Rep. Duncan Hunter cancels international travel ahead of criminal trial

Rep. Duncan Hunter during a previous trip abroad. This photograph was entered into evidence by prosecutors, who say the trip was funded illegally using campaign contributions.
(Government exhibit)

Shortly after a judge granted Rep. Duncan Hunter permission on Friday to travel abroad ahead of his criminal trial in January, the lawmaker canceled plans to leave the country.

U.S. Magistrate Judge William V. Gallo signed off on Hunter’s request to accept an invitation to travel to Belgium from Dec. 13 through Dec. 16, according to court records. Hunter, R-Alpine, was invited “in honor of his military service” to join a congressional delegation traveling to Belgium for the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge.

Michael Harrison, a spokesman for Hunter, told the San Diego Union-Tribune on Friday that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi invited Hunter on the trip. Harrison referred further questions to Pelosi’s office. Her office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

On Saturday, Harrison informed the Union-Tribune that Hunter had a scheduling conflict arise and had informed Pelosi’s office that he would not travel with the delegation to Belgium. He did not immediately provide details about the scheduling conflict.


Later Saturday, a spokesman for Pelosi’s office responded to the Union-Tribune’s request for comment and confirmation that Pelosi had invited Hunter on the trip, saying he “could not confirm or deny any international delegation of members traveling abroad due to security protocols.”

Hunter, a veteran who joined the Marines shortly after the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, needed the court’s permission to travel because he is not allowed to leave the country under the terms of his release pending a criminal trial scheduled for Jan. 22. Hunter is fighting a campaign-finance prosecution while seeking re-election.

The congressman and his wife, Margaret Hunter, were indicted in August 2018 and accused of spending more than $250,000 of campaign contributions illegally on family expenses such as vacations abroad, oral surgery, video games, private school lunches, groceries, gas and more. They were accused of covering up their misspending by inventing justifications such as spending on veterans charities.

The congressman denies the charges and says the criminal case against him is a partisan witch hunt, which prosecutors deny.


His wife, who also is his former campaign manager, pleaded guilty in June to one count of conspiracy, identifying her husband as her sole co-conspirator. She is scheduled to be sentenced April 13.

Cook writes for the San Diego Union-Tribune.