Duncan Hunter Says His Indictment Is Part of a Deep-State Witch Hunt

“This is modern politics and modern media mixed in with law enforcement that has a political agenda.”

Bill Clark/Associated Press

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Update (8/22/18): The San Diego Union-Tribune, Hunter’s home paper, published an editorial Wednesday calling on the congressman to resign, writing, “Hunter badly lost his way, seemingly becoming corrupt to the point of caricature. His once-promising political career is now in ruins as a result.”

Duncan Hunter, the Republican congressman who was indicted Tuesday for illegally spending more than $250,000 in campaign funds on personal expenses—including family vacations and tickets to Irish dance show Riverdancetold an ABC affiliate station in San Diego on Wednesday that he is a victim of the “new Department of Justice” and “the Democrats’ arm of law enforcement.” 

“It’s happening with [President Donald] Trump and it’s happening with me,” he told 10News before embarking on a fishing trip with a veterans group. “We’re going to fight through it and win and the people get to vote in November…I think they’ve used every dirty trick in the book, so it’ll go to court when they want it to.”

Hunter, who represents parts of San Diego County in the US House and is up for reelection this November, vehemently denied that he’s misused funds and said he’s “looking forward” to going to trial. He also accused Democrats of using the indictment as a strategy for the midterms. 

“It’s politically motivated,” he said. “It’s the last chance they could do this before the election. This is how they want to win the election. It’s easier doing this than actually running for office.”

Prosecutors allege that Hunter and his wife—who was also implicated in the 47-page indictment and who served as Hunter’s campaign manager—were well aware of what they were doing, often attempting to cover up their purchases by saying they were for charity. According to the document, Hunter installed his wife as a paid campaign manager, over the protests of the campaign’s treasurer, in part because the Hunters “need[ed] the extra money” from her salary. Over a seven-year period, the family overdrew their personal bank account more than 1,100 times. The Hunters’ financial woes, the indictment alleges, meant they knew that they had to use campaign money to maintain their lifestyle.

When questioned about various charges by the campaign’s treasurer, Hunter accused the campaign staff of “trying to create some kind of paper trail on me.” And when pressed by the treasurer to comply with internal rules to track funding, Hunter described them as “silly.”

The investigation into Hunter’s potential campaign finance violations began last year. Hunter, who was one of the first members of Congress to endorse Trump, is the second Republican lawmaker in recent weeks to be indicted: Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.) was charged with insider trading earlier this month. 

Here are some of the wildest purchases the Hunters made with campaign funds, according to the indictment: 

  • A plane ticket to fly a family member’s rabbit to Washington, DC, for vacation, first reported in early 2017
  • A $14,000 family trip to Italy for Thanksgiving in 2015. Hunter tried to arrange a tour of a naval base during the trip in an attempt to justify using campaign money. When he learned that a tour wouldn’t be possible, Hunter allegedly told his chief of staff, “Tell the Navy to go f— themselves.” 
  • More than $26,600 in family vacation expenses between 2011 and 2015
  • More than $3,300 worth of fast food
  • Tobacco
  • A nearly $2,000 ticket for a Pittsburgh Steelers game
  • Video games, a purchase which the Hunters later reported as fraudulent to the Federal Election Commission
  • Tickets to the show Riverdance
  • School lunches for their children
  • Makeup

And read the full indictment below: 

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THE BIG PICTURE

You expect the big picture, and it's our job at Mother Jones to give it to you. And right now, so many of the troubles we face are the making not of a virus, but of the quest for profit, political or economic (and not just from the man in the White House who could have offered leadership and comfort but instead gave us bleach).

In "News Is Just Like Waste Management," we unpack what the coronavirus crisis has meant for journalism, including Mother Jones’, and how we can rise to the challenge. If you're able to, this is a critical moment to support our nonprofit journalism with a donation: We've scoured our budget and made the cuts we can without impairing our mission, and we hope to raise $400,000 from our community of online readers to help keep our big reporting projects going because this extraordinary pandemic-plus-election year is no time to pull back.

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