By Ken Stone
President Trump on Monday suggested that two “easy” Republican congressional wins, including one by Rep. Duncan Hunter, were “now in doubt.”
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In his first public comments referencing the Aug. 21 federal indictment of Hunter, an early Trump endorser, the president tweeted that “two long running, Obama era, investigations of two very popular Republican Congressmen were brought to a well publicized charge, just ahead of the Mid-Terms, by the Jeff Sessions Justice Department.”
Observers and the public assumed the unnamed pair were GOP Reps. Chris Collins of New York and Hunter of San Diego’s East County.
CNN reported that the Justice Department, which Sessions heads as U.S. attorney general, had no comment on a series of Trump tweets.
But the cable network noted: “A decision by the Justice Department to hold off on prosecuting two Republican congressmen up for re-election in order to help them win would have been highly unethical and a blatantly politically motivated violation of the department’s nonpartisan mission.”
San Diego journalists also noticed errors or pitfalls in the tweets.
“I’m really surprised he didn’t put out a thoughtful legal defense of Rep_Hunter and instead made the case his DOJ should make decisions based on political priorities,” said Voice of San Diego editor in chief Scott Lewis.
Fox 5 news anchor Kathleen Bade tweeted: “FACT CHECK: @RepChrisCollins indicted on serious insider trading charges, 1 exchange happening allegedly while at Trump White House picnic. @Rep_Hunter accused of illegally using campaign funds, wire fraud, falsifying records.”
And Robert Schooley, a Hollywood producer, noted ironically: “Good of Trump to get Duncan Hunter and Chris Collins back in the news though.”
Despite Trump’s apparent concerns, Hunter is considered the favorite against Democratic challenger Ammar Campa-Najjar, based on recent polling and highly regarded analysis from The Cook Political Report.
“It could take weeks to determine … whether the indictment suddenly makes voters more inclined to vote for a Democrat,” said Cook writer David Wasserman. “This seat has been in the Hunter family since 1980, but it’s another headache for the GOP in what should be a safe seat.”
Hunter, who pleaded not guilty to 60 felony charges, has attacked interim U.S. Attorney Adam Braverman in San Diego for the investigation of his spending but hasn’t explicitly faulted Sessions.
Michael Smolens, political columnist for The San Diego Union-Tribune, noted the absence of Sessions from Hunter’s critique of a “deep state” and Democratic conspiracy against him.
“Any notion that an attorney general doesn’t sign off on an indictment of a sitting congressman is just plain silly,” Smolens wrote. “The same goes for the FBI’s participation in an investigation of a member of Congress. FBI Director Christopher Wray, another Republican appointed by Trump, certainly would have pulled the plug if he didn’t think it was legitimate.”
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