OAKLAND – President Donald Trump’s full pardon with Duncan Hunter is not playing well in the home of the convicted congressman – not even among GOP conservatives who have supported Trump.
Jon Fleischman, publisher of the influential Flash Report and former state vice president of the GOP, is among a crowd of conservative Californians who wiped out the decision Wednesday.
“If the president wants to forgive offenders like Duncan Hunter, he might as well pardon Tiger King. If the bar is that low,” Fleischman said on Twitter.
Trump granted a full pardon Tuesday to Hunter, who was set to begin an 11-month sentence in a federal prison in two weeks after pleading guilty to stealing campaign funds for personal use.
Federal prosecutors accused Hunter and his wife Margaret in 2018 of lavishly spending campaign donations on “items that don’t matter like fast food, movie tickets and sneakers; as trivial as video games, Lego sets and Play-doh; just as mundane as groceries, dog food and utilities; and as indulgent as luxury hotels, overseas vacations and airline tickets for themselves, their family members and their pet rabbits Eggburt and Cadbury. “
Hunter burned through up to $ 200,000 in expenses that included a $ 14,000 Italian vacation as well as private schooling and trials with a mistress, prosecutors said.
Hunter, who represented California’s 50th Congressional District in eastern San Diego County, withdrew from Congress in January.
In a statement Tuesday, the White House said the pardon came “at the request of many members of Congress.” It also suggested that Hunter’s violations should have been treated as a civil case by the Federal Election Commission rather than in criminal court. And it said “Mr. Hunter has dedicated much of his adult life to public service” and pointed to his time in the U.S. Marine Corps serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
His estranged wife, Margaret, who collaborated with prosecutors and filed for divorce in December, received her own pardon on Wednesday. She has served three months in prison and had a three-year probation. As in the explanation for Duncan Hunter’s pardon, the Trump office said Wednesday that Margaret Hunter’s case should have been dealt with by the FEC.
Fleischman said in an interview that he found Duncan Hunter’s actions insane, especially his attempts to cover personal expenses such as donations to wounded veterans. Fleischman said that “the system worked – he was convicted. He got a verdict.”
He also said that Trump “set the standard that there is a different set of justice for the president’s friends than there is for everyone else.”
Other loyal Republicans who have supported the president became public with their anger. Former State GOP President Ron Nehring smashed the Duncan Hunter decision.
“Our elected officials must be kept to a higher, not lower, standard than the average who would never have been pardoned for similar crimes,” he said.
“We have so many great, honorable Republicans who want to serve for the best reasons. We do not have to endure any villains in our own party,” Nehring also said on Twitter. “Throw the pimples out. Make room for the honest and honorable. Strong party. Stronger country.”
Republican Carl DeMaio, who unsuccessfully ran for Duncan Hunter’s 50th congressional district seat, issued a statement saying Trump’s action “absolutely sends the wrong message that politicians can break the law but can easily avoid any punishment when they do.”
DeMaio said the decision “will only reinforce the clear impression that ordinary citizens have that Washington DC Swamp Creatures protect themselves, receive special exemptions and enjoy double standards.”
While Duncan Hunter’s pardon was unsettling to many Republicans, Darrell Issa, who won the election to occupy the 50th congressional district seat, congratulated him via Twitter.
“I’m glad the whole Hunter family can spend this Christmas with a new outlook on life,” he said.