Duncan Hunter will plead guilty to misusing campaign funding to avoid family suffering

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Screengrab KUSI News

Despite his insistence that he did nothing wrong, Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif, said he will plead guilty to misusing campaign funds.

Even if that means going to jail.

Hunter has said he is a victim of a political witch hunt, a “deep state” plot because he supported President Trump, but now says he wants to protect his three children from going through a trial.

“Yeah. As most folks know, my trial was set for January 22nd. That’s not going to happen now. Tomorrow, on Tuesday, I’m going to change my plea to guilty,” Hunter said in an interview with KUSI News. “I think it’s important not to have a public trial for three reasons. Those three reasons are my kids. I think it’s — it’d be really tough for them. It’s hard enough being the kids of a public figure and I think it’s time for them to live life outside of the spotlight.”

 

“But it’s been a privilege to serve in Congress for 11 years, three tours in the Marine Corps and the wars,” he added. “So I think we have done a lot of great things for the nation.”

Hunter, who along with his wife, faced 60 criminal counts, will plead guilty to a single count of misuse of campaign funds.

Adding to the strain of a trial, his wife Margaret Hunter, accepted a plea deal in June that required her to testify against her husband, KUSI News reported.

The lawmaker said of the deal, “It’s obvious that the Department of Justice went after her to get to me for political reasons.”

Federal prosecutors allege that the couple spent more than $250,000 in campaign money for golf outings, plane tickets, and a family vacation to Italy, according to the news agency. Money allegedly went to household items and even airline tickets for a pet rabbit.

Prosecutors also claimed that Hunter used campaign funds in the pursuit of romantic dalliances with lobbyists and congressional aides.

His wife faces up to five years in prison in the case.

“I think it’s important that people know I did make mistakes,” Hunter said. “I did not properly monitor or account for my campaign money. Whatever my time in custody is, I will take that hit. My only hope is that the judge does not sentence my wife to jail. I think my kids need a mom in the home.”

While he indicated that he’ll leave office, Hunter did not say when that would be.

Hunter has represented the San Diego area district for six terms. His father, Duncan Hunter Sr., had represented the same district from 1980 up until his son was elected in 2008 — that’s nearly 40 years.

When elected in 2008, Hunter became the first Marine combat veteran to be elected to Congress — he was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan while in the Marine Corps.

“Going forward, life throws challenges at you, that’s what life does,” he said. “And I think the most important thing is to just keep your head down, shut up and face those challenges head-on and that’s what I’ll be doing.”

Among Hunter’s primary challengers in the 2020 election is former Congressman Darrell Issa.

“As a friend and a colleague, I thank Duncan Hunter for his service to our country in the Marine Corps and in Congress, where he has always been a strong conservative voice on behalf of his constituents. Though his misuse of campaign funds was clearly wrong, I wish him and his family the best as they address the matters ahead of them,” Issa said in a statement.

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Tom Tillison

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