SAN DIEGO, California — U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-California) — who is accused of illegally dipping into campaign funds to pay for vacations, video games and more — will plead guilty in federal court on Tuesday, CNN confirmed on Monday.
“I’m going to change my plea to guilty,” Hunter said in an interview with CNN affiliate KUSI. One of Hunter’s attorneys, Devin Burstein, confirmed to CNN on Monday afternoon that the plea will be guilty.
“I think it’s important that people know that I did make mistakes. I did not properly monitor or account for my campaign money,” Hunter said.
“I am responsible for my campaign and what happens to my campaign money,” he added.
Citing the reasons for his change of heart, Hunter said, “I think it’s important not to have a trial for three reasons and those three reasons are my kids.”
Hunter had long denied he had misused any campaign funds, despite federal prosecutors charging he had fraudulently spent more than $200,000 on expenses that included a $14,000 Italian vacation and thousands of dollars on routine items like groceries, bedding and other household items.
Hunter’s forthcoming guilty plea comes months after his wife, Margaret, pleaded guilty in June to conspiring with her husband to “knowingly and willingly” convert campaign funds for personal use and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.
Hunter had initially blamed his wife for the alleged campaign fund abuses, saying she was the one handling his finances. “She was also the campaign manager, so whatever she did that’ll be looked at too, I’m sure,” he said on Fox News in August 2018.
“But I didn’t do it,” Duncan Hunter said. “I didn’t spend any money illegally.”
But in response to the judge at the time, Margaret Hunter acknowledged that Duncan Hunter had attempted to set up a one-day tour of a naval base in Italy to justify their Italian vacation — one of the examples prosecutors have cited as evidence that the congressman used his position of power for personal gain.
A former Marine who had combat tours in Iraq and the son of former California GOP Rep. Duncan L. Hunter, the congressman has courted controversy throughout much of his career.
Following the corruption charges, he agreed to step down from his congressional committee assignments and went on to win reelection, after running an anti-Muslim campaign against his Democratic opponent.
Though the 50th Congressional District is strongly Republican, many voters have told CNN in interviews over the last year that they were greatly dismayed by Hunter’s conduct — and his earlier implication that his wife was to blame for the improper spending.