Indicted GOP congressman’s life just got a lot more complicated

 msnbc.com  06/14/2019 12:40:16   Steve Benen

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) recently made national headlines for his controversial comments about war crimes. But as alarming as the lawmaker’s comments were, they weren’t his most serious problem.

This is Hunter’s most serious problem.

The wife of indicted Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to misuse campaign funds, including for an Italy trip that cost more than $10,000.

Margaret Hunter, who worked as her husband’s campaign manager, had previously pleaded not guilty to corruption charges alleging the couple used more than $250,000 in campaign funds to pay for personal trips, hotel rooms and shopping sprees.

On Thursday, she withdrew that plea in U.S. court in San Diego and pleaded guilty to a single count carrying a sentence of up to five years in prison. The move suggests she is cooperating with the prosecution and might even testify against her husband, whose trial is scheduled for September.

In case anyone needs a refresher, the GOP congressman and his wife were charged last summer, and the criminal indictment was quite brutal: federal prosecutors alleged that the Hunters stole more than $250,000 in campaign funds and used the money to pay for personal purchases, ranging from trips to school tuition to dental work to veterinary care.

As if that weren’t enough, the Hunters allegedly went to great lengths to cover up the scheme: according to prosecutors, they made fraudulent claims that their purchases were for charities, including veterans charities. A Washington Post report added that the prosecutors allegations read like a caricature of a corrupt, greedy politician.

The Republican’s defense has evolved a bit over time.

Hunter initially suggested the charges were a partisan scheme concocted by Democrats. This was literally unbelievable: the charges were brought by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Diego, which is led by a Trump appointee, who was chosen for the post by then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

Soon after, the congressman seemed to blame his wife, telling Fox News, 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.

Both pleaded not guilty – that is, until yesterday, when Margaret Hunter changed direction and admitted that the allegations raised by prosecutors are true.

There are some elements to this that we do not yet know, including what kind of sentence Margaret Hunter will receive and what, exactly, she’ll tell prosecutors about her husband’s alleged misdeeds.

But it’s probably safe to say Duncan Hunter is feeling some anxiety right now.

For his part, the congressman told reporters yesterday, in reference to his wife’s guilty plea, It’s sad that they were able to bludgeon her into submission. We’ve got some Hillary lawyers there in San Diego. I look forward to going to trial.

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