Update: Duncan Hunter also indicated he will leave Congress.
Six-term Republican congressman Duncan Hunter is scheduled to appear in federal court on Tuesday where he is expected to change his previous not guilty plea, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune. The congressman’s change of plea was posted on the U.S. District Court docket without additional details on Monday.
JUST IN: Rep. Duncan Hunter is scheduled in court tomorrow AM to chage his "not guilty" plea. pic.twitter.com/I9w9rGux2d
— Kyle Cheney (@kyledcheney) December 2, 2019
News that Hunter planned to change his plea was immediately met with speculation regarding his political future and the likelihood that he will leave office as a result. Although it wasn’t immediately clear whether Hunter would plead guilty or “no contest” to charges that he violated federal campaign finance laws, Hunter himself confirmed he will be pleading guilty.
“I think it’s important not to have a public trial for three reasons. And those three reasons are my kids,” he said.
If Duncan Hunter is about to plead guilty, it will be interesting to see if the deal includes him agreeing to resign from office immediately. https://t.co/LPmucDAQTT
— Susan Hennessey (@Susan_Hennessey) December 2, 2019
With guilty plea, Hunter is certain to also resign from Congress. That will create 5th vacancy – Katie Hill, Cummings, Chris Collins, Duffy, Hunter.
Magic # for impeachment will be 216.
With 233 Dems, 196 Rs, 1 Indy (Amash, a likely yes on impeach).https://t.co/f8aPkTXxna
— Paul Kane (@pkcapitol) December 2, 2019
Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) on Monday issued a public statement calling for Hunter’s resignation, saying his conduct amounted to “one of the most egregious spending scandals” ever seen.
Duncan Hunter has shown a blatant disregard for the law & engaged in one of the most egregious spending scandals we've ever seen. We're glad he'll finally face consequences for his actions. Now that he'll be convicted for criminally abusing his office, he must resign immediately.
— Citizens for Ethics (@CREWcrew) December 2, 2019
Duncan and his wife, Margaret Hunter, were indicted in August of 2018 on allegations they stole $250,000 in campaign funds to pay for personal expenses (such as designer clothing, plastic surgery, vacations, nail salons, private school tuition, video games, and a $600 plane trip for the family’s pet rabbit, Eggburt), then lied to federal investigators about the purchases.
Soon after their indictment, Duncan infamously threw his wife under the bus, blaming her for any perceived wrongdoing.
“When I went away to Iraq in 2003, the first time, I gave her power of attorney,” he said last year on Fox News. “She handled my finances throughout my entire military career and that continued on when I got into Congress. She was also the campaign manager, so whatever she did, that’ll be looked at, too, I’m sure, but I didn’t do it.”
Margaret Hunter pleaded guilty in June to knowingly misusing campaign funds, flipping on her husband by agreeing to cooperate with prosecutors.
“I have accepted full responsibility for my conduct. I am deeply remorseful, and I apologize. I am saddened for the hurt I have caused my family and others. I understand that there will be more consequences stemming from my actions but, as demonstrated by my plea today, I have taken the first step to face them,” Margaret Hunter said following her guilty plea.
Duncan Hunter, on the other hand, maintained his innocence and insisted that the charges against him were political in nature, even as prosecutors revealed evidence that he misused campaign funds in furtherance of at least five extramarital affairs. According to the DOJ, Hunter entertained these women with everything from dinners to ski vacations to golf outings – and all the Uber rides in between. Each time, the campaign paid, and as the court docs put it, “carrying out all these affairs did not come cheap.”
Despite his criminal indictment on felony charges, Duncan Hunter’s political career did not come to an end. The California Congressman won reelection in the 2018 midterms, though he garnered only 51.7 percent of the vote compared to the 63.5 percent he received in 2016.
[image via Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images]