Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar as seen in video saying "So I'm being told he's going to resign."
Democrat Ammar Campa-Najjar as seen in video saying “So I’m being told he’s going to resign.” Image via Twitter

In a startling video Friday, congressional candidate Ammar Campa-Najjar claims he’s been told that Rep. Duncan D. Hunter will resign and a special election will be held in three to four months.

Democrat Campa-Najjar, who lost to the indicted Republican in November and is seeking his 50th District seat in 2020, didn’t immediately respond to questions about his source.

But Michael Harrison, Hunter’s chief spokesman, fired back a statement that didn’t explicitly deny the resignation assertion.

“Congressman Hunter is looking forward to going to court, and perpetual candidates speaking on issues in which they have absolutely no knowledge in an attempt to raise money and grab a headline is what is to be expected from a superficial campaign,” Harrison said via email at 1:38 p.m.

June 27 legal filings by the San Diego U.S. Attorney’s Office. (PDF)

A little after 5 p.m., the Campa-Najjar campaign put out a press release titled “Is Hunter resigning?”

In a statement, Campa-Najjar says: “I’ve been told from various sources to expect a special election, we’ll have to wait and see. We also know an independent poll was conducted in CA50 surveying Carl Demaio and Darrel Issa, both of whom have expressed interest. I’m preparing for every possibility. I’m confident our policy proposals and people-over-politics-approach will win us the election.”

Then NBC San Diego’s Danny Freeman posted an explicit denial from Hunter aide Harrison: “Congressman Hunter is absolutely not resigning.”

In the video posted on Twitter, Campa-Najjar is seen walking toward his car with sleeves rolled up.

He says: “I’m being told to prepare for a special election just around the corner — in a couple months. Why? Because he was caught embezzling a quarter-million dollars. And his wife is testifying against him. So I’m being told he’s going to resign and we’ll have a special election in about three to four months.”

He then makes a pitch for donations and concludes: “I’ve got a special election to win. Let’s go.”

On Monday, six-term incumbent Hunter will appear in downtown San Diego federal court to hash out a series of motions by both sides, including his lawyers’ request to move his scheduled Sept. 10 trial to another federal court — the Eastern District of California with main courtrooms in Fresno, Sacramento and Bakersfield.

San Diego County Registrar of Voters Michael Vu didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the special election claim. But it’s understood that Gov. Gavin Newsom could call a special election if Hunter quits his $174,000-a-year House job.

On Thursday, the prosecution filed responses to several motions by Hunter’s attorneys, revealing that “the defendant’s criminal history report has previously been provided to the defendant.”

No further information was available on Hunter’s criminal history.

U.S. attorneys based in San Diego also are catching up on documents requested by Hunter. In one filing, it’s revealed that the government asked Chief Judge Barry T. Moskowitz to seal a request to extend by 180 days the five-year statute of limitations to allow for a response from Italian authorities.

U.S. law provides that a court can suspend the running of the statute of limitations for up to three years when an official request has been made for evidence in a foreign country. The Hunters allegedly spent more than $14,000 in campaign funds for a November 2015 family vacation to Italy.

(Italian officials were asked for the information on May 31, 2017, but the “authority of a foreign country in Italy” didn’t take final action until Feb. 23, 2018.)

That request was sealed July 16, 2018. But on Thursday, it was unsealed by Judge Thomas J. Whelan.

“At the time the defendant filed this motion [to dismiss three counts from April and July 2013], the United States first realized that the defense did not have copies of the ex parte, under seal Application and Order,” said the filing signed by Assistant U.S. Attorney Emily W. Allen.

Late Friday afternoon, Hunter attorney Gregory A. Vega filed documents asking the judge to bar testimony from Hunter’s wife, Margaret, who pleaded guilty June 13 to misusing campaign funds for personal use and implicating Hunter in dozens of felonies.

Hunter attorneys’ motion to bar testimony of Margaret Hunter and information about alleged Hunter infidelities. (PDF)

“Until the Government establishes that the alleged criminal conspiracy existed and when it began, all of the private marital communications remain privileged, and Mr. Hunter may assert the privilege to prevent testimony by Mrs. Hunter regarding their privileged communications,” Vega wrote.

Vega also wants the court to bar evidence of Hunter infidelity with five unnamed female lobbyists or congressional staffers.

“As the Court is well aware, the allegations in the Motion are so controversial and prejudicial that merely filing the Motion has tainted the jury pool against Mr. Hunter based on the salacious allegations,” Hunter’s legal team said.

They further write:

“The Government claims, wrongly, that this evidence ‘is necessary for the jury to consider in evaluating the case’ and contends Mr. Hunter’s ‘intimate relationships demonstrate his knowledge and intent to embezzle campaign funds.’ This is simply untrue. Evidence that some of Mr. Hunter’s relationships were ‘intimate’ is neither relevant to whether any expenditure of campaign funds would have existed ‘irrespective of’ Mr. Hunter’s campaign, nor necessary (or appropriate) for the jury to consider when evaluating the case.”

Vega says the government filed its motion to publicly embarrass Hunter with evidence that reflects poorly on his character. The defense attorney said the “minimal (if any) probative value of this evidence is substantially outweighed by the substantial risk of unfair prejudice.”

Thus he asked the court to deny the motion and prevent prosecutors from “distracting the jury with this salacious and prejudicial information.”

Other June 28 filings by Hunter team ahead of July 1 motions hearing. (PDF)

Vega also wants to make sure that Hunter’s military service can be used as evidence since it would “show he left his family’s financial responsibilities to his wife while on deployment in Iraq and Afghanistan, and this arrangement continued throughout the period of the indictment.”

The prosecution had sought to bar “character” evidence, but Vegas said: “Because Mr. Hunter will introduce evidence of his military service to show his wife’s control of the family’s finances, rather than for good character purposes, [federal evidence] Rule 404 does not bar admissibility, and the evidence should be allowed in as background evidence.”

And while Hunter’s team doesn’t plan to seek testimony from other members of Congress regarding the legality of the use of their campaign funds, Hunter wants Whelan to deny the prosecution’s motion to exclude evidence and argument regarding other Congress members’ misuse of campaign funds.

Hunter’s team also wants Hunter to be free to state his belief that he’s the target of a political witch hunt.

“Mr. Hunter is a candidate for the United States Congress and, as such, he is entitled to publicly discuss his present situation with the voters at town hall meetings and other public forums so the voters can then make an informed decision in casting their vote,” Vega wrote.

“The Government’s request to admonish Mr. Hunter will have a negative ‘chilling effect’ on Mr. Hunter’s ability to campaign. This Court should resist the Government’s attempt to insert the court in any way into a political campaign.”

Updated at 7 p.m. June 28, 2019