Congress’s “pariah caucus” of poorly behaved Republicans may soon lose a member, thanks to his scorned wife. On Thursday, Margaret Hunter, the wife of California congressman Duncan Hunter and his former campaign manager, pleaded guilty to conspiring with her husband to “knowingly and willingly” misuse campaign funds to bankroll their lavish lifestyle. As part of her plea, she pledged to “make a good faith effort to provide substantial assistance to the United States in the investigation and prosecution of others.” Her husband, who inherited his House seat from his father, has pleaded not guilty and remains under investigation.
The Hunters were served with an amazing 60-count indictment back in August 2018 , which alleged that the couple had illegally spent more than $250,000 in campaign funds on Costco runs, Italian vacations, dentist visits, flights for family members, and their children’s private school tuition, racking up over $37,000 in overdraft fees in the process. (A separate part of the indictment salaciously mentioned that Duncan had also spent campaign funds on “personal relationships” with five individuals, including vacations to resorts away from his family, and late-night Uber rides to and from various apartments.)
Duncan swiftly threw his wife under the bus, telling CNN that he knew nothing about the transactions and that his wife, not him, was responsible for managing the campaign’s funds. “But I didn’t do it. I didn’t spend any money illegally,” he insisted. (In response to the charges involving his “personal relationships” with five individuals, his lawyer argued that “[w]hile there may be evidence of infidelity, irresponsibility or alcohol dependence,” it did not point to criminal activity.) Despite the indictment, Hunter still won reelection by a hair, and insisted on serving in Congress, even after then Speaker Paul Ryan effectively stripped him of his committee assignments. Even if he were convicted, Duncan would still be able to serve , though he would likely be pressured to step down.
Does the “substantial assistance” Margaret Hunter promised prosecutors include giving testimony against her husband? For now, at least, it remains unclear. In a statement read by her lawyer on Thursday, Margaret said she “fully accepted responsibility for [her] conduct” and was “deeply remorseful.” The congressman, for his part, maintains that he and Margaret were targeted by a politicized Justice Department, and is asking that Margaret be left alone by the press. “I am the Congressman, this is my campaign, and any further attention on this issue should be directed solely to me,” he said in his own statement.
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