President also pardons other high-level allies and Blackwater guards who committed massacre in Iraq
Story and file photo by Miriam Raftery
December 22, 2020 (Washington D.C.) --- East County’s former Congressman Duncan D. Hunter won’t be reporting to prison in Texas in January. Today, President Donald Trump delivered an early Christmas gift to Hunter and other Republican allies, issuing pardons for their crimes.
Hunter, a staunch Trump supporter and Republican from Alpine, pleaded guilty in late 2019 to conspiracy to diverting a quarter million dollars in campaign funds for personal use, but his sentencing was delayed due to COVID-19 in La Tuna, the federal penitentiary near El Paso. He resigned soon after, forcing constituents to be without representation for a full year that proved to be tumultous amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Congressman-elect Darrell Issa, a Republican who won election in November to fill the seat vacated by Hunter, praised the action. He tweeted, “I'm pleased that all of the Hunter family can spend this Christmas together with a fresh outlook on life.”
But many others voiced outrage - even California Republican Party Chairman Ron Nehring, who tweeted of the Congressional pardons, "Put me down as opposed to all of these. Especially Hunter, who was my Congressman. Our elected officials should be held to a higher, not lower, standard than the average citizen, who would never have been pardoned for similar crimes."
But Carl DeMaio, a conservative radio host and Republican who also ran for Hunter's seat in the primary, denounced the pardon. On Twitter, DeMaio said the pardon "sends absolutely te wrong message that politicians can break the law but can easily avoid any punishment when they do so. Politicians should be held accountable for following the laws that all of us citizens have to follow--no exceptions. Today's decision will simply reinforce the clear impression that ordinary citizens have that the Washington DC Swamp Creatures protect themselves, receive special exemptions, and enjoy double standards.
Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar, who ran against Hunter in 2018 and against Issa for the vacant seat in November 2020, also condemned the pardon, tweeting, “That Donald Trump would pardon the lawless, reckless and shameful actions of Duncan Hunter is both disappointing and predictable. Hunter stole form his supporters, blamed his wife, left an entire district without representation for a year, and launched the most xenophobic attack in modern politics.” He said the pardon sets a “dangerous example,” adding,”Trump’s disregard for the law is absolute. President-Elect Joe Biden’s swearing-in cannot come soon enough; we need his leadership to restore the soul of America now more than ever.”
Hunter’s wife, Margaret recently filed for divorce against her ex-husband, who initially blamed her for the campaign finance violations even though some of the misspent funds included trysts with Hunter’s mistresses, according to federal prosecutors. Margaret Hunter also pleaded guilty but received probation.
Two other corrupt former members of Congress, Chris Collins of New York and Steve Stockman of Texas, also got pardons. The other two are currently serving prison sentences. Stockman was convicted of money laundering and fraud; Collins pled guilty to conspiring to commit securities fraud and lying to the F.B.I.
Trump also pardoned George Papadapoulos, his 2016 campaign’s former foreign policy advisor, and attorney Alex van der Zwann. Both served brief prison stints for lying to federal investigators during special counsel Robert Mueller’s inquiry into the Trump campaign’s dealings with Russia.
In addition, the President pardoned four Blackwater security guards convicted of instigating a massacre and killing innocent Iraqi civilians – men the U.S. Justice Department had aggressively prosecuted for their crimes. All were serving lengthy prison terms.
These were among at least 15 pardons listed today. The president previously pardoned 28 others, largely cronies and supporters, including former National Security advisor Michael Flynn, who pled guilty to lying to authorities during the Special Counsel investigation of the Trump campaign.