DAYBREAK DAILY: Sorting through the Bob McDonnell indictment

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‘GOOD MORNING WASHINGTON’: Among the reports – Coping with the snow and the cold; much more, beginning at 4:30 a.m. M-F.

THE FACTS: Simply put, per the Virginian-Pilot, “Former Gov. Bob McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, have been charged with violating federal public corruption laws in a 14-count indictment handed down Tuesday, stemming from the McDonnells' relationship with former Star Scientific Inc. chief executive Jonnie R. Williams Sr. The felony charges - 13 each for McDonnell and his wife - are the culmination of a months-long investigation by state and federal authorities into whether McDonnell sought to illegally promote a Star health supplement after taking thousands of dollars in gifts and loans from Williams. They also bookmark a dubious new chapter in Virginia history: McDonnell is the first former governor to be indicted for conduct while in office.

“The McDonnells are scheduled to make an initial appearance in federal court Friday morning when their arraignment is scheduled, a striking fall from grace for a Republican figure once considered a possible 2016 presidential contender. McDonnell and his wife face a maximum penalty of roughly 70 years in prison each and more than $1 million in fines if convicted on all counts, according to the U.S. attorney's office.”

THE BACKGROUND: Scrambling for cash, per the Richmond Times-Dispatch, “The McDonnells were broke and up to their ears in credit card debt. And Star Scientific CEO Jonnie Williams Sr. came to the rescue. Trips to basketball games and plane tickets to a bachelorette party. Designer clothes for the first lady, golf for the kids, a Rolex to wear and a Ferrari for the governor to borrow and drive. Cash to cover mortgage debt and to purchase Star stock.

“According to the 43-page federal indictment, Maureen and Bob McDonnell showed their appreciation by providing Williams access to the governor and his influence. And when federal investigators began to scrutinize the relationship, the first couple allegedly tried to cover it up. The indictment sheds new light on numerous aspects of their relationship with Williams, and on the federal investigation.”

THE FALLOUT: Of sober reflection, per the Washington Post, “The indictment of Robert F. McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, brought an unprecedented jolt and stain Tuesday to the place he has always reverently called “Mr. Jefferson’s Capitol.” In a state that prides itself on clean government, where no modern governor had been charged with a crime in office or out, the long list of felonies alleged against the McDonnells was hard to absorb.

“Many Capitol insiders had been bracing for charges for months amid news reports about lavish gifts and loans that a wealthy businessman provided to the McDonnells and their children. But even for them, the indictment packed the punch of a sickening surprise. One compared its arrival to a death after a long illness: When it comes, it’s still a shock.”

QUICK FIX: Of health insurance, per the Baltimore Sun, “The Maryland Senate approved an emergency plan Tuesday designed to help people stuck without insurance because of the state’s glitch-ridden health exchange. Lawmakers vowed inquiries will continue into what went wrong. The emergency proposal, which now moves to the House of Delegates, would allow people to sign up for the state's high-risk insurance program that was supposed to end when the Affordable Care Act took effect. The coverage would be retroactive to Jan. 1.

“State officials estimate that as many as 5,000 people who tried without success to buy policies online may seek coverage through the legislation. The four companies that sell policies through the exchange also agreed to allow people to sign up for retroactive coverage dating back to Jan. 1 if they signed up for coverage by 5 p.m. Tuesday. As of Monday evening, 599 households had done so, an exchange spokeswoman said.”

AFGHANISTAN: Of options, per the New York Times, “The Pentagon has proposed to President Obama that 10,000 American troops remain in Afghanistan when the international combat mission there ends after this year, or none at all, senior government officials said Tuesday.

“That figure, debated in recent days within the White House, is the midpoint of a range of 8,000 to 12,000 troops — most of them Americans — that has been contemplated for months as the United States and its NATO allies planned for the long mission’s end. Anything less than that, the officials said, would be too few to be able to protect the reduced retinue of diplomats, military and intelligence officials that remain in Afghanistan.”

COOCH: Unsolicited advice, per The Hill, “Former Virginia gubernatorial nominee Ken Cuccinelli (R) is calling on New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) to step down as chairman of the Republican Governors Association in the wake of the bridge scandal. Cuccinelli, who in November lost a close race to Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), said that Christie's ability to be a surrogate for other gubernatorial candidates had been compromised by the scandal, in which top Christie aides ordered lane closures on the George Washington Bridge to snarl traffic in a town of a mayor who refused to endorse his reelection bid.

"I think just from the perspective of setting aside this as an issue in other races it makes since for him to step aside in that role. He does not serve the goals of that organization by staying as chairman. And that doesn't mean any of the charges political or otherwise are substantive or not, it doesn't matter, perception is reality," Cuccinelli said Tuesday evening on CNN.”

POLITICO PLAY: “The White House is trying to dial down the partisan rhetoric on immigration — and it’s asking its allies to do the same.

“In meetings with immigration reform advocates, White House officials have said President Barack Obama won’t threaten to take unilateral executive action — at least not yet — and that he wants to give House Republicans some breathing room to try to pass legislation this year, said immigration advocates who have participated in the sessions.”

ADRIAN FENTY: Blast from the past, per City Paper, “Embattled go-go impresario and Adrian Fenty BFF Ron Moten wants to call a surprise witness in his legal battle with the District: Vince Gray himself. Moten, whose Peaceoholics group is accused of misusing grant money intended for anti-violence work, says only Gray can explain the motivations behind the attorney general's lawsuit.

“The official motivations aren't hard to puzzle out—Moten's accused of signing bogus tax forms for the group, while Peaceoholics co-founder Jauhar Abraham allegedly blew grant funds on two SUVs. But, even without deposing Gray, Moten suspects it's something more. A memorandum filed by Moten's lawyer suggests that Moten thinks he's being pursued because of his enthusiastic backing of Fenty in the 2010 mayor's race against Gray.”

WHEN THE LIVING IS EASY: Or not, per the Frederick News-Post, “Maryland lawmakers are thinking of easing estate taxes this legislative session, a change proponents say would prevent many retirees from decamping to warmer, and less taxed, parts of the country. While the federal government begins taxing estates after the first $5.25 million, Maryland spares only the first $1 million from its tax, which ranges between 8 and 16 percent.

“Some lawmakers are concerned this disparity prompts people to leave Maryland when they near retirement age and settle in states like Florida, which does not assess an estate tax. This session of the Maryland General Assembly, several legislators have proffered proposals for making Maryland look more attractive to retirees.”

HELPING HAND: More or less, per Gazette.Net, “After years of slashed highway user revenues and a pension shift, Maryland’s local governments could see a bit more state aid headed their way in fiscal 2015.

“Gov. Martin O’Malley’s proposed $39.2 billion fiscal 2015 budget increases aid to local governments by $183 million, most of that heading to education. For Montgomery County, the governor has proposed $885.3 million, an increase of $23.38 million over the current fiscal year, which ends June 30. The bulk of that increase, or $20 million, will go to educating the county’s students.”

SPORTS, BRIEFLY: Caps lose 2-0 against Ottawa.

TRENDING ON ABC7 FACEBOOK: “In the midst of all this snow, United Streetcars Company delivered the first U.S.-made street cars to D.C. Some of the new cars are even equipped with built-in sanders that shoot sand onto the rails so they can move in the snow.”

NEWSTALK: 10 a.m., NewsChannel 8.

--Skip Wood

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