Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., who was indicted on campaign finance charges last summer, said Monday that he will plead guilty to one count of misusing campaign funds.
Hunter had previously pleaded not guilty. A plea hearing is set for 10 a.m. Tuesday, according to the U.S. District Court filing.
“As most folks know, my trial was set for January 22,” Hunter said in an interview with San Diego-based TV station KUSI. “That’s not going to happen now. Tomorrow, on Tuesday, I’m going to change my plea to guilty. I think it’s important not to have a public trial for three reasons. And those three reasons are my kids.”
Hunter and his wife were charged last summer with using more than $250,000 in campaign funds to pay for personal expenses including family vacations, theater tickets and school tuition.
In the Monday TV interview, Hunter said he would plead guilty to only one of four counts.
“Whatever my time in custody is, I will take that hit,” he said. “My only hope is that the judge does not sentence my wife to jail. I think my kids need a mom in the home.”
Hunter has continued serving in Congress and won reelection last year despite being charged, although he was stripped of his committee assignments. It was not immediately clear whether he would resign his seat after pleading guilty.
On Monday, the California Republican said only that he believes it’s important to keep the seat in GOP hands because President Donald Trump “right now needs more support than ever.”
“I’m confident that the transition will be a good one,” Hunter said. “My office is going to remain open. I’ve got a great staff. We’re going to handle people’s cases, and we’re going to pass it off to whoever takes this seat next.”
Earlier this year, Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y., resigned from Congress after pleading guilty to insider trading charges.
News of Hunter’s plea change comes as the lawmaker is facing increasingly tough political odds. Former congressman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., and former San Diego city councilman Carl DeMaio recently launched primary challenges against Hunter, and Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar, who lost narrowly to Hunter last year, is also pursuing a bid for the seat.
Hunter’s legal situation has also become more precarious in recent months. In June, his wife, Margaret Hunter, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring with her husband to spend $25,000 in campaign funds for personal use. As part of the deal, Margaret Hunter agreed to cooperate with prosecutors and testify against her husband.
Later that month, federal prosecutors alleged that Duncan Hunter had also used campaign money to fund trips, dinners and drinks with women with whom he was romantically involved – three lobbyists, a woman who worked in his congressional office and another who worked for a member of House leadership.
Hunter told KUSI on Monday that he wants the public to know he “did make mistakes” but that “not a single dime of taxpayer money is involved in this.”
“I did not properly monitor or account for my campaign’s money,” he said.
(c) 2019, The Washington Post · Felicia Sonmez