(CNN) — Rep. Duncan Hunter and his wife, Margaret, were indicted Tuesday on charges related to the misuse of $250,000 worth of campaign funds for personal expenses and the filing of false campaign finance records.
The charges of wire fraud, falsifying records, campaign finance violations and conspiracy were the culmination of a Department of Justice investigation that has stretched for more than a year, during which the Republican congressman from California has maintained his innocence.
The Justice Department said the Hunters are scheduled to be arraigned Thursday morning in federal court in San Diego.
Republican Party leaders had long worried that with a potential indictment looming, Hunter’s traditionally safe district, which makes up much of eastern San Diego County, could be at risk of Democratic takeover in November’s midterm election.
Senior White House officials were aware of the impending announcement and bracing for the Hunter news to join a slew of bad news stories that have hit the White House all at once, according to a source familiar with the matter.
Hunter was a founding member of the “Trump Caucus” in the House during the 2016 campaign, and alongside Rep. Chris Collins, was the first of two sitting congressmen to endorse Trump for President back in February 2016. Collins was indicted earlier this month on insider trader charges.
Hundreds of thousands of dollars in unusual charges on Hunter’s campaign credit card had come under scrutiny, including among other things, an Italian vacation, dental work, purchases at a surf shop, and huge tabs at bars in restaurants in the San Diego and Washington, DC, areas. Among the most mocked charges was airfare for a pet rabbit to fly with the family, which an aide said was mistakenly charged to the wrong credit card.
Hunter, a former Marine, has reimbursed his campaign account some $65,000 since the Federal Election Commission first questioned spending on video games in 2016, according to FEC records.
“There was wrong campaign spending, but it was not done by me,” Hunter told KGTV-10, a San Diego television station, earlier this year.
His comments have cast blame on his wife and former campaign manager, Margaret Hunter, who also made charges on the campaign credit card.
Hunter’s lawyers said last year that “any mistakes were made they were strictly inadvertent and unintentional.”
California’s 50th District is a staunchly Republican district with many current and former military families. The Congressman’s father, Duncan L. Hunter, represented parts of the district (which changed after redistricting) and has rallied donors and supporters to his son’s side.
Hunter’s Democratic challenger, Ammar Campa-Najjar, a former Department of Labor aide in the Obama administration, has repeatedly outraised him.
Many Hunter allies believe he will stay in his House seat while fighting the charges.
Even if federal candidates choose to withdraw from contention, their names will remain on the ballot unless they seek removal of their names from a judge, according to the California Secretary of State’s Office.
At this late juncture, there is no possibility of a write-in campaign. Only Hunter and Campa-Najjar will appear on the November ballot, since they were the top vote-getters in California’s top-two primary in June.
This is a breaking news story and will be updated.
— Laura Jarrett and Maeve Reston
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