said the military-style show of force "instead of ratcheting down, brought emotion up."

The incident that sparked the protests, the shooting of Michael Brown by a Ferguson police officer, is still being sorted out, but it is clear even to police that the man was not armed.

What’s not in question for millions of Americans now is that we have turned our local police forces across the nation into military combat units. Police always have been paramilitary organizations, but you can drop "para" now.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, quoted in The New York Times, said: "At a time we must seek to rebuild trust between law enforcement and the local community, I am deeply concerned that the deployment of military equipment and vehicles sends a conflicting message."

National conservatives like former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee, U.S. Sen. Rand Paul and many others are raising questions about the militarization. The left and right both seem appalled.

Erich Pratt, spokesperson for the conservative Gun Owners of America, was quoted on the website The Moderate Voice as asking, "Why are those guns available to the police? We don’t technically have the military operating within our borders, but they’re being given the gear to basically operate in that capacity."

The website also reported, "Gun Owners of America and the ACLU are both backing a forthcoming bill from Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) that would curtail the sale of [U.S. Defense Department] weapons to local police departments."

A detailed full accounting is not available to tell us how much military equipment has been transferred to local and state governments by the Pentagon and Department of Homeland Security grants, often for pennies on the dollar.

But various groups say we are well into the tens of billions of dollars. The military-industrial complex has discovered your local police as another marketing opportunity. Newsweek magazine — yes, it’s still in business — details the militarization online here.

On NBC’s "Meet the Press," Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said it would be "very unusual" for her city’s police to use military equipment "against [our] own citizens." Rawlings-Blake cited the restrained reaction to Occupy Wall Street demonstrations, saying units were intent on being "judicious in the use of force."

All that money, all that fearmongering, all that hyper-preparedness certainly offers no similarity to the folks who used to be our first line of defense, the local guy we once knew as "Officer Friendly." Police who really are part of the community don’t need to arm themselves as an invading force. If they do, they’ve already lost the battle.

As one article put it, when your only tool is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail.

■ Media under attack. The news media is not the most-liked profession in the country, with most everyone having a say about its shortcomings, prejudices and personalities.

But it’s still unusual for reporters to face the kind of police resistance they have encountered in Ferguson. A Washington Post reporter and others were rousted and arrested as they sat peacefully in a McDonald’s, filing reports and charging their phones and other electronic gear.

The Post reporter, Wesley Lowery, said he really got worried when one officer said, "OK, let’s take him."

There have been a variety of reports that police ordered some reporters to turn off cameras, and fired smoke bombs toward media crews as well as protesters.

In disturbance situations, it’s not always clear who is right or wrong, and certainly members of the media don’t always comport with reasonable requests to remain out of the way of police officers.

Your Notebook has had his own standoffs with police officers, but we’re always conscious of the difficulty of police work.

Public safety and First Amendment rights aren’t in conflict; they have to coexist. It’s part of police training, and riot or near-riot situations are no time for renegade reporters or cowboy cops.


Tom Sherwood, a Southwest resident, is a political reporter for News 4.
 



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[D.C. Police Union Endorses David Catania for Mayor]]> Wed, 20 Aug 2014 19:17:23 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/david-catania1.jpg

D.C. mayoral candidate David Catania (I) picked up a valuable endorsement from the Fraternal Order of Police this week.

Most unions have been siding with Democrat Muriel Bowser -- most recently, she got the support of the Metropolitan Washington Council AFL-CIO, which represents about 175 local unions in the region.

The Fraternal Order of Police (FOP), which represents about 3,500 officers, announced their endorsement of Catania Wednesday morning.

In related news, D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier, who has been on the job since 1997, told News4 Wednesday she would like to stay on as chief.

Bowser has said she would retain Lanier, and sources say Catania plans to do the same.

"I've always had a very productive and constructive relationship with Chief Lanier. She and I have a warm personal relationship," Catania said. 

Carol Schwartz, also an Independent candidate for mayor, announced Tuesday night she's disappointed in the union's endorsement of Catania.

“I had carried the banner of the FOP in the past with pride, but do know from conversations with several individual police officers that the only way anyone could have gotten their endorsement this time was to pledge that he or she would get rid of Chief of Police Cathy Lanier. I guess it all worked out okay because I would not have taken that pledge," Schwartz said in a statement. 

The FOP has clashed with Lanier over work assignments and pay, but its representatives say Schwartz is wrong.

"She's flat-out wrong. We have no idea where she got that information from," FOP Chairman Delroy Burton said.



Photo Credit: File Photo ]]>
<![CDATA[GOP Staffer in Chicken Suit Faces Charges After Clucking at NH Governor, Senator]]> Tue, 19 Aug 2014 11:25:01 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/zona+chicken+suit.jpg

A GOP state committee staff member has been charged with disorderly conduct after heckling New Hampshire Senator Jeanne Shaheen and Governor Maggie Hassan at this past Saturday's Old Home Day parade.

Michael Zona, of Manchester, was dressed in a chicken suit when he began to interfere with the parade, reports The Eagle-Tribune.

The 23-year-old allegedly ran out into the parade route toward Shaheen and Hassan, clucking at them.
"I believe Senator Jeanne Shaheen should be holding town halls and I have a First Amendment right to express that point of view. I wasn't bothering anyone. I wasn't disturbing anyone. In fact, I got a good deal of encouragement from people along the parade route," said Zona in response to the incident.
Zona was escorted from the parade after failing to comply with numerous requests to stop. 
“At one point, the governor had to take a few steps back toward her security staff,” Detective Christopher Olson told The Eagle-Tribune.
Julia McClain of the New Hampshire Democratic Party used the incident to blast the state Republicans, saying the party "wastes taxpayer resources and local law enforcement time with these juvenile antics when we should be discussing critical issues that matter--like raising the minimum wage, creating good paying jobs, and protecting social security and Medicare for our state's seniors."



Photo Credit: Twitter: John DiStaso]]>
<![CDATA[NYC Council Speaker Tweets About HPV Diagnosis, Urges Annual Check-Ups]]> Mon, 18 Aug 2014 13:34:22 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/MarkViverito.jpg

City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito announced via Twitter Sunday that she had "high-risk HPV" in an effort to boost awareness about the most commonly sexually transmitted infection in the country and encourage women to have regular gynecological exams.

In a series of tweets, Mark-Viverito divulged that she learned Friday she had the infection, and that she hadn't been to a gynecologist in two years prior to her most recent visit.

"At recent #GYN visit alarmed to find out last one, 2yrs ago. Friday got call re: results. Told have "high risk HPV". #Biopsy needed #ASAP," she tweeted.

"Tuesday I'm there. To say I'm not wee bit worried = lie. "High risk HPV" can POTENTIALLY but NOT definitively lead to cervical #cancer."

Mark-Viverito, 45, tweeted that she is "an extremely private person," but that her position has given her a platform -- and a responsibility to use it.

"Our health should never be compromised," she tweeted. "Annual physicals have to be sacred. Yet our health care system doesn't lend itself to this for many."

Mayor de Blasio called Mark-Viverito's decision to share her experience "brave" and "exemplary."

About 79 million people in the United States have HPV, and another 14 million contract it each year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Anyone can get it once they become sexually active, and nearly half of the new infections each year occur among people ages 15 to 24, according to the New York City Health Department.

Most people who get HPV have no symptoms of infection. Each year, about 12,000 women diagnosed with HPV nationwide develop cervical cancer, the most common cancer associated with the infection, and about 4,000 of them die from it.

To learn more about HPV treatment and prevention, including a vaccine, click here.

Copyright Associated Press / NBC4 Washington



Photo Credit: McMullan/Sipa USA]]>
<![CDATA[Obama Briefly Returns From Vacation]]> Mon, 18 Aug 2014 14:43:32 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000007549623_1200x675_319114307796.jpg NBC's Senior Political Editor Mark Murray explains why President Obama has briefly returned from his vacation. He also explains how Texas Gov. Rick Perry might be affected by his indictment.]]> <![CDATA[McDonnells' Corruption Trial So Far: What You Need to Know]]> Mon, 25 Aug 2014 11:03:29 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/gov+indicted+_dc.jpg

The corruption trial of Virginia's former governor, Bob McDonnell, and his wife, Maureen McDonnell, is underway -- and on Day 18, Bob McDonnell finally took the stand.

With a bombshell revelation in its second day and as many as 160 witnesses in all expected to be called, the trial has shaped up to be complicated. We've compiled day-by-day updates below, to help you better understand the events as they unfold.

Bob McDonnell was once considered a rising Republican star, and a possible vice presidential candidate for Mitt Romney's presidential run in 2012. In January, McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, were indicted for allegedly accepting more than $165,000 in gifts and loans from Virginia businessman Jonnie Williams -- which prosecutors say were in exchange for the promotion of Williams' dietary supplement company, Star Scientific Inc.

McDonnell has repeatedly affirmed his innocence during the many hearings leading up to the trial. He said that accepting the gifts was "bad judgment." He also said he has repaid more than $120,000 of the gifts and that he had not broken any laws.

Follow our daily updates below and stay with News4 for all the latest from News4 Northern Virginia Bureau Chief Julie Carey as the trial progresses.

Jump to Day One

Day 20 - Friday, Aug. 22

Bob McDonnell again took the stand, but this time the defense questioned him on the specifics of gifts and loans he received. A good deal of the day was spent in an attempt to debunk allegations that the former first couple of Virginia had accepted those gifts from Williams in exchange for promoting his company. McDonnell said in his heart he was innocent and testified he had not committed a crime while he was governor of Virginia.

  • The former governor said he personally negotiated two of the three loans from Williams: the $50,000 and $20,000 loans, which were written to MoBo Realty, the company that he operated with his sister. He said MoBo Realty was facing an operating loss, so the pair turned to personal loans instead of bank loans.
  • Bob McDonnell said the reason he did not include the loans on his annual Statement of Economic Interest was because they were corporate liabilities, which he said he did not believe needed to be included. Earlier in the trial, the prosecution alleged he had tried to conceal those loans by not disclosing them on the statement.
  • The defense revisited an incident that seemed incriminating. McDonnell drove Williams' Ferrari back from Williams' vacation home the same night that he asked a top aide to attend a meeting between Williams and Maureen McDonnell about Anatabloc -- one of Star Scientific's products. Bob McDonnell said he had not been asked to provide the aide, but rather had wanted a health official to monitor the meeting.
  • Bob McDonnell said he was expecting the first loan from Williams to be a $50,000 cash loan, but he said Williams began discussing a stock option as collateral. Bob McDonnell said he only wanted the cash, not the stock.
  • McDonnell said he realized in retrospect that the golf outings he received from Williams should have been recorded, but he said the $15,000 wedding gift that Williams gave his daughter was not included on his 2011 Statement of Economic Interest because he believed it was for his daughter, not himself.
  • The defense revisited Bob McDonnell's loan documents, which the prosecution's evidence showed had been amended shortly after McDonnell and his wife had learned they were under investigation. Bob McDonnell said the decision to refinance had already been made when he noticed errors on the documents. He said when his wife was interviewed by police, they were under the impression it was for an unrelated matter. The investigation was actually about Jonnie Williams. After the meeting McDonnell amended the loan documents to include details of his loans from Williams, his retirement accounts and stock in Star Scientific Inc. McDonnell said he did not think those needed to be included when he first filed the documents.

Day 19 - Thursday, Aug. 21

Bob McDonnell continued his testimony. He spoke a great deal about his marriage to wife Maureen, how it had deteriorated, and even revealed they are no longer living together.

  • Bob McDonnell went into detail about his marriage, which he said had severely deteriorated. This is another key element of the defense's argument: that the couple could not have been conspiring with each other when they received gifts from Williams, because their marriage had broken down.
  • The former governor told the court he concluded his marriage was over in September 2011. He said that by that year, he had begun working late to avoid his wife's complaints. He said the gradual deterioration of their marriage came to a head after Maureen McDonnell rebuffed his attempts to spend Labor Day weekend with her that year. The jury was presented with an email Bob McDonnell wrote to his wife after that incident, in which he lamented her anger and said he was "exhausted."
  • He also revealed that a week before the trial began, he moved into a rectory to live with a priest who was a friend of his (although not the priest who testified the day before).
  • Bob McDonnell also said that his marriage deteriorated as his political career advanced. He said his wife did not take well to the role of first lady, calling her handling of behind-the-scenes matters "a disaster." He said that her stress led to problems with staff at his mansion.
  • Bob McDonnell offered a prelude to the bulk of the defense's case. He testifyied that he had done "nothing unusual" for Star Scientific Inc., in exchange for the gifts from Williams, other than giving them "access to government."

Day 18 - Wednesday, Aug. 20

Former Gov. Bob McDonnell finally took the stand shortly before 3:30 p.m. Before he did, though, a priest, a forensic accountant, and several others testified in his defense.

  • McDonnell testified that his administration did nothing unusual for Star Scientific. "My administration did nothing for them other than give them access to government," McDonnell said.
  • He also testified about the fine line elected officials walk when accepting donations or gifts and about how busy his life was when campaigning for and serving as attorney general and governor.
  • A forensic accountant, J. Allen Kosowsky, testified that the McDonnells were on sound financial footing when they accepted gifts from Williams. This was a key piece of testimony as prosecutors had alleged financial distress was a reason that the couple accepted those gifts.
  • The defense showed jurors a chart that suggested the former first couple's credit card debt was declining and that they would have had the means to access other cash if needed.
  • However, during cross-examination of Kosowsky, prosecutors cut away at some of the assets that contributed to his assessment of the couple's credit. Prosecutors showed that the improvement in the couple's credit was largely due to loans from Williams.
  • Todd Haymore, secretary of agriculture and forestry testified that Bob McDonnell never asked him to do anything for Williams or Star Scientific Inc.
  • Daniel Cook, a CPA who had done taxes for the McDonnells, testified that the loans from Williams were never concealed from him. However,  prosecutors noted that Williams' name was not mentioned in connection with those loans.
  • Workplace consultant James Burke testified that staff members at the governor's mansion had threatened to resign en masse. He said he had suggested to Bob McDonnell that his wife receive counseling.
  • A priest who is a friend of Bob McDonnell took the stand right before the former governor. Father Timothy Scully told jurors that Bob McDonnell is a man of integrity who "embodies virtue."

Day 17 - Tuesday, Aug. 19

Bob McDonnell's youngest sister, also named Maureen McDonnell and a partner with Bob in MoBo Real Estate, took the stand to testify about her brother's character, his wife, the couple's relationship and her own finances. An accountant testified as an expert about the McDonnells financial strength. And working conditions in the governor's mention were brought up again in testimony by a former special assistant to the first lady.

  • Maureen C. McDonnell -- who earned more than a half million dollars in 2012 -- testified that she could have helped her brother or erased MoBo's red ink at any time.
  • But on cross examination, prosecutors challenged her claim, asking if that were true, why did MoBo rack up so many bank late fees and even get the water cut off at the beach houses for failure to pay bills.Maureen C. McDonnell blamed the man who had handled the MoBo finances for years, her ex-husband Michael Uncapher. She further explained she had fallen ill after the birth of her daughter, and her husband was tasked with taking care of the whole family.
  • She also testified that loans from Williams were not the only option, just the first, and when she paid them back in summer 2013, she simply made a withdrawal from a 401K and sold some stock.
  • Maureen C. McDonnell testified about warm memories of how first lady Maureen P. McDonnell helped care for the McDonnell siblings' mother when she was dying. But she also spoke of hearing or seeing the former first lady hide things from Bob McDonnell, work a situation to her benefit and be untruthful about it to her husband.
  • The final witness Tuesday testified as an expert to the financial strength of Maureen C. McDonnell, Bob and Maureen McDonnell, and MoBo. But prosecutors brought up accountant J. Allen Kosowsky's fee, $420 per hour after an unexplained 20 percent discount. He testified he's earned $60,000-$80,000 on this trial including about $3,000 for appearing in court Tuesday.
  • Kathleen Scott worked for the first lady for 21 months beginning in October 2011. Scott testified about how much Maureen McDonnell liked Jonnie Williams. Though Scott didn’t observe them together, when Williams was discussed, "She seemed enamored with him, infatuated. I think he made her feel special."
  • Scott also testified about Maureen McDonnell's behavior at the governor's mansion. The mansion staff hoped for help from VCU 's Jim Burke, who'd been hired to consult on putting that team together. He advised the staff cope by approaching Maureen McDonnell as if they were dealing with a 5-year-old.

Day 16 - Monday, Aug. 18

The defense for Bob McDonnell began its case, with former staffers for the former governor and cabinet members taking the stand.

  • Former Secretary of the Commonwealth Janet Kelly said Bob McDonnell was one of the most honest people she knows, but described Maureen McDonnell's behavior as "challenging" and "very difficult, very demanding, very diva-ish."
  • Kelly testified that Williams once tried to sell her stock in Star Scientific, but she didn't have a good feeling about it. She also described an interaction between Williams and Maureen McDonnell as "kind of flirty."
  • She also testified that McDonnell never asked her to appoint or hire anyone affiliated with Williams to any board or position.
  • While James Cheng, McDonnell's secretary of commerce, described several ways in which the government could help businesses, he said McDonnell never used them for the benefit of Star Scientific or Williams.
  • On cross examination, the government asked Cheng that if McDonnell asked him to meet with a businessman, would Cheng want to know about $120,000 in personal loans from the businessman to McDonnell. Cheng said they would not care about that and would remain focused on the best interests of the state.
  • Former Secretary of Education Laura Fornash testified that at no time did McDonnell ask for advocating for Star Scientific or Jonnie Williams to state universities. Secretary of Finance Richard Brown said McDonnell never asked for or discussed allocating money for Star Scientific, Williams or a dietary supplement.
  • Neal Noyes, retired director of the tobacco commission, also testified that McDonnell did not lobby for a grant to study Anatabloc.
  • Brenda Chamberlain -- a bookkeeper for MoBo Realty, a company owned by Bob McDonnell and his sister -- also testified as the defense tried to show there was no attempt to hide $70,000 in loans to MoBo. Chamberlain said she was given full access to the accounts and could see the loans. However, during cross-examination, the government showed Williams wasn't named, only his Starwood Trust.
  • The day began with the loss of another juror, who had to step down due to a family emergency. Just one alternate juror remains.

Day 15 - Friday, Aug. 15

Bob and Maureen McDonnell's attorneys had filed motions to dismiss the 14 corruption charges Friday morning, saying the prosecution had failed to prove the couple had violated any laws. But Judge James R. Spencer denied them.

  • Lawyers argued that McDonnell had done nothing to provide Williams with anything of real value other than set up meetings and attend events. Defense attorney Ryan Newman said prosecutors are interpreting the law too broadly, in a way that could criminalize routine political courtesies and put other politicians at risk for prosecution.
  • Spencer rejected that argument and said he would provide a written explanation at a later time.

Day 14 - Thursday, Aug. 14

The prosecution rested their case.

  • The prosecution rested its case, but concluded by revealing the grand total of the gifts the McDonnells accepted from Williams: $177,044.06.
  • Jurors were shown many of the gifts that Williams gave the McDonnell family, including designer dresses, shoes, golf clubs and other luxury items.
  • The jurors will take Friday, Aug. 15 off and reconvene on Monday, Aug. 18, when the defense is expected to begin its case.

Day 13 - Wednesday, Aug. 13

The mayor of Virginia Beach, William Sessoms, and a loan official testified that the McDonnells failed to disclose loans and debt on financial applications.

  • Mayor Sessoms, who is also the president of TowneBank's parent company, took the stand. He testified that Bob McDonnell failed to disclose loans taken from Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams on an application to refinance a TowneBank loan. 
  • Later in the day a loan official from Pentagon Federal Credit Union took the stand. She was questioned by prosecutors about her communications with the McDonnells when they were attempting to refinance four properties in Jan. 2013. She testified that Bob McDonnell did not reveal the Williams' loans or his Star Scientific stock on the refinance application.
  • It was also revealed that three days after the McDonnells learned they were under investigation for corruption, Bob McDonnell filed a revised loan application form that did include details of the stock and the loans.
  • The final witness was an FBI Special Agent. He showed the jury an extensive color-coded chart that outlined all of the records, phone calls and documents investigators had collected. The evidence showed the couple had a lot of credit card debt. Prosecutors allege financial distress was one of the reasons the couple accepted gifts from Williams.
  • Finally, prosecutors attempted to discredit a key part of the defense's case: that the couple were not conspiring because their marriage was on the rocks, and that Maureen McDonnell had a crush on Williams. They pointed to phone records that show Maureen McDonnell had more telephone conversations with her husband than with Williams between 2011 and 2013.

Day 12 - Tuesday, Aug. 12

Former Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams’ brother Donnie, former Virginia Attorney General Jerry Kilgore and a state police investigator who first questioned Maureen McDonnell took the stand Tuesday.

  • Former Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams’ brother Donnie testified he worked at Bob and Maureen McDonnell’s private home about a dozen times in 2012 and 2013. Before the investigation became public, Maureen McDonnell did not pay him for anything, Donnie Williams said, but she offered to pay for his work several times.
  • Prosecutors also questioned the Virginia State Police special agent who first questioned the Maureen McDonnell about some of the checks from Jonnie Williams. On Feb. 15, 2013, Maureen McDonnell was only expecting to answer questions about an embezzling case involving the former chef of the governor’s mansion. Maureen McDonnell's lawyers grilled Hagan about failing to tell her what the meeting was really about or that she was under investigation. Asked if he advised her about her right to an attorney, Hagan said, “It wasn't a custodial interview.”
  • Day 12 of the corruption trial began with courtroom drama and a delay in proceedings as one of the jurors was dismissed. U.S. District Judge James Spencer met twice in chambers with prosecutors and lawyers for the former governor and his wife for an extended time. When Judge James Spencer came onto the bench, he revealed that a juror had been dismissed and would be replaced by one of the three remaining alternates.
  • When court proceedings got underway Tuesday, former Virginia Attorney General Jerry Kilgore returned to the stand and wrapped up testimony about his time working for Williams. Kilgore, who left office in 2005, was hired by Williams in 2011 to try to find state money to do research on the dietary supplement, Anatabloc. Kilgore testified he proposed a two pronged plan: getting grant money from the tobacco commission or convincing the governor to add a request for research funds to his state budget proposal. Through cross-examination, lawyers for both Bob and Maureen McDonnell were able to underscore the fact that Kilgore never succeeded in getting Williams what they'd discussed.

Day 11 - Monday, Aug. 11

Bob McDonnell's former brother-in-law testified about beach houses that were apparently costing McDonnell and his sister tens of thousands of dollars each year. Testimony also came from former McDonnell insiders. Two administration officials recalled a March 2012 meeting that ended with Bob McDonnell pulling out a bottle of Anatabloc, a supplement made by Star Scientific, telling the group it had helped him. And McDonnell's former chief of staff said he was alerted to Star Scientific when the company nearly issued a press release that Kent and other staffers had to make sure got revised.

  • Michael Uncapher, the ex-husband of Bob McDonnell's sister, said that two beach houses owned by the siblings lost as much as $60,000 a year. Uncapher testified he was on the phone twice with Maureen and Williams as the two talked about the houses. In 2012, Williams allegedly wrote two checks to help with the houses, one for $50,000 and one for $20,000.
  • Defense attorneys tried to counter the portrayal that the McDonnells turned to Williams because they were desperate for money. Uncapher testified his then-wife -- who was a partner with Bob McDonnell in a real estate company called MoBo -- made a half million dollars that year.
  • The former secretary of administration, Lisa Hicks-Thomas, testified that she remembered McDonnell pulling a bottle of Anatabloc from his pocket and saying that it "would be good for state employees, and he asked us if we would meet with them."
  • But Sara Wilson, the director of the Virginia Department of Human Resources Management, remembered that incident slightly differently. "I had no idea why he pulled it out," she said. "There was no ask. it was personal."
  • Earlier Monday, Bob McDonnell's former chief of staff, Martin Kent, said that Star Scientific wasn't on his radar until just before a planned lunch at the governor's mansion in August 2011. He was alerted because Star Scientific was poised to issue a press release about the launch of Anatabloc -- and the release appeared to say it would happen at the mansion with the McDonnells' blessing. Kent and other staffers made sure the company revised the news release.

Day 10 - Friday, Aug. 8

A former staffer for Bob McDonnell and a former Star Scientific board chairman were among those who testified.

  • The former deputy chief of staff, Matt Conrad, was asked, "Were there any concerns the first lady was putting gifts in closets, hoarding gifts?" He answered, "I had heard that there were piles of gifts or things were being put in closets that needed to be acknowledged or determined who they were intended for."
  • Conrad testified Friday there were worries that some gifts being delivered to the governor's mansion might have been for both the governor and first lady, and should have been recorded. The gift hoarding question seems to have little to do with the corruption charges facing the first couple, so it's unclear why the defense raised it.
  • Paul Perito -- who served as Star Scientific's board chairman when Williams was CEO -- testified that he didn't know that Williams was giving gifts to the McDonnells until 2013, when the investigation began. Perito testified at first, he was wary when Williams, his colleague and close friend, told him that he was befriending the McDonnells in hopes of getting their support for Star Scientific's new dietary supplement, Anatabloc. But Perito was won over, especially when he went to an August 2011 lunch at the governor's mansion with university researchers on the day Star Scientific launched Anatabloc.
  • Perito had a much different thought in early 2012, when Williams asked him whether Maureen McDonnell could join Star Scientific's board of directors. "I thought it was the worst idea I ever heard...." Perito said on the stand. "It's a thicket of potential conflict."

Day Nine - Thursday, Aug. 7

Sarah Scarbrough, who ran the governor's mansion under Bob McDonnell, said the governor worshipped the ground his wife walked on during the time she worked with them. Her testimony that the McDonnells appeared to be in love undercuts an argument by the defense that the marriage had deteriorated to the point that the couple rarely communicated, much less engaged in a criminal conspiracy. Virginia Health and Human Services Secretary Dr. William Hazel testified about the special treatment he said he witnessed.

  • Under cross examination from Bob McDonnell's lawyer, Scarbrough also confirmed that she told FBI investigators she believed he was in denial about his wife's mental capacity.
  • Scarbrough,who is also a close personal friend of the McDonnells' daughter Cailin, repeated in less colorful terms some of what the first lady's chief of staff said on Day Eight, saying she'd previously described Mrs. McDonnell as sneaky and that it was "her way or the highway."
  • Prosecutors focused on a February 2012 reception for health care leaders. Scarbrough testified while the original guest list came from Virginia's Health and Human Services secretary, Maureen McDonnell later added a list that included Williams and several doctors and staffers affiliated with his company.
  • Hazel said he did not believe Williams' claims about the Star Scientific dietary supplement he was pitching. Hazel indicated he had as little regard for Williams as he did for his product, which the health secretary at one point called "Anatabuse." He said he once asked not to be seated next to Williams at a reception because, "Frankly, I thought it would be a very long evening."
  • His department was working with the governor and first lady’s staff to hold a health care leaders reception at the governor’s mansion. Hazel testified he was angered when the names of about 25 people, including Williams and other Star Scientific representatives, were added to the original guest list.
  • Hazel's most damaging testimony came when the prosecutor asked whether he's seen any other group get the treatment Williams and Star Scientific received. “I can't recall there was ever a situation quite like this one,” he said. “I don't think there was the involvement, the repeated contacts. The mansion event was unique.”

Day Eight - Wednesday, Aug. 6

The woman who served as chief of staff to Maureen McDonnell testified that the couple's marriage seemed solid. She said Maureen McDonnell even let her read a "lovely'' poem her husband had written to her for a special occasion in 2011.

  • Prosecutors asked Mary-Shea Sutherland about the McDonnells' relationship to counter a defense assertion that the union was on the rocks and that Maureen McDonnell had developed a crush on former Star Scientific Inc. CEO Jonnie Williams.
  • Sutherland testified Maureen McDonnell was often anything but happy, and she told FBI investigators the first lady was a "nut bag." She said the first lady was prone to screaming rages. Twice, the security detail at the mansion responded to see what was wrong.
  • Sutherland said Maureen McDonnell volunteered the governor's mansion as the location of an August 2011 lunch with university researchers Williams hoped would test his product, but Williams' company came up with the guest list.
  • The issue of the couple's finances also came up. "They were buried in debt," Sutherland testified.

Day Seven - Tuesday, Aug. 5

Several staffers from former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell's administration testified Tuesday about their familiarity with businessman Jonnie Williams and his showy style.

  • Jason Eige, the governor's senior policy advisor, testified he was wary of Williams and warned McDonnell about him even before McDonnell took office.
  • Former McDonnell scheduler Monica Block said Tuesday that Maureen McDonnell had a "blind spot" when it came to Williams, but she didn't see romance between them. Block first took the stand Monday, testifying about events the former first couple attended with Williams. Among them was one in Richmond that was a last-minute addition to McDonnell's schedule while the General Assembly was in session, which Block said was unusual.
  • The second witness to testify Tuesday was former Virginia health official Mollie Huffstetler, who had been tasked with attending a meeting at the governor's mansion with Maureen McDonnell and Jonnie Williams on Aug. 1, 2011.

Day Six - Monday, Aug. 4

Williams, the prosecution's star witness, finished testifying, and a former adviser to Bob McDonnell took the stand.

  • Bob McDonnell's defense continued to call into question whether Williams was telling the truth about his dealings with the governor, focusing on the $50,000 check written from Williams to Mobo Realty in March 2012. Williams was unable to cite a specific example of something he got from the governor in the months following the check delivery but pointed to a gathering of health care leaders at the governor's mansion, where Williams was permitted to invite anyone he wanted for a discussion about Anatabloc.
  • Williams also testified that he never had any physical relationship with Maureen McDonnell and never witnessed or heard from the first lady about any tension between the McDonnells. He also said he "didn't know Mrs. McDonnell had any interest in me until this past week."
  • Following Williams’ testimony, one of Bob McDonnell's former advisers, Phil Cox, testified he was on the campaign trail with GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney, when Maureen McDonnell tried to push Anatabloc on Ann Romney, suggesting it could help her multiple sclerosis. He also testified he faced Maureen McDonnell's wrath in 2009. When he found out Jonnie Williams wanted to buy her an Oscar de la Renta dress for the inauguration. He nixed the idea and she sent him a scathing email on Christmas Eve.

Day Five - Friday, Aug. 1

The defense attacked the credibility of the prosecution's key witness, as Williams took the stand for a third day.

  • Maureen McDonnell's defense attorney showed that Maureen and Williams had shared more than 1,200 texts and calls over a nearly two-year period, including 52 in one day. On the day of the earthquake in Virginia in 2011, Maureen allegedly wrote to Williams in an email, "I felt the EARTH MOVE AND I WASNT HAVING SEX!!!!"
  • Maureen McDonnell's attorney Bill Burck challenged Williams on his changing version of events to the FBI and prosecutors. He also zeroed in on a deal Williams made with a friend to transfer Star Scientific stock shares in exchange for $10 million. Williams made the arrangement to swap stock for cash because he thought it would look bad to seek a lot of his company's stock.
  • Bob McDonnell's attorney Henry Asbill pressed Williams on whether the former governor had been aware of a shopping spree Williams took the first lady on. Williams said he assumed the governor would have seen the shopping bags and known about the shopping trip -- an assumption Asbill pressed.

Day Four - Thursday, July 31

Williams' testimony continued. Prosecutors questioned him on his relationship with the McDonnells, the gifts he gave and how they helped him promote Star Scientific's dietary supplement Anatabloc. Late in the day, defense attorneys began questioning Williams.

  • A key witness in the trial testified that at an event, Williams inadvertently introduced Maureen McDonnell as "the governor of Virginia" -- and when corrected, he told her, "You're the governor to me."
  • When asked if he had a romantic relationship with Maureen, Williams said no.
  • A voice mail and evidence of a meeting between Williams and then-Gov. McDonnell showed a direct connection between the two.
  • Upon ending the day's testimony, the judge remarked, "We're going to stop here because I can't take another second."

Day Three - Wednesday, July 30

Both Williams and his former assistant Jerri Fulkerson testified under immunity from charges. It was the first time that Williams' testimony had been heard.

  • At noon, we reported that Fulkerson answered questions about arranging trips for the McDonnell family and writing $70,000 in loan checks for the couple. She said that she was acting on Williams' orders. Prosecutors also showed the jury a list of documents that detailed the gifts that Williams bestowed on the family. This included the use of Williams' Ferrari while the couple vacationed at Williams' multimillion-dollar vacation home.
  • At 6 p.m., Carey reported that Williams had taken the witness stand for the first time, to describe his relationship with the McDonnells. He said that when he first met Maureen McDonnell, she told him she needed a dress for her husband's inaugural ball, and he offered to buy her one. The jury also heard from one of the McDonnells' sons, Bobby McDonnell. He said that Williams was like a mentor to him and gave him a bag of golf clubs as a gift, which Bobby McDonnell said his father told him to return.

Day Two - Tuesday, July 29

Opening statements from both prosecution and defense attorneys were given -- and they brought with them two huge revelations.

  • At 6 p.m., Carey reported that the defense alleged that there could have been no conspiracy between McDonnell and his wife because their marriage had broken down, and the pair were barely on speaking terms. Furthermore, they said that Maureen had developed romantic feelings for Williams.
  • Later that evening, we reported on the day's events and elaborated on the testimony of the  McDonnells' daughter Cailin McDonnell Young. Williams' financing of the catering at Young's wedding sparked the federal investigation into the McDonnells' political dealings. We also reported that Bob McDonnell's lawyer said Williams had deceived the couple and that the former governor would testify on his own behalf.

Day One - Monday, July 28

The trial began at the U.S. District Court in Richmond, but most of the day was consumed by jury selection.

  • At 5 p.m., Carey reported that jury selection was still underway, and she outlined the background of the trial. She explained that Williams was expected to be a star witness in the case and that he would testify with the promise of immunity. McDonnell and his wife arrived separately -- a harsh contrast to the united front they had displayed during hearings.
  • At 6 p.m., Carey reported that jury selection had overrun the court's usual schedule, and that the 150 candidates had been held back, to select the final 14. Carey explained a little about the selection process and more about the witnesses expected in the trial -- including the McDonnells' children.
  • By 10 p.m., we reported that the jury had been chosen and our story contained expanded details about the upcoming trial.



Photo Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS]]>
<![CDATA[Former Vt. U.S. Sen. Jeffords Dead at 80]]> Mon, 18 Aug 2014 17:57:40 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/James+Jeffords.jpg

Former Sen. Jim Jeffords, I-Vt., died Monday at Knollwood, a military retirement home in Washington, D.C., a former aide said. He was 80.

A navy veteran, Jeffords made a name in politics as a state senator and attorney general before he was elected to seven terms in the U.S. House, once splitting with his fellow Republicans in opposing a President Reagan tax cut plan. Vermonters voted him into the Senate in 1988, where he was a champion for environmental causes.

The moderate, even liberal, Republican shocked Washington in 2001 when he said the GOP had drifted too far to the right for him. He quit the party, became an independent, and caucused with democrats.

“I am confident it is the right decision,” Jeffords said upon making his famous “jump.” “I hope that the people of Vermont will understand it.”

Jeffords announced in 2005 he would not seek re-election the next year, citing declining health.

"I think we have to bring back people like Jim Jeffords, who say running for office is really a form of public service," former Vermont Governor Madeleine Kunin said Monday.

Kunin remembered Jeffords as a good-hearted guy who just wanted to do what he thought was right; not tow some party line. "The comparison is rather painful, where we now have a Congress that prides itself on doing nothing, where in those days, people really went there to get things done and to improve the lives of the public," Kunin said.

"He's going to be very sorely missed," said Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., who was in the U.S. House when Jeffords was in the Senate. "He was a guy who, I think, much preferred to be around Vermonters here in Vermont than among the big shots in Washington. It wasn't who he was."

Tom Vogelmann, the University of Vermont's agriculture and life sciences dean, told New England Cable News he thinks of Jeffords as "one of the giants." The University of Vermont College of Agriculture and Life Sciences is housed in the building that bears Jeffords' name.

"He was a very strong supporter of education, a very strong supporter of environmental legislation, and that's the curriculum that's basically taught in this building," Vogelmann told NECN. "So we have thousands of young people who are training here and that's all adding to his legacy."

Reflections on the life and legacy of Jim Jeffords poured in Monday. Here are several of those:

President Barack Obama:

Michelle and I send our deepest sympathies to the family of Senator James M. Jeffords on his passing. Jim devoted his life to service - as a Naval officer, a local leader in his hometown of Shrewsbury, and eventually as a U.S. Senator representing his beloved Vermont. During his more than 30 years in Washington, Jim never lost the fiercely independent spirit that made Vermonters, and people across America, trust and respect him. Whatever the issue - whether it was protecting the environment, supporting Americans with disabilities, or whether to authorize the war in Iraq - Jim voted his principles, even if it sometimes meant taking a lonely or unpopular stance. Vermonters sent him to Washington to follow his conscience, and he did them proud.

Our prayers are with the Jeffords family, including his son Leonard and daughter Laura. And we're grateful to Jim for his legacy of service to Vermont and the United States of America.

Vice President Joe Biden:

Jim Jeffords was a personal friend, a great senator, and a good man. He was not only beloved by the people of Vermont, but by anyone who ever worked with him. For the nearly four decades I served in the United States Senate, nearly half were spent with Jim as a colleague. Jim knew that with a country as diverse as ours, there is a need for consensus to move the country forward. He was a man who dealt with his colleagues without pretext and with complete honesty. And he always knew what he was talking about—and his colleagues and constituents always knew where he stood on an issue. Jim was a reflection of Vermont—independent and non-ideological and always about solving problems. Jill and I are saddened by his passing and join his family, friends, and his former staff in remembering all that he stood for: basic fairness and principled independence.

Former President Bill Clinton:


Hillary and I are saddened by the passing of our friend Senator Jim Jeffords, who served the people of Vermont and the United States for more than 30 years. Jim was one of our strongest advocates for better health and education, a cleaner environment, and increased opportunities for people with disabilities. I will always be especially grateful for his support of the Family and Medical Leave Act, the Brady Bill, and our 1993 health care reform effort. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and his many friends across the country.

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.:


He was a partner in our work for Vermont, and he was a friend. He was a Vermonter through and through, drawn to political life to make a difference for our state and nation. Part of his legacy will also stand as an enduring chapter of the Senate's history.

Rep. Peter Welch, D-Vt.:

I know I share the view of all Vermonters today in expressing condolences to the family of Senator Jim Jeffords on his passing, and our gratitude to him for his life of service.

While Jim would certainly wave away the notion, he was indeed a legend in Vermont and the nation. With characteristic decency, humility and civility, and a dogged persistence, he made his mark in Congress. Millions of children with disabilities are better off today because he lead the charge for their equal access to education. Americans are breathing cleaner air and drinking cleaner water because of his fierce advocacy for the environment and clean energy. And budding artists across the nation receive the boost of his encouragement every year thanks to his legacy as the founder of the annual Congressional Arts Competition.

And, in 2001, the world saw what his fellow Vermonters already knew: Jim Jeffords, above all, had the courage of his convictions.

Jim and his wife, Liz Daley Jeffords, were mentors to me in my early days in the House of Representatives. I am deeply grateful to them both for their friendship, their support and their contributions to Vermont and our country.

Gov. Peter Shumlin, D-Vt.:

I join Vermonters and citizens nationwide today in celebrating the life of Jim Jeffords, a true gentleman and an independent-minded maverick in the best tradition of our state. Jim followed in the footsteps of Senators Bob Stafford and George Aiken, always putting the interests of Vermonters and the nation ahead of partisan politics. He followed his sense of right in all that he did, and was never afraid to seek compromise by reaching across the aisle for the good of our country. Jim’s contribution to Vermont spanned his service in the Vermont House, as Attorney General, and as Vermont’s Representative in the U.S. House, where he developed his passion for high quality public education that forged his policy work on behalf of our kids and continued throughout his career. The passing of Senator Jim Jeffords will be felt throughout Vermont and our country. We need more like Senator Jeffords. My heart goes out to his children and extended family.

Lt. Gov. Phil Scott, R-Vt.:

The story of Vermont politics cannot be told without Jim Jeffords. He served in the most honorable way a person can serve: Selflessly, and always with the best interests of others at heart. He did what he felt was right, not what he felt would make him popular. Whether it was during his time in the Vermont Senate, or as Attorney General, or in the United States House of Representatives, or in the United States Senate, Jim valued the voices of Vermonters and leaves a legacy we can all learn from: Respect over rhetoric, pragmatism over pandering, and love for Vermonters overall.

In our large, and largely faceless, system of government, he demonstrated the power that one person speaking for their constituents can have. His example of moderation and independence is what I’ve tried to model my own career off of. My sincere condolences go out to Laura, Leonard, and the entire Jeffords family.



Photo Credit: Getty Images]]>
<![CDATA[Conversation Evolving on Gay Marriage]]> Thu, 14 Aug 2014 13:52:17 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/2014-08-14_1349.jpg NBC News political reporter Carrie Dann explains how the political discussion of gay marriage has changed. She also explores the president's response to the situation in Ferguson, Missouri.]]> <![CDATA[Park Southern Complex Remains Issue in D.C. Mayor's Race]]> Wed, 13 Aug 2014 21:15:07 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/2014-07-16_1555.jpg

A run-down apartment building in southeast Washington reemerged as an issue in the district’s mayoral race.

This time it involves new questions about campaign contributions and efforts to save the complex from more deterioration.

“The building has fallen into serious disrepair,” Senior Counsel to the Attorney General Ariel Levinson-Waldman said Wednesday.

The D.C. Attorney General’s Office said it went to court this week to seek a new buyer for the low-income Park Southern complex on Southern Avenue SE. More than 700 tenants live in rat- and roach-infested apartments with major structural problems and front office mismanagement.

The city lawyer spoke at Mayor Vincent Gray’s biweekly news conference. Gray also repeated his suggestion that the D.C. Council hold a hearing on the mismanagement.

That’s where the city politics come in.

D.C. Council member Muriel Bowser is chairman of the housing committee and the Democratic nominee for mayor. The building’s managers, who were displaced this past spring, are big Bowser supporters. One management official, Phinis Jones, has given Bowser about $20,000 in campaign contributions from a group of management companies he owns.

After a series of articles in The Washington Post about the complex and her political support from the discredited management, Bowser asked for an inspector general investigation which is just now getting underway.

But Bowser declined to hold a hearing or to return the $20,000 in contributions. Bowser this week reported raising more than $1 million so far for the Nov. 4 election.

This week the editorial pages of the weekly Current Newspapers urged Bowser to refund the $20,000, writing that the contribution in the apartment controversy “doesn’t smell great.”

And Wednesday, independent mayoral candidate David Catania renewed his call for Bower to hold a hearing despite its impact on her political supporters. And Catania called again for Bowser to return the $20,000.

“It’s time for Ms. Bowser to hold a hearing, come clean, return the money,” Catania said as he stood across from the Bowser billboard on Martin Luther King Ave. SE. Catania said Bowser has done little to assure that the tenants get better services and support.

Bowser’s campaign, which has more than doubled Catania’s contributions, suggested Catania’s campaign is “in panic mode.”

"After his dismal fundraising efforts,” Bowser campaign spokesperson Joaquin McPeek said, “Mr. Catania's latest stunt reeks of desperation and is a sign of a campaign in panic mode.”

McPeek said that, "Unlike Mr. Catania, Council member Bowser has completely removed mayoral politics from the Park Southern issue and instead taken the appropriate measures to refer this to the independent Inspector General.”

McPeek said Bowser supports the attorney general’s efforts to find a more suitable buyer to “ensure no displacement of tenants” and to preserve the building’s affordability.

News4 attempted to talk with Phinis Jones at his Capitol Services Management offices, but no one who could be seen inside came to the door. One person who left the offices shielded his face from our cameras and sped off on Martin Luther King Avenue after making an abrupt U-turn.

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<![CDATA[Florida Ad Tries to Connect Pot With Date Rape]]> Wed, 13 Aug 2014 08:56:27 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/potdaterapead.jpg

The campaign against medical marijuana in Florida is in high gear as it tries to link easier access to pot to date rape in a new online ad campaign.

The website, "Vote no on 2," claims that if the medical marijuana bill is passed, teenagers will have easier access to pot. A Twitter picture then asks if the new face of date rape will look like a marijuana cookie.

“These are products that are very dangerous,” said Javi Correoso of Vote No on 2. “They are a lot more powerful than smoking a joint and they can lead to various serious situations and circumstances.”

Correoso said that “potentially” includes date rape. But Dr. Jorge Bordenave of Larkin Community Hospital insisted that Correoso is wrong.

"Right now, as we know, you can get pot anywhere, on the corners, kids get pot,” said Dr. Bordenave, who supports legalizing medical marijuana. "There has been no incidents of date rape with the pot they are smoking currently. So what they are saying is trying to scare the people; trying to lie to the people."

Other organizations like United for Care said there are plenty of benefits for patients with cancers, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, and other ailments. Dr. Bordenave also pointed out that other legal vices are doing major damage.

“We have more people dying of alcohol, tobacco smoke than marijuana,” Bordenave said. “I did research recently; out of the 25 FDA approved drugs most commonly sold in the United States, in one year there were 10,000 deaths. There were no deaths from marijuana.”

Still, opponents say that the medical marijuana oil recently approved by the legislature is enough and there should be no smoking of marijuana allowed, despite any medical benefits.

“What Amendment 2 is is an amendment that has so many loopholes that it allows for marijuana to be used for non-medical reasons such as pot cookies and pot smoking,” Correoso said.

Voters will have the final say in November when the state constitutional amendment is on the ballot.



Photo Credit: Vote No on 2]]>
<![CDATA[Sherwood's Notebook: The Mayoral Campaign…Cleaning Up]]> Wed, 13 Aug 2014 07:38:20 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/210*120/AP134851027425.jpg

Union leaders on Monday milled about in front of the imposing headquarters of the AFL-CIO on 16th Street, a strip of yellow “caution” tape warding off any vehicles that might try to pull onto the expansive driveway.

From a small platform off to one side, organized labor put down its marker on the 2014 mayor’s race here in the District.

“Muriel Bowser represents the best choice for working people in the District of Columbia,” declared Joslyn Williams, president of the Metropolitan Washington Council AFL-CIO since 1982. The council represents about 175 local unions in the region and about 150,000 union workers in our area.

Labor officials estimate that about 40,000 union workers are registered to vote in the District. But they also acknowledge they rarely vote in a bloc.

In the April 1 Democratic Primary this past spring, many unions, especially public service unions, endorsed incumbent Mayor Vincent Gray. But the executive council headed by Williams declined to endorse anyone, including Bowser. Gray lost badly to Bowser in the Democratic primary.

Union officials said the Bowser endorsement on Monday was predictable. While Bowser didn’t win the endorsement in April, the unions are mostly Democrats like Bowser, and she is widely seen as the likely November winner. But even some supporters say she is not a shoo-in. Independents David Catania and Carol Schwartz have some modest union credentials of their own, according to labor questionnaires.

“There’s some enthusiasm for Bowser, but not too much,” one union veteran of city politics said on background so he could speak freely. “We think she’s going to win and [the unions] want to be with a winner.” He acknowledged this general election, unlike most November contests for mayor, is a bit uncertain.

Catania is a veteran at-large D.C. Council member who has made some but not nearly enough inroads yet to block the presumptive Bowser victory. Schwartz, who got into the race late, is a veteran public official even though she last served on the council in 2008 and must reintroduce herself to many voters.

■ Housekeeper for a day. Bowser used the union endorsement on Monday to try to burnish her common touch.

At the union event, Bowser was smiling, hugging and glad-handing everyone. She proudly noted that she was the product of two hard-working parents. And she said she recently met with a group of hotel housekeepers who work for the Marriott Marquis, the convention center hotel that recently opened.

“They challenged me to do something, to be a housekeeper for a day,” Bowser said during her speech. “They didn’t think I could handle it and I probably can’t for the whole day,” she said, laughing. “But I’m going to stand with them.”

Campaign aides said Bowser likely would do the day of work next month, closer to the election and when the hotel is busier. “August is the worst — it’s empty,” said one hotel leader. Bowser is expected to eat breakfast with one of the women and her children, ride the bus to the hotel and help make beds and clean rooms.

Bowser said she would “work side by side to see how their life is.”

During the primary campaign, mayoral candidate Tommy Wells, a Ward 6 council member, lived a week on the minimum wage to demonstrate how tough that can be. Back in 1994, then-Mayor Sharon Pratt running for re-election worked part of a day as a waitress on Georgia Avenue to demonstrate her connection to workers. (Wells and Pratt lost.)

■ Money, money, money. Just before midnight Monday, Democrat Bowser weighed in with her latest campaign finance report, disclosing she has $1,026,632 on hand. That makes her the only million-dollar candidate in this race. In an attached statement, Bowser campaign finance chair Bill Lightfoot said that residents of the District “want an independent, trustworthy and honest mayor.”

Catania, who has questioned Bowser on all three of those qualities, earlier reported $464,983 campaign cash on hand, less than half Bowser’s total. Catania’s campaign says its goal is to reach close to $1 million before the campaign ends — enough, his aides say, to run a credible campaign. (Adrian Fenty raised $5 million in 2010 but still lost.)

Schwartz reported only about $65,000, of which $30,000 is a loan from herself. Schwartz says she is proud that her campaign is mostly run by volunteers who helped her get about 6,500 petition signatures to qualify for the ballot. Schwartz has said she will be sending out some campaign fundraising letters but is not expecting a well-funded effort in this, her fifth campaign for mayor.


Tom Sherwood, a Southwest resident, is a political reporter for News 4.
 



Photo Credit: AP]]>
<![CDATA[Bowser Extends Money Lead Over D.C. Mayoral Rivals]]> Tue, 12 Aug 2014 15:31:31 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/muriel+bowser+portrait.jpg

Councilmember Muriel Bowser has widened her fundraising advantage over her rivals in the D.C. mayor's race.

Bowser, the Democratic nominee, has more than $1 million to spend between now and November.

 

She reported raising $511,000 in her most recent financial report, which was filed late Monday. For her entire campaign, she's raised $2.7 million, and has just over $1 million in cash on hand.

Bowser defeated Mayor Vincent Gray in the April Democratic primary. The Democratic nominee has gone on to win every mayoral election in the District.

Councilmember David Catania, an independent, raised $221,000 over the past two months. He has $463,000 left to spend.

Independent former councilmember Carol Schwartz brought in $65,000, more than half of which she lent to the campaign herself.

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<![CDATA[Primary Day in Three States]]> Tue, 12 Aug 2014 14:47:20 -0400 http://media.nbcwashington.com/images/213*120/WRC_0000000007489074_1200x675_317473347854.jpg Tuesday is primary day in Wisconsin, Connecticut and Minnesota, where the winner will face Sen. Al Franken. What can we expect from that race? NBC News political reporter Carrie Dann offers insight.]]>