VIRGINIA

Bob McDonnell: John Brownlee joins private legal team

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A high-profile attorney who specializes in white-collar crime is joining Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell's legal team.

Former U.S. Attorney John Brownlee has been added to help represent the scandal-plagued governor, The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports.

A partner with the international law firm Holland & Knight, Brownlee is the chair of the firm's National White Collar Defense and Investigations Team.

Brownlee served as the U.S. attorney for the Western District of the state for about seven years. He lost the Republican nomination for attorney general to Ken Cuccinelli in 2009.

Recent accusations of questionable financial dealings have caused McDonnell's approval rating to drop 12 percentage points in the past two months, The Huffington Post reports.

Once mentioned as a possible vice presidential running mate for Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney, McDonnell's approval among Virginians has fallen sharply from 73 percent to 62 percent among Republicans, and from 22 percent to 14 percent among Democrats.

Last week, ABC7 News reported that McDonnell and his wife received $120,000 in undisclosed gifts from prominent donor Jonnie Williams, Sr., the head of Star Scientific, whose products McDonnell promoted.

Del. Scott A. Surovell (D-Fairfax) has made the strongest call yet for McDonnell's resignation over the gifts scandal, suggesting Sunday that the governor should be forced out if he does not step down by the end of the week.

“The legislative branch has a sworn independent responsibility to address corruption and malfeasance when we see them independent of criminal investigations,” Surovell wrote on his blog Saturday.

When asked if he was calling for McDonnell's impeachment, Surovell said in an email, "There are many ways we can put pressure. It's unacceptable that only three legislators have spoken out."

McDonnell's spokesman declined comment.

Last week, state Sen. Barbara Favola (D-Arlington) became the first legislator to call for McDonnell's resignation. A week earlier, Sen. Chap Petersen (D-Fairfax) demanded McDonnell return other gifts from Williams or resign.

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