Rep. Duncan Hunter pleads not guilty to misuse of campaign funds

Two days after a federal grand jury returned a 60-count indictment, Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) and his wife pleaded not guilty to charges that they illegally used over $250,000 in campaign contributions for personal expenditures, as the California Republican echoed President Donald Trump's assertion that he was being unfairly targeted by Democrats in the Department of Justice.

Federal prosecutors say the Hunters not only used campaign funds for vacations, school tuition for their children, concerts and other personal items, but also falsified records in 13 separate reports filed with the Federal Election Commission, to cover their tracks.

Arriving at a federal courthouse in San Diego for his appearance before federal magistrate judge William Gallo, Hunter was greeted by protestors, who taunted the GOP Congressman with a favorite chant from President Trump's own campaign rallies.

Hunter, who has been under investigation by the Justice Department and the House Ethics Committee over the past two years, has condemned the charges against him, using an argument similar to President Trump's complaints about the probe of Special Counsel Robert Mueller.

"This is the new Department of Justice - this is the Democrats' arm of law enforcement," Hunter told reporters Wednesday, despite the fact that Republicans are in charge of the Executive Branch.

The indictment repeatedly details how Hunter and his wife were struggling to pay their bills, as they "spent substantially more than they earned."

"They overdrew their bank account more than 1,100 times in a seven-year period resulting in approximately $37,761 in "overdraft" and "insufficient funds" bank fees," the indictment states.

"Their credit cards were frequently charged to the credit limit, often with five-figure balances, resulting in approximately $24,600 in finance charges, interest, and other fees," prosecutors indicated.

The indictment rattled off a laundry list of spending with campaign funds - $11,300 at Costco, $5,700 at Walmart, over $2,500 at Barnes & Noble, $2,300 at Target, and $3,300 at various fast food restaurants, from In N Out to Taco Bell and more.

"On or about March 4, 2016, in Washington, D.C., DUNCAN HUNTER spent $462.46 in Campaign funds for 30 shots of tequila and one steak at El Tamarindo restaurant during Individual 8's bachelor party," the indictment reads.

Hunter is the second GOP Congressman to be indicted this month, joining Rep. Chris Collins (R-NY), who was charged with insider trading.

While Collins has suspended his campaign for re-election, both Collins and Hunter are expected to still be on the ballot in November, for the 2018 mid-term elections.

As reporters waited outside for Hunter, his Democratic opponent in November appealed to voters in the pro-GOP district to defeat Hunter in November.

"I think Washington chewed him up and spat him out," said Ammar Campa-Najjar, saying that Hunter had been "engulfed in the corruption that has plagued Washington for too long."

Bond for Hunter and his wife was set at a low level of $15,000 for the Congressman and $10,000 for his wife - because prosecutors said they are living 'paycheck to paycheck.'

The California Republican left the courthouse without commenting, as protesters yelled, "Shame on you, Duncan Hunter!"

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