TEMECULA (CBSLA) — Former Rep. Duncan Hunter, who pleaded guilty last year to misusing campaign funds and was weeks away from starting an 11-month prison sentence, received a full pardon Tuesday from President Donald Trump.
“The pardons are stunning,” Jessica Levinson, Loyola Law School professor and political analyst, said. “There’s just no two ways about it. They’re stunning in terms of number and they’re stunning in terms of who the president has pardoned.”
According to a statement from the White House, the pardon was issued “at the request of many members of Congress,” and was supported by Bradley Smith, former Federal Election Commission chairman.
The White House statement cited Smith as saying the case against Hunter “could have been handled as a civil case via the Federal Election Commission.”
The pardon also cited Hunter’s military service, noting that he “has dedicated much of his adult life to public service” and was inspired to enlist in the Marines following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, serving combat duty in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Hunter pleaded guilty last year to a conspiracy charge for spending hundreds of thousands of dollars with campaign credit cards on family vacations, restaurant and bar tabs, clothes and other frivolous expenses over the course of several years, while falsely stating to his staff that the purchases were campaign-related.
His wife and former campaign manager, Margaret, also pleaded guilty to misusing campaign funds. She was sentenced in August to eight months of home confinement and three years probation. She was not granted a pardon.
Hunter, a Republican who represented California’s 52nd congressional district from 2009-13 and 50th congressional district from 2013-20, had planned to seek another term. He resigned from Congress in January.
Trump also pardoned former New York Rep. Chris Collins, who pled guilty to conspiring to commit securities fraud and lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and former campaign aid George Papadopoulous, who pled guilty to lying to the FBI as part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into the 2016 election.
“When you’re thinking about the pardon power and why the president has the pardon power, you really want to be thinking about the idea that the president is there as a failsafe in case there’s been a miscarriage of justice, or the president’s there because it’s in the public interest, the nation’s interest, that we just move forward,” Levinson said. “None of these pardons fall under that umbrella.”
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