In just the latest betrayal of President Donald Trump's promise to "drain the swamp," Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.)—the second congressman to endorse Trump's run—and his wife Margaret were indicted on Tuesday evening for misusing more than $250,000 in campaign funds and filing false records with the Federal Election Commission (FEC).
"These are just the guys who've been caught. Time to clean up Washington."
—Sen. Elizabeth WarrenThe indictment alleges "Hunter and his wife repeatedly dipped into campaign coffers as if they were personal bank accounts, and falsified FEC campaign finance reports to cover their tracks," Adam Braverman, U.S. attorney for the Southern District of California, said Tuesday. "Elected representatives should jealously guard the public's trust, not abuse their positions for personal gain. Today's indictment is a reminder that no one is above the law."
The news broke as Trump's former campaign chairman Paul Manafort was found guilty of eight felony counts involving tax and bank fraud, and the president's longtime personal attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to eight criminal counts, including campaign finance violations that implicate Trump. It also came less than two weeks after Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), Trump's first backer in Congress, was arrested and charged for his alleged role in an insider trading scheme.
Mere hours before Manafort's conviction, Cohen's plea, and Hunter's indictment, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) on Tuesday unveiled her bold new anti-corruption legislation. During her speech introducing the proposal, she declared, "Let's face it: there's no real question that the Trump era has given us the most nakedly corrupt leadership this nation has seen in our lifetimes."
Since introducing my bill to #EndCorruptionNow this AM: Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign crimes. Paul Manafort convicted on tax fraud. Rep. Duncan Hunter indicted for misuse of campaign funds. And these are just the guys who've been caught.
Time to clean up Washington.
— Elizabeth Warren (@SenWarren) August 21, 2018
The government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) had filed multiple complaints against Hunter for spending campaign funds for personal use in 2016. Responding to the indictment on Tuesday, CREW executive director Noah Bookbinder said, "We believed he was violating the law but had no idea of the systematic and deceitful lengths to which he and his wife had gone."
"We believed he was violating the law but had no idea of the systematic and deceitful lengths to which he and his wife had gone."
—Noah Bookbinder, CREW"We are glad to see Congressman Hunter will finally be forced to face the consequences for executing one of the most breathtaking and egregious Congressional spending scandals in recent history," Bookbinder added, calling on Hunter, who is up for re-election in November, to "resign immediately."
GOP House Speaker Paul Ryan has stripped both Collins and Hunter of their committee assignments, but while Collins has suspended his re-election campaign and is working to get his name off the ballot, Hunter is reportedly putting up a fight. Politico's Jake Sherman reported Wednesday that Republicans are "preparing to forcibly remove Duncan Hunter from his House committees, because he is refusing to take a leave from them after the indictment," which Hunter claims is politically motivated.
The purchases included family vacations to Italy, Hawaii, Phoenix, Arizona, and Boise, Idaho; school tuition; dental work; theater tickets; and domestic and international travel for almost a dozen relatives. The Hunters also spent tens of thousands of dollars on smaller purchases, including fast food, movie tickets, golf outings, video games, coffee, groceries, home utilities, and expensive meals.
To conceal their personal spending, the Hunters mischaracterized the purchases in FEC filings as "campaign travel," "dinner with volunteers/contributors," "toy drives," "teacher/parent and supporter events," "gift cards" for charitable donations, and "gift basket items," among other false descriptions. Family dental bills paid with campaign funds were characterized as a charitable contribution to "Smiles for Life." Theater tickets were mischaracterized as "holiday gift certificates." Tickets for the family to see Riverdance at the San Diego Civic Theater became "San Diego Civic Center for Republican Women Federated/Fundraising." And to disguise their children's tuition payments to Christian Unified Schools in El Cajon, the Hunters provided a number of conflicting explanations, including that the payments were charitable contributions.
The Hunters are scheduled to be arraigned on Thursday morning in California, according to the DOJ. If the Republican congressman remains on the ballot, he will face off against Ammar Campa-Najjar, who is endorsed by Warren, Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), former President Barack Obama, the Justice Democrats, Our Revolution, and several other progressive groups.