The Supreme Court’s unanimous decision to vacate former Virginia Republican Gov. Robert McDonnell’s public corruption conviction will significantly limit prosecutors’ ability to bring cases against politicians suspected of malfeasance and could spell trouble for the Justice Department in ongoing, high-profile cases, The Washington Post and other media report.
Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., writing for the court, narrowed the definition of the kind of conduct that can be the basis of a corruption prosecution. He said only formal and concrete government actions count — such as filing a lawsuit or making an administrative determination. Routine political courtesies like arranging meetings or urging aides to consider an issue, he said, generally don't, even when the people seeking those favors give the public officials gifts or money.