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Why Bob McDonnell talked to 60 Minutes

After the Supreme Court overturned his conviction for corruption, the former Virginia governor could have walked away. So, why go on 60 Minutes?

The Supreme Court may have overturned former Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell's corruption conviction, but it harshly rebuked his actions.

"There is no doubt that this case is distasteful; it may be worse than that," wrote Chief Justice John Roberts Jr. in the majority opinion. "But our concern is not with tawdry tales of Ferraris, Rolexes, and ball gowns. It is instead with the broader legal implications of the government's boundless interpretation of the federal bribery statute."

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60 Minutes correspondent Bill Whitaker, left, and former Virginia Governor Bob McDonnell

CBS News

This week on 60 Minutes, correspondent Bill Whitaker reports on that "tawdry tale," in which McDonnell and his wife accepted $177,000 from a local businessman in personal loans and expensive gifts. That businessman, Jonnie Williams, testified under immunity for the prosecution that he was entirely sure he and the governor had an agreement: money and gifts for political favors.

According to the 60 Minutes report, Williams wanted the governor's help getting state-sponsored studies of his tobacco-based supplement called Anatabloc, which he claimed had healing powers. To curry favor, Williams doled out cash and gifts to the Governor and his wife. There was a $6,500 Rolex watch and a $15,000 check for catering the wedding of the McDonnells' daughter. He also treated McDonnell's wife, Maureen, to a New York City shopping spree to the tune of $20,000.

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News headlines after the McDonnells were found guilty.

Neither Jonnie Williams nor Maureen McDonnell agreed to speak with 60 Minutes. So why did Bob McDonnell?

Whitaker discusses that question in this week's 60 Minutes Overtime interview, posted in the video player above.

"I think it was because when he left the public eye, it was under a cloud of scandal," says Whitaker. "And since then, his conviction was reversed by the U.S. Supreme Court. I think he wants that part of the narrative to get out there."

McDonnell's decision to talk also raises a question about his future. Was the interview part of a political comeback plan? Whitaker did ask McDonnell if he feels the pull to get back into politics, and he replied, "I think politically probably the ship has sailed."

Then he added: "Never say never."

If viewers of the 60 Minutes story wanted to hear deep remorse from McDonnell for accepting the largesse of a constituent, they came up empty. McDonnell repeatedly reminded Whitaker that he had been complying with Virginia laws -- which have since changed -- when he took the cash and gifts.

He may not have broken the law -- but did he do the right thing? "That's the question we kept asking him," says Whitaker. "It may not have been illegal, but was it right?"

"I think it's one of those things that we, the American voter, has to look at and say, are we okay with that?" Whitaker says. "And if we're not, what are we going to do about it?"

The video above was original published on April 30, 2017 and produced by Lisa Orlando and Ann Silvio. It was edited by Lisa Orlando.