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Judge allows international travel for Rep. Duncan Hunter ahead of criminal trial

U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., attends a hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington on Sept. 7, 2017.

CARLOS BONGIOANNI/STARS AND STRIPES

By MORGAN COOK | The San Diego Union-Tribune | Published: November 9, 2019

SAN DIEGO, Calif. (Tribune News Service) — A federal judge agreed Friday to modify the conditions of release for indicted lawmaker Rep. Duncan Hunter, to allow Hunter to travel abroad in December, according to court records.

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.

The filing did not include details about the trip, such as who invited Hunter, which other lawmakers are expected to participate or how the travel will be funded.

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, which did not immediately return a call for comment.

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 60-count indictment on charges related to a campaign-finance investigation, while seeking re-election.

Hunter and his wife and former campaign manager, Margaret, were named as co-defendants in the federal indictment, filed in August 2018. They were accused of crimes related to use of Hunter's campaign money for personal purposes including trips to Hawaii, Italy and Las Vegas, plus items like $11,400 of household goods at Costco, $6,300 of groceries at Albertsons and $5,800 for family supplies at Walmart. The congressman also was accused of spending the funds on extramarital affairs.

Both Duncan and Margaret Hunter originally pleaded not guilty to the charges. Margaret Hunter changed her plea in June to guilty to one count of conspiracy in a deal with prosecutors that requires her to cooperate with the government and testify against her husband.

She is scheduled to be sentenced April 13.

Hunter continues to fight the charges, saying they are a partisan witch hunt — an allegation denied by prosecutors.

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