Judge says Duncan Hunter's personal relationships can be evidence in corruption trial

Judge says Duncan Hunter's personal relationships can be evidence in corruption trial
© Greg Nash

A federal judge on Monday rejected a request by Rep. Duncan HunterDuncan Duane HunterTrump says White House reviewing case of Green Beret charged with Afghan murder The Hill's Campaign Report: Impeachment fight poses risks to both Trump, Dems Darrell Issa to challenge Duncan Hunter for House seat in 2020 MORE's lawyers to block evidence that allegedly shows the California Republican spent campaign money on personal matters that included extramarital affairs, according to The San Diego Union-Tribune.

U.S. District Judge Thomas Whelan, a Clinton appointee, told Hunter's attorneys that they could try to reach an agreement with prosecutors on how best to characterize the nature of the relationships ahead of the September trial, the Associated Press reported.

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Attorneys for Hunter, who was indicted last year for alleged campaign finance violations, argued last week that the new allegations linking campaign spending to extramarital affairs were politically motivated and an attempt to "publicly embarrass Mr. Hunter with evidence that reflects poorly on his character," according to a court document published by USA Today. "The Court should deny the Motion and prevent the Government from distracting the jury with this salacious and prejudicial information."

Federal prosecutors filed the 12-page motion last week, accusing Hunter of repeatedly using campaign funds to cover expenses for affairs with five different women, all of whom “were involved in politics in some manner,” including lobbyists and Capitol Hill staffers.

“Evidence of the intimate, entirely personal quality of Hunter’s specific encounters with these women is essential to demonstrate that his spending to facilitate those encounters was improper,” prosecutors wrote. “At trial, the evidence will demonstrate that Hunter improperly used campaign funds to pursue these romances wholly unrelated to either his congressional campaigns or his official duties as a member of Congress."

Hunter and his wife, Margaret Hunter, were first indicted in August 2018 after being charged on multiple counts, including misusing at least $250,000 in campaign funds for personal expenses. Both initially pleaded not guilty, but Margaret Hunter later reversed her initial plea to conspiring to misuse campaign funds last month. An attorney for Duncan Hunter has said his wife’s guilty plea will not have an impact on his case.

Hunter, who did not speak at Monday's courtroom hearing, also allegedly falsified campaign records filed to the Federal Election Commission to cover up purchases by mischaracterizing numerous expenses as "campaign travel," according to his indictment.

He was stripped of his congressional committee assignments following the indictment.

Jacqueline Thomsen contributed.

Updated at 4:01 p.m.