By Ken Stone
Reprinted with permission from Times of San Diego, a member of the San Diego Online News Association
Photo: Rep. Duncan D. Hunter, shown at recent Ramona forum, says a Freedom of Information Act request generated a Secret Service email indicating San Diego federal prosecutors attended a Hillary Clinton fund-raiser for the sake of getting a photo with the eventual Democratic presidential nominee. Photo by Ken Stone
June 25, 2019 (San Diego) - Rep. Duncan D. Hunter has long accused the San Diego U.S. Attorney's Office of being out to get him for political reasons. Now his lawyers are hoping a motion filed Monday proves it.
Hunter wants his campaign funds misuse case thrown out — or the local Department of Justice office recused — on the basis of a single email he says shows that two assistant U.S. attorneys attended an August 2015 fund-raiser for Hillary Clinton as fans of the Democrat.
The Alpine Republican says he was originally told that assistant U.S. attorneys Alana Robinson and Emily W. Allen attended in their official capacity to assist law enforcement. So he filed a Freedom of Information Act request to see if a record existed.
On June 12, the Secret Service sent him a responsive document.
“The document conclusively proves that AUSAs Robinson and Allen attended the Clinton fundraiser for partisan political reasons to supply and obtain a photo with candidate Clinton and that their attendance had absolutely nothing to do with ‘assisting law enforcement,'” says the 22-page motion by Hunter attorney Gregory Vega.
In a redacted email from the Secret Service to the U.S. Attorney’s Office sent Aug. 5, 2015, two days before the Clinton event, the brief note says:
“Here is the info for your photo with HRC on Friday, 8/7/15. Please meet me at 0900 hours Friday morning at [Redacted] in La Jolla. You can park on [Redacted] and walk to the residence (please don’t park on [Redacted]. You do not need to bring anything to the site. I will meet you outside the front door of the residence and lead you inside to the photo op room.”
Hunter wants the federal judge in his case — Thomas Whelan — to order release of the unredacted email.
In the motion, Vega writes: “AUSAs Robinson and Allen surely hoped that the email would never see the light of day for if it did, the charade was over and the public would finally know the truth that the investigation of Congressman Hunter was political from the outset.”
Hunter’s lawyers say they’ll argue at a July 1 motion hearing that the evidence “now establishes without question that the assistant U.S. attorneys that initiated the investigation had a glaring conflict of interest and loss of impartiality that is intended to separate federal prosecutors from politically influenced decisions.”
Further, the filing says: “Any explanation the Government gives now for initiating the investigation of Congressman Hunter should be viewed with total skepticism through the lens of their attempts to cover up the partisan political activities of the prosecutors that initiated the investigation.”
(Last Thursday, San Diego’s new U.S. attorney, Trump-nominated Robert S. Brewer Jr., informed Judge Whelan that he was now lead counsel for the United States in the Hunter case. He listed Emily Allen, Phillip Halpern and W. Mark Conover as continuing to be associated with the prosecution.)
On Tuesday, Vega told Times of San Diego that the only document received from the Secret Service in the FOIA request was the one redacted email cited in his motion. Vega also said Brewer’s name appeared on a Notice of Appearance by another assistant U.S. attorney now working on the case and that Brewer is recused from the Hunter case.
In a statement Monday, Hunter said: “Every San Diegan who has been following this politically driven prosecution should read the correspondence from the Secret Service that was revealed today. It shows conclusively that the two U.S. Attorneys who have driven this prosecution did so after attending a Hillary Clinton fundraiser and then covered up their political activities by claiming they were part of Hillary’s security team. The Secret Service correspondence shows that they came to the fundraiser event solely for political purposes.
“It is every American’s constitutional right to have equal protection under the law. It is clear by the prosecutor’s actions that they have a political bias that merits the court’s attention and consideration. The U.S. Constitution and federal law exists to protect us against these types of bias. Political agendas have no place in our courtrooms and when lies and their cover-up are exposed, accountable action should be taken.”
Hunter spokesman Michael Harrison said the six-term congressman would make no further statement on the matter “at this time,” adding that any further media inquiries be sent to Vega.
The San Diego U.S. Attorney’s Office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Hunter motion says the investigation and prosecution fall within the reasoning of a Supreme Court holding in Young vs. United States to dismiss an indictment for the improper conduct of the investigating prosecutors.
“The public deserves more from its Department of Justice,” the motion says. “Here we have both the Department of Justice and the Secret Service, an agency of the Department of Homeland Security, providing the public with false information to cover up their actions in the investigation of Congressman Hunter.”
The June 12 Secret Service response came a day before Hunter’s wife, Margaret, changed her plea from not guilty to guilty, saying she and her estranged husband spent more than $200,000 from his campaign kitty on personal items, family spending and vacations.