50th District Congressman Duncan Hunter’s federal trial for misusing campaign funds, has been postponed until January, just two months shy of the March primary, driving a wrench into plans by local Republicans who were hoping to get past the representative’s personal scandals and engage directly with the only Democratic candidate in the field.
This prompted one of Hunter’s GOP challengers, Mayor Bill Wells of El Cajon to tell the Times-Advocate, “I’m all for Congressman Hunter doing whatever he can to promote his defense, but he should not drag the people through his trial. He has lost the moral authority to lead.”
The trial was pushed back until January pending an appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals on Hunter’s motion to dismiss the case. His lawyers argue that Hunter is protected from prosecution by a constitutional provision connected with carrying out legislative duties. From the beginning Hunter has also claimed that prosecutors, which he claims were Clinton supporters, were motivated to selectively prosecute Hunter because he was such a strong supporter of President Trump.
The judge in the trial, Thomas Whelan, did not agree with either argument, but agreed to give Hunter’s attorneys a chance to run them past the Court of Appeals. He postponed the trail date from September 10 to January 14.
Rep. Hunter is accused of corruption charges pending from over 60 instances of spending more than $250,000 in campaign funds on items such as video games, golf trips, groceries, vacations and extramarital affairs with lobbyists and congressional aides. Both he and his wife, Margaret, were indicted more than a year ago.
Hunter, a U.S. Marine Corps combat veteran who served in Iraq, has pleaded innocent in all counts. Margaret Hunter has pled guilty to one count and is cooperating with prosecutors.