Duncan Hunter shows no signs of quitting House, despite felony guilty plea

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Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) is showing no signs of stepping down from office despite his guilty plea Tuesday on a felony campaign finance charge in federal court.

When asked Wednesday about whether and when he intended to resign, Hunter blew off the question. “Good talk,” Hunter told a POLITICO reporter.

So far, neither Republican nor Democratic leaders have pressured Hunter to leave office, although there is precedent for expelling members who don’t step down following a criminal conviction. Hunter is not scheduled to be sentenced until March 17.

“Our patience is not unlimited,” a top Democratic leadership aide warned.

Hunter has yet to meet with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) about his legal situation, according to GOP sources. Top Republicans would like to see Hunter resign quickly, although they are prepared to give him some time to “get his affairs in order,” one GOP lawmaker said. “But not forever.”

Hunter, who turns 43 this week, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to misuse campaign funds. He and his wife, Margaret — who reached a plea deal with the Justice Department in June — improperly diverted hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign funds to personal use. The couple were indicted in August 2018. The Hunters, who have three children, face recommended prison sentences of 8 to 14 months in the agreements worked out by their lawyers and the Justice Department, although the court is not bound to abide by those plea deals.

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Former Rep. Chris Collins (R-N.Y.), who pleaded guilty to insider trading on Oct. 1, resigned from office the day before his guilty plea.

Republican leaders asked both Collins and Hunter to give up their committee assignments following their indictments. But Hunter — who long claimed he was the victim of a political “witch hunt” — initially refused to relinquish his committee posts. He finally stepped down after GOP leadership started taking steps to forcibly remove him from his panels.

In the past, members who have cut plea deals or been convicted of criminal offenses have come under enormous pressure to leave office quickly or face action by their colleagues, including expulsion. The late Rep. James Traficant (D-Ohio), for instance, was expelled by the House following his conviction on bribery and other corruption charges. Traficant was convicted in April 2002, but then he refused to resign. Following a “trial” by the House Ethics Committee, Traficant was expelled from the chamber three months later by a 420-1 vote.

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