Said Hunter: “Leave my wife out of it, leave my family out of it. It’s me they’re after anyway. They’re not after my wife; they want to take me down, that’s what they’re up to. So let’s get this in the arena and have this settled.”
“Rep. Duncan Hunter’s (R-CA) legal defense is coming from the same campaign coffers he and his wife are accused of misusing, so far amounting to more than $600,000 for the lawyers,” Roll Call reports.
“Federal Election Commission filings show Hunter’s campaign made payments for ‘legal services’ or ‘legal fees’ to eight different law firms in excess of $600,000 during the 2018 election cycle. This includes disbursements of $182,000 to the San Diego-based law firm Seltzer Caplan McMahon Vitek, which is representing Hunter in the grand jury investigation. The five-term GOP incumbent and his wife were indicted for allegedly using $250,000 in campaign funds for personal use.”
President Trump urged Attorney General Jeff Sessions to “look into all of the corruption on the ‘other side’” after the attorney general disputed Trump’s assertion a day earlier that Sessions had failed to take control of the Department of Justice, ABC News reports.
New York Times: “Mr. Trump listed people and political enemies who he believes deserve the attention of the Justice Department, including the targets of conservative conspiracy theories that claim the Russia investigation was motivated by politics.”
Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) “seemed to shift any blame onto his wife, Margaret, on Thursday for alleged campaign fund abuses, saying she was the one handling his finances,” CNN reports.
Said Hunter: “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. I didn’t spend any money illegally.”
Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) told KGTV that he’s innocent of accusations of campaign funding misuse one day after he and his wife Margaret were indicted by a federal grand jury.
Said Hunter: “We’re excited about going to trial with this, frankly. This is modern politics and modern media mixed in with law enforcement that has a political agenda. That’s the new Department of Justice.”
He added: “Let them expose themselves for what they are: a politically motivated group of folks.”
Mike Allen: “Corruption instantly becomes a centerpiece issue in the midterm campaigns — a huge new weight for Republicans in marginal races.”
Said a top GOP guru: “The Republican Party looks like a criminal enterprise.”
Playbook: “Two House Republicans have been indicted this month. Democrats — who were looking to turn this into a ‘corruption’ election — are feeling good at the moment.”
James Hohmann: “Democrats see an opportunity to revive the ‘culture of corruption’ message that helped them win the House in 2006. Nancy Pelosi repeated almost the identical talking points on Wednesday that she used 12 years ago to link GOP candidates to Duke Cunningham, Jack Abramoff and Mark Foley.”
Said Pelosi: “The charges against Congressman Collins show the rampant culture of corruption and self-enrichment among Republicans in Washington today. The American people deserve better than the GOP’s corruption, cronyism and incompetence.”
John Cassidy: “It’s not clear yet how Gates’s testimony will affect the outcome of the trial, in which Manafort is charged with tax evasion, bank fraud, and failing to disclose foreign bank accounts. But his time on the witness stand provided an invaluable public lesson in how tax evasion, money laundering, and political corruption work.”
“The importance of these phenomena goes well beyond this trial, and also beyond the special counsel Robert Mueller’s broader inquiry into Russia’s activities during the 2016 election. (Among other things, Mueller is widely believed to be looking into whether Donald Trump and his Presidential campaign had any surreptitious financial ties to Russian interests.) The ability of rich people such as Manafort and his oligarchic clients to shuffle money across borders, beyond the purview of tax collectors and law-enforcement authorities, is a huge and intractable problem. In many places, these practices are denuding tax bases, corrupting a large class of professional enablers, and undermining public confidence in the political and financial systems.”
Former New York Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver (D) was sentenced to seven years in prison Friday for corruption, the AP reports.
Silver was once one of the state’s most powerful Democrats until he was accused of “pocketing $4 million illegally by collecting fees from a cancer researcher and real estate developer.”
“The Interior Department’s internal watchdog has launched a full investigation into a real estate deal involving a foundation established by Ryan Zinke and developers including Halliburton Chairman David Lesar,” Politico reports.
“The inspector general’s probe will focus on whether Zinke violated conflict of interest laws, the latest official inquiry of Zinke’s activities in his 16 months helming the department.”
A new Center for American Progress poll in 48 Republican-held congressional districts finds a majority of voters think Republicans are more corrupt than Democrats, 54% to 46%.
Democrats also hold a 4-point lead on the generic ballot in these districts, “a notable shift from the last two cycles, where Republicans led in the same districts by an average of 14 points.”
Rick Wilson: “Donald Trump is unequivocal proof that A’s hire B’s and B’s hire C’s, and Trump hires people without the judgment, qualifications, ethical foundations, and moral stature to run an underground bum-fighting operation. Scott Pruitt’s obvious money problems should have screamed out in any background check, to say nothing of a Senate confirmation hearing.”
“Pruitt is a man, like so many of Trump’s claque of low-rent hoodlums, bus-station conmen, edge-case dead-enders, and caged-immigrant child porn aficionados, utterly unsuited to a role of public trust and responsibility.”
”Pruitt wasn’t even that good at being corrupt. If you’re going to act like a local warlord extorting a little extra poppy from the local tribesmen, you’ve got to go big; petty corruption is harder to excuse than bold, piratical plundering of the public exchequer. At least Donald, Jared, and the Trump Boys aren’t hiding the fact they want to cash out with a dollar figure where the preface on the -illions is a b-, not an m-.”
Sara Netanyahu, the wife of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, was indicted “for alleged systematic fraud involving hundreds of thousands of shekels in connection with meal expenses incurred at the Prime Minister’s Residence,” Haaretz reports.
West Virginia Supreme Court Justice Allen Loughry “was indicted on 22 counts, U.S. Attorney Mike Stuart announced this morning. Stuart said that if Loughry were convicted on each of the counts, the sentence would amount to almost 400 years,” West Virginia Metro News reports.
“The charges include fraud, false statement and witness tampering offenses.”
Loughry is the author of a political ethics book: Don’t Buy Another Vote, I Won’t Pay for a Landslide: The Sordid and Continuing History of Political Corruption in West Virginia.
“A three-judge panel of a federal appeals court on Wednesday rejected former Rep. Aaron Schock’s (R-IL) effort to throw out his criminal indictment, a major setback for the Illinois Republican’s efforts to avoid a trial on corruption charges,” Politico reports.
Former Connecticut Gov. John Rowland (R) “is a free man again after serving his second prison sentence,” the Connecticut Post reports.
“Rowland, who turned 61 the day before his release, was convicted in 2014 of election fraud and obstruction of justice for hiding his political consulting roles in two campaigns. He began serving a 30-month sentence in fall 2016, at a minimum security prison camp in Pennsylvania.”
“It was his second stay in federal prison. Rowland’s 2004 federal corruption conviction also led to his incarceration, and to the state’s landmark public campaign financing program.”
“Democrats are preparing to highlight allegations of corruption surrounding the Trump administration — and a legislative agenda to prevent future abuses — as they continue rolling out their party platform ahead of November’s midterm elections,” the Washington Post reports.
“The new Democratic focus on corruption as a campaign message marks a return to a formula that helped put Democrats into the House majority in the 2006 midterm elections — after numerous scandals including the Jack Abramoff and Duke Cunningham revelations put pay-to-play politics on the public’s political radar in a big way. Polling done after the election showed that the tide of corruption helped swing votes to Democrats, and the party’s official now sees signs of similar concerns among voters.”
Jonathan Chait: “People in government might have always given their donors more influence over their decisions, but they at least pretended that was not the case in public. The Trump administration is not even bothering to put up a facade.”
“The levels of corruption in this administration are simply staggering, and they range from open self-enrichment to openly selling policy to the highest bidder. The completely accurate sense that Trump and his party are out to get themselves and their friends rich is the administration’s gaping vulnerability. What’s especially odd is that nobody in the administration seems to have taken even cursory steps to address or paper over this weakness. They’re all just grabbing as much cash for themselves and their allies as they can, while they can.”