Embattled Rep. Duncan Hunter defended himself in an interview with Fox News on Thursday night after pleading not guilty to campaign finance violations earlier in the day.
Speaking with host Martha MacCallum, Hunter appeared to blame his wife for poor handling of his campaign money, saying he gave her power of attorney when he had his first tour of duty in Iraq as a Marine in 2003 and she continued that control while he was in Congress.
“I’m gone for five days a week. I’m home for two. And she was also the campaign manager,” he said. “So whatever she did, that’ll be looked at, too.”
Hunter and his wife, Margaret, both pleaded not guilty on Thursday to 60 charges against them.
Margaret Hunter’s bail was set for $10,000, while the California Republican’s was $15,000.
The couple was indicted Tuesday for misusing more than $250,000 in campaign cash for personal use, including personal vacations, groceries, alcohol and dental work.
But Hunter said he previously paid back $60,000 before his last election after doing an independent audit.
“This is pure politics, and the prosecutors can make an indictment read like a scandalous novel if they want to,” he said.
Hunter also said Democrats in the Justice Department were conspiring against him.
“My prosecutor and the acting U.S. attorney that issued the court orders to search my house, my office, had just attended a Hillary Clinton fundraiser with another U.S. attorney out here in San Diego,” he said.
Adam Braverman was sworn in as U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of California in November of last year after being an interim appointment by Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who was nominated by President Donald Trump.
Hunter said prosecutors edited text messages defending himself over allegations that his wife suggested he list a pair of shorts for himself as “some [golf] balls for the Wounded Warriors.”
“I can’t pull text messages from five years ago. But no, I would never do that,” he said.
Hunter appeared to lay the blame on Margaret Hunter. “Just because somebody texted me that doesn’t mean I had anything to do with anything that happened after that or did that,” he said.
MacCallum played a clip from an interview with Hunter’s Democratic opponent, Ammar Campa-Najjar, talking about the charges against the incumbent, saying Hunter “never made it back from the battlefield” and he “lost his way” after “Washington chewed him up and spat him out.”
In response, Hunter said, “I would say that’s my socialist Democrat opponent, and that’s what socialist Democrat opponents say.”
Hunter said he thinks he can still win re-election.
Inside Elections with Nathan L. Gonzales did not change the Likely Republican rating for California’s 50th District race, since it was already competitive but at the same time is a staunchly conservative district.
Watch: House Ratings Change in Favor of Democrats