The 39 year-long anti-LGBTQ control of California’s 50th Congressional District may be coming to an end. On Tuesday, indicted Republican Rep. Duncan Hunter Jr. will plead guilty to one count of misusing campaign funds to avoid a criminal trial on numerous corruption charges that was set to begin Jan. 22, 2020. He is changing his plea to avoid the embarrassment a court trial would foist on his three kids, he told San Diego TV station KUSI.
Hunter succeeded his father in that congressional seat, reigning for 39 years. He was re-elected in 2018, despite being federally indicted for misuse of campaign funds for a range of personal expenses — for which he blamed his wife, who was in charge of the campaign funds. It’s doubtful she paid expenses related to Hunter’s mistresses, however. Nonetheless, during the KUSI interview he said he hopes the judge will not send his wife to jail.
Though he didn’t actually come out and say he was halting his re-election bid, Hunter said his staff will remain to facilitate a smooth transition to the next office holder, who he hoped would be a Republican to support President Trump. Gay Republican radio talk show host Carl DeMaio, former Congressmember Darrell Issa, and State Sen. Brian Jones are vying for the now open seat, as is Democratic businessman Ammar Campa-Najjar, who narrowly lost to Hunter in 2018.
The interview takes an interesting turn when the reporter asks Hunter what’s next for him. Hunter used code to talk to Trump, saying he, too, will defend “war fighters” such as Navy SEAL Chief Petty Officer Eddie Gallagher who was turned in by his SEAL team after stabbing a scrawny ISIS fighter, then posing with the corpse. Trump’s intervention in the discipline ordered by the Navy chain of command resulted in the resignation of the Sec. of the Navy and turmoil at the Pentagon.
Here’s how the New York Times described the incident at the heart of the issue:
He was limp and dusty from an explosion, conscious but barely. A far cry from the fierce, masked Islamic State fighters who once seized vast swaths of Iraq and Syria, the captive was a scraggly teenager in a tank top with limbs so thin that his watch slid easily off his wrist.
Chief Petty Officer Edward Gallagher and other Navy SEALs gave the young captive medical aid that day in Iraq in 2017, sedating him and cutting an airway in his throat to help him breathe. Then, without warning, according to colleagues, Chief Gallagher pulled a small hunting knife from a sheath and stabbed the sedated captive in the neck.
The same Chief Gallagher who later posed for a photograph holding the dead captive up by the hair has now been celebrated on the campaign trail by President Trump, who upended the military code of justice to protect him from the punishment resulting from the episode. Prodded by Fox News, Mr. Trump has made Chief Gallagher a cause célèbre, trumpeting him as an argument for his re-election.
Hunter came to Gallagher’s defense, which the Chief Petty officer’s brother lauded in an op-ed in the San Diego Union-Tribune, comparing Hunter’s legal troubles with those faced by his brother.
“Congressman Hunter’s support for Ed is incredibly revealing not only of his own character, but also of the government’s case against him. I know it may seem bad. The media headlines are dramatic and the charges sensational,” Sean Gallagher wrote on Oct. 24. “But let me remind you it was the same against Ed. During those dark days of his unjust imprisonment, Eddie stood accused of the most ludicrous acts. People believed the headlines, and Eddie’s wife Andrea and I tried desperately to defend him in public but often felt like we were screaming at the wind.”
And so began Hunter’s myth-making and his “war fighters” appeal to Trump, as if seeking a pardon.
“I chose to go to war after Sept. 11, 2001 for my nation and my family. In the end, after my third tour, I realized I was fighting for the men next to me,” Hunter said in the interview. “It’s my proudest accomplishment in Congress that I’ve been able to help our war fighters that have been wrongly prosecuted and incarcerated – keeping them out of jail. That’s the thing I think is most important to me and I’m going to keep working that going forward.”
Lest the LGBTQ community forget, Hunter helped instigate the transgender military ban and in a July 26, 2017 statement, praised Trump for its implementation.
“The President’s decision was the absolute right decision,” said Hunter, a member of the House Armed Services Committee until he was stripped of committee assignments after his indictment. “National security should trump social experimentation, always. It’s about time that a decision is made to restore the warrior culture and allow the U.S. military to get back to business.”