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Ex-Virginia gov whose conviction by Jack Smith was tossed says he'd 'rather win than get it right'

"I think he doesn't do an honest look at the law to see if the facts apply to the law," McDonnell said.

Published: July 31, 2023 12:33pm

Updated: July 31, 2023 1:03pm

Former Virginia Republican Gov. Robert McDonnell, who now-special counsel Jack Smith prosecuted on bribery charges only to have the Supreme Court unanimously overturn his conviction, said that the prosecutor cares more about winning a case than having the facts correct.

While leading the Justice Department's Public Integrity Section, Smith prosecuted McDonnell and secured jury convictions on 11 counts related to corruption. The Supreme Court in 2016 unanimously vacated his conviction, ruling that the Justice Department's definition of an "official act," which included simply arranging a meeting or hosting an event, was too broad for the purposes of federal bribery prosecution.

Sunday on "Life, Liberty & Levin," McDonnell called Smith, who is currently leading two probes into former President Donald Trump, an "overzealous" prosecutor.

"I think he doesn't do an honest look at the law to see if the facts apply to the law," McDonnell said. "He would rather win than get it right. I think maybe that's some of the influence we see now in some of the decisions he's making in the current cases."

McDonnell also said that he and his attorneys knew from the beginning that the charges brought against him by Smith were "completely wrong," but the Justice Department continued with the case anyways.

In vacating McDonnell's conviction, Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the majority opinion: "There is no doubt that this case is distasteful; it may be worse than that. 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."

Smith has been involved in at least two major cases against Democrats that resulted in mistrials: one against then-North Carolina Sen. John Edwards for an alleged campaign-finance crime and another against New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez for bribery allegations.

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