Politico

California conservatives rebuke Trump pardon of Duncan Hunter


OAKLAND — President Donald Trump’s full pardon of Duncan Hunter isn’t playing well in the convicted congressman’s home turf — even among GOP conservatives that have supported Trump.

Jon Fleischman, publisher of the influential Flash Report and a former state GOP vice chair, is among a crowd of conservative Californians who excoriated the decision on Wednesday.

“If the President is going to pardon lawbreakers like Duncan Hunter he may as well pardon the Tiger King. If the bar is that low,” Fleischman said on Twitter.

Trump granted a full pardon Tuesday to Hunter, who was set to begin an 11-month sentence at a federal prison in two weeks after pleading guilty to stealing campaign funds for personal use.

Federal prosecutors indicted Hunter and his wife Margaret in 2018 for lavish spending of campaign donations on “items as inconsequential as fast food, movie tickets and sneakers; as trivial as video games, Lego sets and Play-doh; as mundane as groceries, dog food and utilities; and as self-indulgent as luxury hotels, overseas vacations, and plane tickets for themselves, their family members, and their pet rabbits Eggburt and Cadbury.”

Hunter burned through upwards of $200,000 on expenses that included a $14,000 Italian vacation, as well as private school tuition and trysts with a mistress, prosecutors said.

Hunter, who represented California’s 50th Congressional district in eastern San Diego County, resigned from Congress in January.

In a statement Tuesday, the White House said the pardon came “at the request of many Members of Congress.” It also suggested that Hunter’s violations should have been handled as a civil case by the Federal Election Commission rather than in criminal court. And it said “Mr. Hunter has dedicated much of his adult life to public service,” pointing to his time in the U.S. Marine Corps serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.

His estranged wife, Margaret, who cooperated with prosecutors and who filed for divorce in December, received her own pardon Wednesday. She has been serving a three-month sentence of home confinement and had three years of probation. As in the explanation for Duncan Hunter’s pardon, Trump’s office said Wednesday that Margaret Hunter’s case should have been handled by the FEC.

Fleischman said in an interview that he found Duncan Hunter’s actions galling, particularly his attempt to cloak personal expenses as donations to wounded veterans. Fleischman said that “the system worked — he was convicted. He was given a sentence.”

He also said that Trump “set the standard that there’s a different set of justice for the friends of the president than there is for everyone else.”

Other loyal Republicans who have supported the president went public with their anger. Former state GOP Chair Ron Nehring lambasted the Duncan Hunter decision.

“Our elected officials should be held to a higher, not lower, standard than the average citizen, who would never have been pardoned for similar crimes,” he said.

“We have so many great, honorable Republicans who wish to serve for all the best reasons. We don’t have to put up with any crooks in our own party,” Nehring also said on Twitter. “Toss the bums out. Make room for the honest and honorable ones. Strong party. Stronger country.”

Republican Carl DeMaio, who unsuccessfully ran for Duncan Hunter’s 50th congressional district seat, issued a statement saying Trump’s action “sends absolutely the wrong message that politicians can break the law, but can easily avoid any punishment when they do.”

DeMaio said that the decision “will simply reinforce the clear impression that ordinary citizens have that Washington DC Swamp Creatures protect themselves, receive special exemptions, and enjoy double standards.”

While Duncan Hunter’s pardon was upsetting to many Republicans, Darrell Issa, who won the election to take the 50th congressional district seat, congratulated him via Twitter.

“I’m pleased that all of the Hunter family can spend this Christmas together with a fresh outlook on life,” he said.

Continue

About the author

Lisa

Leave a Comment