- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Justice Department is investigating Rep. Duncan Hunter, the House ethics committee revealed Thursday as it put its own probe into potential campaign finance violations on hold to allow the criminal investigation to proceed.

Mr. Hunter, California Republican, has already repaid about $60,000 to his campaign “out of an abundance of caution,” the congressman’s lawyers said.

The Office of Congressional Ethics last year said Mr. Hunter may have siphoned campaign funds to cover his own personal expenses for “family travel, flights, utilities, health care, school uniforms and tuition, jewelry, groceries and other good, services and expenses.”

“If Rep. Hunter converted funds from his congressional campaign committee for personal use, then he may have violated House rules, standards of conduct and federal law,” the office said.

The OCE’s referral, on a 5-0 vote, sparked an investigation by the House ethics committee.

But Thursday the committee said it was shelving its probe after a request by the Justice Department. Criminal investigations always take precedence over Congress’s own ethics proceedings.

Mr. Hunter’s lawyers said he became aware last year “of expenditure issues confronting his campaign committee” and repaid money.

Congressman Hunter intends to cooperate fully with the government on this investigation, and maintains that to the extent any mistakes were made they were strictly inadvertent and unintentional,” the lawyers said in a statement.

Mr. Hunter, an early backer of President Trump, has been an outspoken voice in calling for a crackdown on illegal immigration. He’s also chairman of a Transportation Committee subcommittee that overseas the Coast Guard.

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