Hunter to plead guilty to campaign fraud (Updated with plea details)

Hunter greeted at federal court by supporter...of Ammar Campa-Najjar/Facebook

(Updated 1 p.m. PST, Tuesday, Dec. 2, 2019: “Rep. Duncan Hunter pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to misuse campaign funds on Tuesday and is expected to resign from Congress before facing a prison sentence.

“Hunter will be sentenced on March 17. A federal prosecutor said he planned to seek a sentence of at least one year in prison, according to the Associated Press.

“‘I made mistakes and that’s what today was all about,’ Hunter told reporters after the hearing….”)

For more about the Hunter crime spree, visit “An Intimate Look at Everything Duncan Hunter Allegedly Bought With Campaign Money” at Mother Jones, here.

Bye, Felicia!

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Vapeville) will plead guilty in federal court on Tuesday after denying for more than a year that he illegally misused campaign funds.

Hunter told TV station KUSI in San Diego that “Tomorrow, on Tuesday, I’m going to change my plea to guilty.”

Hunter is accused of spending more than $200,000 on personal expenses. The indictment, which was released last year, detailed spending on lavish family vacations to Hawaii and foreign countries, large bar tabs, and grocery purchases for his family.

The reversal comes nearly six months after Hunter’s wife and former campaign treasurer, Margaret Hunter, admitted to her role in a widespread scheme that saw the couple allegedly spend more than $200,000 in campaign donations on family expenses like vacations, gas, groceries, school lunches and oral surgery. Such spending is prohibited to prevent undue influence by contributors.

Hunter also was accused of using campaign dollars to fund several extramarital affairs between 2010 and 2016, including one with a member of his staff. Prosecutors also alleged that the congressman, a Republican elected to represent a Southern California district in 2008, attempted to pass off some of those expenses as charitable contributions to veterans.

Until Monday, Hunter had remained steadfast that he was innocent of the charges, at one point calling it a “deep state” conspiracy. Despite the allegations, Hunter won re-election to his seat in November 2018.

The California Republican didn’t say definitively that he was resigning, but the former Marine officer did mention that “It’s been a privilege to serve in Congress. I think we’ve done a lot of great things for the nation.”

When asked what would happen to his seat, Hunter added: “I’m confident the transition will be a good one.”

Margaret Hunter, the congressman’s wife, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to misuse campaign funds back in June, a move that put enormous pressure on him to find a deal with federal prosecutors.

A source close to the case said Hunter’s plea agreement will be “virtually identical” to Margaret Hunter’s deal.

Recommended federal sentencing ranges for this felony charge range from 8 to 14 months, although Hunter’s lawyers will argue for a drastically lower term of incarceration, citing his military and public service records.

A hearing notice was posted Monday morning on the federal court docket in San Diego announcing Hunter’s change of plea. An attorney for the California Republican could not be immediately reached for comment. Justice Department officials declined to formally comment on Hunter’s interview.

Prosecutors urged the judge in Hunter’s case to “admonish” the lawmaker to stop attacking them as politically biased. Hunter, they said, had attempted to connect his case to President Donald Trump’s claims of an FBI “witch hunt” against him.

After Hunter was indicted, GOP leaders stripped him of his committee assignments but stopped short of calling on him to resign.

Former Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), who was indicted on insider trading chargers last summer and also initially denied the charges, ended up pleading guilty this fall and resigned from Congress.

The trial, which already was pushed back twice as defense attorneys challenged various claims in the federal indictment, was scheduled to begin Jan. 22.

“Congressman Hunter has shown a blatant disregard for the law and engaged in one of the most egregious congressional spending scandals we have ever seen,” said Jordan Libowitz, communications director for the left-leaning advocacy group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington or CREW. “We are glad to see Congressman Hunter will finally face the consequences of his actions. Given that he will now be a convicted criminal for abusing his office, Congressman Hunter must resign immediately.”

According to the indictment, the Hunters relied for years on campaign contributions to pay routine family expenses such as dental bills, home repairsand fast-food meals. They also used the donations to pay for exotic vacations, private-school tuition, video games and plane tickets for Margaret’s mother to travel to and from Poland.

The Hunters used more than $500 in campaign funds to fly the family’s petrabbit, Eggburt, across the country with them, Margaret Hunter admitted in her plea agreement.

The initial indictment also alluded to several unnamed “individuals” who appeared to have more than professional relationships with Duncan Hunter.

Earlier this year, as the congressman continued to deny his guilt and prosecutors disclosed more of their evidence in public court filings, it became clear that Hunter had extramarital affairs with at least five different women over many years and paid for them with campaign funds.

Though never identified publicly, three of the women were noted to be lobbyists and two others were reported to be congressional staffers.

According to the July court filings, Hunter used campaign funds to pay for a three-day weekend at Lake Tahoe with one woman who was not his wife. On another occasion, he used political donations to pay for a stay at the Liaison Capitol Hill hotel in Washington D.C., records show.

The indictment also said that Hunter and his wife were well aware that their use of the campaign donations was questionable. Prosecutors recently said in a court filing that Rep. Hunter was warned about the spending as early as 2010.

The couple’s joint bank account was overdrawn more than 1,100 times over the six-plus years of records examined by prosecutors and the couple racked up some $36,000 in overdraft penalties — fees they paid using campaign funds, the indictment stated.

Text messages included in court files show that at one point Margaret advised her husband to use the campaign credit card to buy a pair of Hawaiian shorts he wanted but could not afford — and to tell his then-treasurer that the purchase was in order to assist wounded warriors.

Since investigations into his campaign spending started in mid-2016, Hunter has spent more than $800,000 on attorneys, including several for his criminal defense, according to his campaign filings.

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