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McDonnell on dropped charges, legal fees, strain on marriage

This is a rush transcript from "Your World," September 12, 2016. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

NEIL CAVUTO, HOST:  It's been nearly 30 years, former Labor Secretary Raymond Donovan ultimately acquitted of fraud and larceny charges, each and every single one them dropped.

He famously said, "Which office do I go to get my reputation back?"

Fast-forward to today.  The former of Maryland Bob McDonnell completely exonerated.  The Supreme Court -- Virginia, I should say.  I apologize -- along with his defense attorneys, or one of them, Hank Asbill.

The governor had been charged with a sort of a pay-for-play and getting favors for gifts, et cetera, but the Supreme Court and others later realized and later said that the definition didn't hold, and that there was no quid pro quo for any of this stuff, so exonerated, but now $10 million in legal fees later, the governor with us right now and his attorney, Hank Asbill.  

Welcome to you both.  

HANK ASBILL, ATTORNEY FOR BOB MCDONNELL:  Thank you.  

BOB MCDONNELL, R-FORMER VIRGINIA GOVERNOR:  Thanks very much, Neil.  

CAVUTO:  Governor, you first.  

What do you do now?  

MCDONNELL:  Well, it's an opportunity to rebuild the rest of my life.  

I have been in public service for 38 years.  Loved every minute of it.  High privilege to be governor of Virginia.  

It's obviously been a grueling 30 -- three-and-a-half years, Neil, but I have been blessed with amazing friends, great lawyers, unanimous Supreme Court decision, and now the government saying there's no case.

So, I have got a great second chance to start doing some things in the private seconder for some charitable groups.  And that's what I'm going to do.

CAVUTO:  All right, Justice has now dropped charges entirely, will not pursue the case against you or your wife, Maureen.

MCDONNELL:  Right.  

CAVUTO:  But at the time, Governor, a lot of the things that you had received -- and I include a Rolex watch and Ferrari, use of a Ferrari, and this businessman helping you with some of your debts -- you said later on that some of that was probably not wise.  Do you still feel that way?  

MCDONNELL:  Well, of course.  Some of the decisions I made created an impression that many people have about politicians anyway, and that is they receive things, they use their office for improper purposes.

And, Neil, I knew in the bottom of my heart that that wasn't accurate.  The government portrayed a false narrative.  There was no quid pro quo.  There was no conspiracy.  Mr. Williams got nothing out of state government.

But Virginia law has allowed you to receive unlimited campaign contributions, unlimited gifts.  And so some of the things that did, I could see could lead to that kind of conclusion.  

But because knew that we were right on the law, it was easy to pursue the case and to defend it vigorously.  And with my faith in God and great friends, Neil, we have made it for three-and-a-half years, and I'm delighted to finally be vindicated and free.  

CAVUTO:  Hank, you can help me out with this, but when the Supreme Court unanimously says there is no there there, Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the majority, said, "Setting up a meeting, talking to another official or organizing an event, without more, doesn't fit the definition of an official act."

He did, however, and the court later did say that the governor's actions were tawdry.  They weren't criminal, but they were tawdry.  

What did you make of that?  

ASBILL:  Well, I think it's an unfortunate choice of words.  I don't think his actions were tawdry at all if you know the full backdrop of the story in this case, the full narrative of the case.

And that something I don't think really has ever come out effectively during the course of these proceedings.  

CAVUTO:  OK, but I think, by tawdry, what they meant is any gifts that were given, and anything that gives the appearance of impropriety, not criminal, I think, as the court was saying, but certainly, as even the governor just maybe acknowledged here, in retrospect, not wise.  

ASBILL:  I agree with that, in retrospect, not wise, because it creates an appearance of impropriety, but that doesn't create actual impropriety.  

CAVUTO:  Governor, what do you now?  

You have got all these legal fees.  I think you have got a restoration fund set up.  And people like Mitt Romney have donated to help you out.  But that's a drop in the proverbial bucket.  What are you going to do?  

MCDONNELL:  Well, I'm going to work as hard as I can.  I have got a great new business I have set up with my sister.  We're doing some business development, putting together some deals with some partners around the country.

And, look, I have got great faith in God's providence.  He has gotten me this far.  When we had no hope in the lower courts, we ended up with a unanimous decision in the Supreme Court.

And I'm convinced going forward in the fourth quarter of my life, Neil, if I follow the golden rule and work hard and continue to want to serve, that all that is going to work out fine.  

The number's a little north of that actually.  My wife has got bills.  All my kids had to have lawyers during this difficult time.

But you know what?  It's going to be OK, and I think I have got a good story of overcoming and how to deal with adversity that I can tell young people to help them.

CAVUTO:  You know, Governor, a lot had been made about during the trial the relationship between you and your wife, and she had got a disproportionate number of these gifts and $20,000 for new clothes, et cetera, and that it really strained your marriage.  

How are things now?  

MCDONNELL:  Neil, a federal trial that lasts six weeks is tough on any family.  

This 10 months of investigation was extremely tough on my cabinet, but they all hung in there.  My family is very strong.  My five kids are all doing well in the world.  The things with my wife have been -- it's been a difficult road.  

Here's what I will say.  She should have never been prosecuted.  Neil, she is not a public official.  She had no government power.  She was the first lady.  She did a great job on veterans issues and economic development issues, but they roped her into it by claiming there was a conspiracy.  

It was absolutely a false narrative that came from am immunized wit.  And so I feel badly that my wife had to go through that.  But we're working through it.  This decision by the court and then ultimately by the Justice Department to end the prosecution, Neil, gives us a new lease on life.

And there's a lot of work to do to rebuild relationships and to hopefully have people remember the good work my team did as governor, and not this latest case.  

CAVUTO:  The present Democratic of Virginia, Hank, and the Democratic senator, Republicans as well, have been speaking in defense of Governor McDonnell, wishing him will.  

But I did mention the Raymond Donovan thing at the outset, Hank, and it does got a lot of attention when a high public official is dragged into a long trial.  Raymond Donovan famously asked where he goes to get his reputation back.  

What do you think of your client now?  How does he do that now?  

ASBILL:  Well, I think it's going to take some time and some distance from this case, but, hopefully, people will start -- if they start looking at the record in this case and looking at the character testimony that was elicited by us during the trial and at sentencing and look at some of the materials that were filed, some of the character reference letters that were filed, they will understand that my client had a fabulous reputation for integrity, for compassion, for empathy.

And those things will always stand him in good stead.  And his core character, which shone during the course of these three years, will continue to shine.  And that's ultimately how he is going to get his reputation restored.  

CAVUTO:  You ever going to run for office again, Governor?  

MCDONNELL:  You know, I have been -- I have had the privilege of serving for 30 -- excuse me -- for 22 years, 38 total, including military service.  
That's a long haul.  

God has blessed me with great jobs.  I had Thomas Jefferson's job as an average kid from Northern Virginia.  And that's pretty good.

So, I think that my service will be in the private sector.  I have a lot of charitable interests now that I want to start working on.  There's a lot that I can do to help people that are going through tough times, of which there are countless in the world, to overcome and persevere and keep their faith in God and, in my case, believe in the justice system, that, in America, we get it right.

And I think I would like to continue to speak on things like federalism, the balance of state and federal power.  I think the federal government was overboard in the way they pursued this.  So, I think there's still a role and a mission.  

CAVUTO:  OK.  All right, Governor, I want to thank you.

Hank Asbill, thank you as well.  

MCDONNELL:  Thanks, Neil.    

CAVUTO:  Governor McDonnell completely exonerated, all charges dropped.

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