Former Gov. Bob McDonnell received sustained applause from several hundred Virginia Republicans on Tuesday evening at a political cookout that marked the former governor's first public appearance outside a federal courthouse since his indictment on corruption charges earlier this year.
"I'm blessed to have a lot of friends,'' McDonnell told reporters as line of supporters formed to offer words of encouragement to the former governor and have pictures taken with him.
McDonnell and his wife, Maureen McDonnell, were indicted on corruption charges in January. The former first couple are charged with accepting more than $165,000 from a former CEO of dietary supplements in exchange for helping to promote his products. The McDonnells have pleaded not guilty and a jury trial is set to start in July. Maureen McDonnell did not attend Tuesday's event.
Former Lt. Gov. Bob Bolling organized the cookout, which featured speeches from former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney and U.S. Senate candidate Ed Gillespie. McDonnell did not give a speech, but was applauded at length when introduced by Bolling.
McDonnell was once considered a potential running mate for Romney, who has given $10,000 to McDonnell's legal defense fund. Gillespie was the chairman of McDonnell's successful 2009 gubernatorial campaign.
Speaking to reporters, McDonnell lavished praise on Gillespie, whom he called a ``remarkable human being'' and said has a strong chance of defeating incumbent Democratic Sen. Mark Warner this fall.
McDonnell also expressed disappointment at U.S. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor's recent stunning GOP primary loss to a scarcely known economics professor backed by the tea party.
"His leadership for our country will be sorely missed,'' McDonnell said, noting that he and Cantor sat next to each other when they both served in the Virginia House of Delegates.
As for his own circumstances, McDonnell said he's doing "really good'' despite the difficult time for him and his family.
"I have immense faith in God and the justice system, and we'll get through this,'' he said.