Ex-Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell takes the stand in his corruption trial

Former Virginia Governor Robert McDonnell walks to his corruption trial at U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, August 18, 2014 in Richmond, Virginia. Mark Wilson/Getty Images

RICHMOND, Va. -- Former Gov. Bob McDonnell began his much-anticipated testimony in his public corruption case Wednesday, focusing - as much of the trial has - on his wife, Maureen.

Bob McDonnell said he got an inkling the day after his 2009 victory that his wife had reservations about being first lady.

"I could tell she was not as happy as I was about the result," he testified as his lawyers put on the fourth day of his defense.

At one point she was upset and yelling at him, he said, but he reassured her that she would do a good job.

"She seemed to be upset, concerned about her role," he said.

McDonnell also said he received a call from President Obama congratulating him on his victory, according to Joe St. George, a journalist covering the trial from Richmond, Virginia CBS affiliate WTVR.



The McDonnells are accused in federal court of accepting more than $165,000 in gifts and loans from former Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams in exchange for using their office to promote his tobacco-based supplement, Anatabloc. The former governor's lawyers have suggested that Maureen McDonnell acted largely on her own to promote Anatabloc.

Before Bob McDonnell took the stand, Wednesday's testimony centered on two sides of Maureen McDonnell: a public persona promoting Virginia businesses and a woman overstressed from her Executive Mansion role.

Agriculture Secretary Todd Haymore testified that Maureen McDonnell often traveled to tout businesses such as wineries, countering the notion that she gave special treatment to Williams.

Defense lawyers say the McDonnells sought to promote Virginia-based businesses, of which Star Scientific was just one, at every opportunity as part of an economic development agenda. But prosecutors say the McDonnells' special treatment to Williams' company included setting up meetings for him and hosting an event at the mansion.

Jurors also heard testimony from James Burke, director of the Performance Management Group at Virginia Commonwealth University, who said his organization was retained to help rectify the "undue amount of chaos" in the governor's mansion stemming from Maureen McDonnell's unhappiness with her role as first lady.

The possibility of Maureen McDonnell moving out of the mansion and into the couple's home in suburban Richmond was briefly discussed, but nothing came of it, Burke said.

Burke also said he and a co-worker met privately with Bob McDonnell and suggested counseling for his wife for anxiety and perhaps depression because "we had heard she would often snap."

McDonnell rejected the idea, saying "he needed to take responsibility for the problem he caused" and would try to spend more time with his wife.

Burke's work with the governor's mansion staff ended when he vigorously opposed their plan to deliver a letter to Bob McDonnell airing their grievances and threatening to walk out if the problems were not corrected, he said.

"We wanted them to end the drama" and deal with Maureen McDonnell directly so the governor could focus on his job, Burke said.

Since the trial began, other witnesses have described Maureen McDonnell as volatile and prone to outbursts and the couple's marriage as having communication issues.

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