Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter, who was indicted last year on charges that he’d filed false FEC reports to disguise spending $250,000 in campaign donations on personal expenses, said in an interview Monday that he would plead guilty to one count of misusing campaign funds when he appears in federal court on Tuesday. The exact nature of this apparent plea deal, however, is not clear, including the specific charge Hunter might admit to, whether prosecutors will recommend a prison sentence, or whether the agreement will require Hunter to resign from Congress.
However, it sounds like Hunter is prepared to lose both his seat and his freedom. In an interview with local TV station KUSI, Hunter said, “Whatever my time in custody will be, I will take that hit,” adding, “I’m confident that the transition will be a good one. My office is going to remain open. We’re going to pass it off to whoever takes this seat next.”
Hunter, who’d been scheduled to go on trial in January, had channeled Trump in calling his indictment a “witch-hunt” that was “politically motivated,” though of course, what those supposed motivations might have been were never made clear. At one point, he’d even filed an appeal claiming that, as a member of Congress, he could not be prosecuted for campaign finance violations under the Constitution’s “speech or debate” clause.
But his calculus appeared to change, though, when his wife, Margaret, who had also been charged in the couple’s 60-count indictment, pleaded guilty earlier this year. As part of that deal, she agreed to cooperate with prosecutors and was reportedly set to testify at her husband’s trial.
When prosecutors first indicted the Hunters, they alleged the couple had spent campaign money on tuition to their children’s private school, oral surgery, and vacations in Italy and Hawaii, as well as $600 to fly a pet rabbit on a plane. In a later filing, however, they also said the congressman had used campaign cash to “pursue a series of intimate personal relationships” with at least five different women, including lobbyists and congressional aides.