Will McDonnell Be Impeached?

mcdonnell waving nixon hands


Chap stick.  Sen. Chap Petersen, D-Fairfax, has posted a blog entry on his web site asking if the General Assembly might take impeachment action against Bob McDonnell. While Sen. Petersen is still calling for McDonnell to “come clean” or step down, he is now adding the possibility of an impeachment trial to his equation.

Petersen, an accomplished attorney, outlines the process of impeachment under the Virginia Constitution.  It starts with a special session of the General Assembly which may be called by the governor (highly unlikely) or requested by a petition of the sitting members of the GA.  From there, the House of Delegates has to decide whether there is sufficient evidence to impeach the governor for “malfeasance in office, corruption, neglect of duty, or other high crime or misdemeanor.”  If the House of Delegates finds sufficient evidence to impeach then the matter is turned over to the Virginia Senate for trial.  The senate can convict or acquit.

McDonnell and Hobbs.  The crux of the problem for Bob McDonnell is something called the Hobbs Act.  Originally enacted as a law to combat racketeering in labor-management disputes, the Hobbs Act has been successfully used to put government officials behind bars.  As of today, two former governors are presently cooling their heels in federal lockups after convictions under the Hobbs Act.  Will Bob McDonnell be the third?  One would think that the Virginia General Assembly would prefer to act on its own rather than do nothing and have the feds act in their stead.  But will the General Assembly act?

The tears of our clowns.  Realistically, I doubt that the Virginia General Assembly could be persuaded to even seriously consider impeachment, especially in an election year.  Certainly the recent revelations of hundreds of thousands of dollars in unpaid, no interest loans to a McDonnell family company moves the matter to “possibly impeachable.” In addition, plenty of Republicans in the General Assembly still have a biter taste in their mouths over McDonnell’s transportation tax hikes. But impeachment proceedings?

Lame duck under (magnifying) glass.  Some will say that McDonnell is a lame duck.  Therefore, under the phony genteelness of “the Richmond Way” the governor should be allowed to exit his office on schedule and fade into political oblivion. Remember, there are still parts of Virginia where the bloody, amoral and unnecessary U.S. Civil War is still sometimes called “the recent unpleasantness with the north.”  The U.S. Civil War resulted in the deaths of 625,000 Americans. As a percentage of today’s US population that would be about 6.1M. Unpleasant indeed.

Dereliction of duty.  The Virginia General Assembly has a duty to convene in special session and decide whether Gov. Bob McDonnell has committed impeachable offenses under the Virginia Constitution. This duty transcends party loyalty and the fact that 2013 is an election year in Virginia. However, The Imperial Clown Show in Richmond is nothing if not feckless. Beyond a few brave souls like Sen. Petersen there are too few in the General Assembly with the courage to actually uphold the constitution they are sworn to defend, and too many who will simply think of McDonnell’s misdeeds as a most recent unpleasantness.

- D.J. Rippert

11 Responses to Will McDonnell Be Impeached?

  1. Boy, did DJ take a wrong turn on the way to Logic University!

    elements of the Hobbs Act:

    The Hobbs Act criminalizes both robbery and extortion, where:

    “robbery” means the unlawful taking or obtaining of personal property from the person or in the presence of another, against his will, and

    “extortion” means the obtaining of property from another, with his consent, induced by wrongful use of actual or threatened force, violence, or fear, or under color of official right.”


    It appears to me that McDonald has not broken the law – neither the Hobbs Act nor Va Gift Laws because he did not receive the gifts nor did is there evidence that he solicited them.

    so then “impeachment” is to punish what? unethical behavior?

    • LarryG blather alert!

      Larry – you should take the time to read the articles to which I link before going into full blather mode.

      “That tepid position suffers from two errors. First, it mistakes the potential legal charge. We are no longer talking about minor fines for inaccurately filling out a disclosure report. Rather, we’re talking about a potential Hobbs Act indictment for “influence peddling.” No, that’s not far-fetched. Federal prosecutors convicted Governors Rod Blagoyevich (D-Illinois) and Don Siegelman (D-Alabama) with far less money changing hands. They are each serving time in a Federal facility.”

      Since Chap Petersen is an attorney held in high regard I hope you’ll understand if I defer to his legal opinion over yours.

    • Since you seem to like and believe Wikipedia – take a look at the list of politicians convicted in recent years. Almost half were convicted under the Hobbs Act:


  2. McDonnell possibly broke the law in multiple cases. In the case of his wife getting a Rolex watch to give him as a present – wasn’t that really a gift to the governor? Of course it was. Failure to report under Virginia’s reporting laws is a violation of the law.

    When McDonnell’s family real estate company received hundreds of thousands of dollars in no interest loans that are not being repaid – isn’t that a gift to the governor who is a part owner of that firm? Of course it is! Failure to report under Virginia’s reporting laws is a violation of the law.

    McDonnell and Cuccinelli BOTH broke Virginia law in their failure to report gifts and stock holding positions. Cuccinelli’s description of his lawlessness as “an oversight” just doesn’t cut it. He knew the law and he ignored it. Meanwhile, he led the state’s case against the company headed by the provider of his undisclosed gifts.

    Sorry, LarryG but these “recent unpleasantness episodes” are, in fact, violations of Virginia law and possibly of federal law as well.

  3. don’t get me wrong. I think the “dirt” is well apparent and McDonnell ethics are non-existent but I’m not (yet) convinced that the is solid evidence that he directly solicited anything nor that he directly received anything.

    I note that even the “apologists” now realize just how lousy it is and most revealing is the anguish of the right … but still… not sure exactly how you “prove” that he personally did anything.

    With these other govs..they had tapes… and quid pro quo was ridiculously evident on them.

    I consider myself to be a fair-minded type – and I actually think it harms our system to go after people on charges that cannot be explicitly proven.

    I have no doubt that McD is dirty – but we have to prove it fair and square or else we can expect the next incident to come from the other side on similar weak basis – witness the idiots who have “impeach Obama” on their bumpers.

    Law and order. Law and order. Law and order. A time and a place for everything. Putting people in prison because we THINK they did something wrong is not who we are.

  4. Not going to happen. No how, no way. Fun to speculate? Maybe. But this is a Republican legislature, and they aren’t impeaching their own. I don’t care if they’re upset over transportation taxes or any other administrative/policy issue. This is impeachment we’re talking about. This is as nuclear as things get.

    To impeach McDonnell is to give the Commonwealth to the Democrats for at least the next 4 years. By no means to I think Cuccinelli has the race in the bag currently, but he’s in a very strong position, and even with this scandal I still believe its his race to lose (McAuliffe just isn’t the right candidate to unify the middle). The Republican Delegates know this, they aren’t going to blow the shot at another 4 years of the statehouse.

    So DJ, enjoy your hypotheticals, enjoy ranting about what you think “should” happen, but realize it’s not going to happen. Not with only 4 months until the election and 6 months until the next guy is inaugurated.

    • Neil:

      Would Cuccinelli be better of if:

      1. McDonnell stays in office under a cloud of scandal.
      2. McDonnell resigns.
      3. McDonnell is taken out of the governor’s mansion in handcuffs by federal agents.
      4. The General assembly impeaches McDonnell.

      Many people believe that McDonnell staying in office amid endless investigations is the worst case scenario for Cuccinelli.

      Would a threat of impeachment proceedings be enough to convince McDonnell to resign? It worked for Nixon.

      The Republicans desperately need the McDonnell stigma to go away – one way or another.

      • Honestly, it depends on what we don’t know yet. It depends on what skeletons are still waiting to be revealed.

        If everything is now out in the open, no other bombshells to drop, then I think Ol’ McDonnell can absolutely ride out the rest of his term and not damage Cuccinelli further. (Not to say no damage has been done, just talking about minimizing the damage over the next 4 months)

        However, if the players involved (the Governor, the AG,, the gift givers, the press, or the investigating team) know more than we do, and more serious charges are coming, then that’s another matter altogether, and resignation may be the better option. I’m just working on the assumption that we already know all there is to know (and yes, I know the danger in assuming).

        If the R’s really want to make this thing go away, someone needs to bring this case against the chef to a $peedy and hu$hed re$olution.

  5. On one level – I think that the two are not linked – that things can get much worse for McD without affecting Cucinelli.

    but both the Gov and the AG are connected to the same guy and there is just no way to wiggle out of that….

    we’re going to find out come Nov, just how many dyed in the wool, vote GOP no matter what -are in the state. I’m betting it’s a good number sorry to say.

  6. I’m betting they just won’t show up. The Republican party is a waste dump if toxic politicians with no morals, no sense, and No Support. They alienated the average citizen and now expect us to keep them in office? Fat Chance!

  7. well…..

    in a headline: ” Poll: Scandals take toll on McDonnell’s popularity”

    “… Only 46 percent approved of McDonnell’s performance as governor..”

    but as I suspected:

    ..”McDonnell’s job approval is 67 – 14 percent among Republicans”

    ” Among Republicans, 46 percent see the focus on the McDonnell-Williams relationship as just politics, ”

    ” While 57 percent of Virginia voters have read or heard about the McDonnell-Williams relationship, most still don’t know much about it.

    Among all Virginia voters, 12 percent think McDonnell engaged in serious wrongdoing while 6 percent said it was not serious and 16 percent say he has not engaged in wrongdoing at all. The remaining 63 percent do not know enough about the issue to make a judgment.

    Voters’ overall opinion of McDonnell is little changed. Currently it is 40 – 23 percent favorable, compared to 42 – 22 percent in March. ”


    so there you have it – the Good, bad and ugly…

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