House Ethics Committee informs Duncan Hunter he can no longer vote after guilty plea

The House Ethics Committee on Thursday informed Rep. Duncan HunterDuncan HunterLobbying world Duncan Hunter granted delayed start to prison sentence over coronavirus New poll shows tight race in key California House race MORE (R-Calif.) that he can no longer vote in the House of Representatives after pleading guilty to misusing campaign funds.

The ethics panel sent Hunter a letter telling him that his guilty plea triggered a House rule saying that any member convicted of a crime that could receive a prison sentence of two or more years “should refrain from voting on any question at a meeting of the House … unless or until judicial or executive proceedings result in reinstatement of the presumption of innocence … or until the Member is reelected to the House after the date of such conviction.”

Hunter, who changed his plea in federal court in San Diego on Tuesday, faces up to five years in prison and is scheduled to be sentenced on March 17. He was present for votes on Wednesday but did not vote on Thursday. 

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The committee also threatened to further punish Hunter should he try to cast any votes in Congress’s lower chamber.

“We emphasize in the strongest possible terms that if you violate the clear principles of this provision – that is, for example, by voting in the House – you risk subjecting yourself to action by this Committee, and by the House, in addition to any other disciplinary action that may be initiated in connection with your criminal conviction,” the panel wrote. 

Hunter, along with his wife Margaret Hunter, was charged with misspending more than $250,000 for personal costs. Though he initially claimed he was the victim of political persecution by “partisan Democrat prosecutors,” the case was handled by the office of U.S. Attorney Adam L. Braverman, a Trump appointee. 

“I made mistakes, and that’s what today was all about,” Hunter admitted to reporters outside the courthouse after his plea Tuesday.

The California Republican has not indicated he has any intention of stepping down from his seat, despite this week’s guilty plea. He was stripped of his committee assignments in 2018 by then-Speaker Paul RyanPaul Davis RyanLobbying world John Ratcliffe is the right choice for director of national intelligence — and for America House Democrat calls for halt to lawmakers sleeping in their offices MORE (R-Wis.) and faces a tough reelection race in 2020 against Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar, whom he narrowly beat last year.                                                       

Hunter met with Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyTrump, GOP go all-in on anti-China strategy The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Mnuchin: More COVID-19 congressional action ahead GOP pulls support from California House candidate over 'unacceptable' social media posts MORE (R-Calif.) on Thursday to discuss the situation. McCarthy said Hunter will make a statement “soon.”

Juliegrace Brufke contributed to this report