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Duncan Hunter appears to blame wife for $250K campaign cash scandal

The California Republican told Fox News that his wife, Margaret, had been in charge of family expenses as well as his campaign.
Duncan Hunter and His Wife Arraigned on Corruption Chargers
Rep. Duncan Hunter walks out of the San Diego Federal Courthouse after an arraignment hearing on Thursday, at which he and his wife, Margaret, pleaded not guilty to charges of using more than 250,000 in campaign funds for personal use.Sandy Huffaker / Getty Images

Rep. Duncan Hunter, who was indicted along with his wife this week on federal charges of stealing more than a quarter million dollars in campaign funds, appeared to blame his spouse of two decades for the alleged crimes in an interview Thursday night.

Hunter, a California Republican representing parts of San Diego, told Fox News that his wife, Margaret, had been in charge of family expenses as well as his campaign.

"When I went away to Iraq in 2003, the first time, I gave her power of attorney. She handled my finances throughout my entire military career and that continued on when I got into Congress," Hunter said on "The Story."

"She was also the campaign manager, so whatever she did, that’ll be looked at, too, I'm sure, but I didn't do it," he added.

According to a 47-page grand jury indictment — which alleged wire fraud, filing false campaign finance records, prohibited use of campaign funds and bank fraud — the San Diego County couple used thousands of dollars of campaign cash to take trips to Italy, Hawaii, London and elsewhere, and to cover school tuition, dental work and theater tickets.

Margaret Hunter had campaign credit and debit cards so she could buy "a wide variety of family groceries, household items and personal gifts," the filing stated.

The couple dined at the finest restaurants, including Spago, Capital Grille and, in San Diego, Mr. A's, federal prosecutors said. Campaign funds covered more than $11,300 for items at Costco and $3,300 for food at burger joint In-N-Out.

Margaret Hunter, the wife of U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, arrives for an arraignment hearing Thursday, Aug. 23, 2018, in San Diego. Denis Poroy / AP

The Hunters pleaded not guilty to the charges on Thursday. During their arraignment Thursday, the couple was separated by three attorneys and did not look at each other.

Duncan Hunter was released on a $15,000 bond, while his wife was released on a $10,000 bond after government prosecutors said they were "living paycheck to paycheck."

Duncan Hunter has argued that the indictment was produced under pressure from Democrats in the Justice Department whose case against him aims to "result in a solidly Republican district being handed to a Democratic candidate," according to a letter from Hunter's attorney, Gregory A. Vega, to Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.

In his interview with Fox, Hunter, who in 2016 became the second member of Congress to endorse Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, repeated the claim, calling the charges "pure politics."

But he also admitted that his campaign "did make mistakes."

"There was money spent on things, not by me but by the campaign, and I paid that back before my last election," he said.

Andrew Blankstein contributed.