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Commentary: Duncan Hunter's guilty plea is a win for the 'witch hunt'

Tribune News Service logo Tribune News Service 12/4/2019 By Scott Martelle, Los Angeles Times
Duncan D. Hunter, Duncan Hunter, Paul Pfingst standing in front of a crowd: Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, arrives at federal court in San Diego to change his plea in a sweeping campaign finance investigation on Dec. 3, 2019. © K.C. Alfred/San Diego Union-Tribune/TNS Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Alpine, arrives at federal court in San Diego to change his plea in a sweeping campaign finance investigation on Dec. 3, 2019.

It looks like a “witch hunt” has found another witch.

U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.), embattled over allegations of misusing campaign funds to pay for family trips, personal clothes (allegedly masked as a donation to a veterans group) and trysts with at least five women, appeared in federal court in San Diego on Tuesday to change his not guilty plea.

Hunter pled guilty to a single count of misusing campaign funds to avoid exposing his three children to the embarrassment of a public trial and is expected to resign from Congress before facing a prison sentence.

Hunter’s wife, whom he previously sought to blame for misspending funds (that was after he tried to blame his son for grabbing the wrong credit card when buying a video game), already agreed to a similar plea and to testify against her husband.

Much like the president he admires, Hunter referred to the investigation into his campaign spending — led in part by The Times’ sister paper the San Diego Union-Tribune — as “fake news” and “a witch hunt.”

And yeah, he said it was the “deep state” seeking to bring him down.

Turns out it was just greed.

The Times editorial board, weighing the reports of Hunter’s misspending, and subsequent dissembling about it, in July urged the congressman to give up the seat he effectively inherited from his father, a 14-term member of Congress who chose not to seek reelection when he ran for president in 2008. The son then won the seat in a heavily Republican district.

Even with charges pending, he managed to win reelection in 2018, but narrowly, and since then his Republican star has picked up a lot of tarnish. The House stripped him of his committee assignments, and the San Diego Republican Party refused to endorse his current bid for reelection. The Times editorial board urged him to step down and, if he beat the charges, seek to return in a future election.

“Our position on this issue has nothing to do with Hunter’s politics,” the board said. “If he were a Democrat or an independent or anyone else in a position of power, we’d call for his or her resignation. These are serious charges that, if proved, mean Hunter is unfit to serve in public office. It’s time, past time really, for Hunter to step up by stepping down from Congress.”

So it looks like this “witch hunt” by the “deep state” and relayed as “fake news” will bring about a real political — and legal — consequence.

And remove a stain from Congress.

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©2019 Los Angeles Times

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