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GOP congressman climbs 'border' wall, doesn't actually make it to Mexico

NBC News logo NBC News 4/19/2019 Dartunorro Clark
Duncan D. Hunter wearing a suit and tie: Re-elected U.S. congressman Duncan Hunter, arrives for an appearance at federal court in San Diego, California © Mike Blake Re-elected U.S. congressman Duncan Hunter, arrives for an appearance at federal court in San Diego, California

GOP Rep. Duncan Hunter is facing backlash for pretending to cross the U.S.-Mexico border — something his Democratic opponent says would have violated the terms of the congressman's parole stemming from federal charges of misusing campaign funds.

The California lawmaker posted a video on social media on Thursday claiming to be "15 meters" from the U.S.-Mexico border before walking over to a fence he alleged was the only thing separating migrants seeking asylum from entering the U.S. by foot.

"It looks pretty tough to cross. Let me see if I can do it," Hunter said in the video, before hopping over the waist-high fence, which serves as a vehicle barrier. "That's how easy it is to cross the border here in Yuma, Arizona."

But his suggestion was quickly debunked.

Border Patrol officials told The Times of San Diego that the official border is the Colorado River, which is further away from the vehicle barrier Hunter crossed.

"What [Hunter] crossed was a vehicle barrier," said Border Patrol spokesman Vincent Dulesky told the paper, who helped lead a tour Wednesday night for members of Congress at the border. "That is approximately 75-100 feet from the border — the border is actually the river that's west of that."

Ammar Campa-Najjar, a Democrat who unsuccessfully challenged Hunter for his seat last November, slammed Hunter for the video on social media. "This is what happens when you've been stripped from all your committees & have too much time on your hands," he tweeted.

Campa-Najjar, who has already filed to run against Hunter again in 2020, told NBC News in a statement Friday that the congressman was lucky he didn't actually cross the border and violate his parole.

"Congressman Hunter said on video that he was 15 meters from Mexico, then proceeded to walk over to the border in what appeared to be, by his own admission, crossing into Mexico," he said. "Hunter either broke the law and violated conditions of his release issued by a judge not to leave continental U.S., or he was pulling a political stunt and lied."

Hunter and his wife, Margaret E. Hunter, were hit last August with federal charges that they "converted and stole" more than a quarter million dollars in campaign funds, according to a 47-page grand jury indictment. Duncan Hunter released on $15,000 bond. Margaret Hunter was released on $10,000 bond. They are awaiting trial. The couple was ordered not to travel outside of the U.S.

Campa-Najjar added, "Thankfully for Hunter, he did not cross into Mexico as he claims. Can someone please show Hunter a map? He was the one who falsely advertised he was 15 meters from Mexico."

Michael Harrison, a spokesman for Hunter, told The Times of San Diego that the accusation of him violating his parole by leaving the U.S. is a "non-issue typical of someone desperate for a headline as opposed to focusing on the real issue" of border security.

"I would encourage others to look and review a map, spend time with the Border Patrol and understand what structures are in place and where they are with regards to the international border," Harrison added.

A representative for Hunter did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

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