By Ken Stone
In a last-ditch effort to avoid prison for his client, a lawyer for resigned congressman Duncan Hunter says two thank-you notes are proof that a federal judge should throw out his case.
The brief emails were sent hours after a morning La Jolla fundraiser for Hillary Clinton on Aug. 7, 2015, attended by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Alana Robinson and Emily Allen.
Robinson — who Tuesday was elected a Superior Court judge — later became U.S. attorney for San Diego and served from January to November 2017 when her office was investigating Hunter. Allen remains on the case.Lawyer Paul Pfingst argues in a motion filed Tuesday that Judge Thomas Whelan should dismiss the case or recuse the San Diego office of the Department of Justice in Hunter’s sentencing. Pfingst wants the motion heard at Hunter’s March 17 sentencing.
Hunter pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy in the misuse of campaign donations and faces up to five years in prison for the criminal offense.
But in another action Tuesday — whose details the court put off limits to the public — Hunter attorney Devin Burstein filed an “objection to the presentence investigation report.”
In his motion, Pfingst says new information has come to light since Whelan rejected Hunter’s efforts to use attendance at the Clinton fundraiser as reason to void the 2018 indictment.
The new information: emails to redacted individuals allegedly sent by Allen and Robinson.
One said: “Thank you so much for the invitation to this morning’s event! I was blown away by your incredible hospitality and can’t thank you enough for allowing us to crash that fabulous party. It was a really memorable morning.”
The other said: “You totally downplayed that amazing invitation! I had no idea it would be so spectacular. I didn’t even realize we’d be invited in! I am so grateful for the invitation, thank you.”
It wasn’t clear who sent which email. Allen and Robinson didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in San Diego said: “We have no comment.”
Judicial Watch announced that it received 7 pages of heavily redacted emails from the DOJ relating to Assistant U.S. Attorneys Alana Robinson & Emily W. Allen attendance at an August 2015 fundraiser in CA for Hillary Clinton.
— Judicial Watch 🔎 (@JudicialWatch) March 3, 2020
Hunter’s lawyer argues that the emails — uncovered by the conservative group Judicial Watch in a Freedom of Information Act request — show that the pair didn’t attend the event in their “official capacity assisting law enforcement” as the DOJ contends.
“The Defense contends that the evasive way this fundraiser/bias issue has been handled by the Government reinforces the reliability of our claim,” Pfingst wrote. “The accurate facts were avoided because they look like what they are; evidence of bias.”
Pfingst said that Hunter’s charge of bias — calling the prosecution a witch hunt among other things — was met with widespread derision in the media.
“The Government fueled that public scorn with inaccurate denials,” he said. “It is unlikely, human nature being what it is, that the prosecutors have shed their bias now that the truth has been revealed to the Court.”
Pfingst replaced another Hunter lawyer in the corruption case — Gregory Vega.
At the July 2019 hearing where Judge Whelan rejected the dismiss motion, prosecutor Mark Conover noted: “The irony of this case is that the defendant’s lawyer, Mr. Vega, was at that exact same fundraiser that exact same day. He was there to support Mrs. Clinton and he donated to be there.”
Records show Vega wrote a $2,700 check to Hillary for America on April 13, 2015, and that between 1998 — when he himself was an assistant U.S. attorney in San Diego — and 2018, Vega contributed close to $32,000 to Democratic candidates and causes.
The San Diego Union-Tribune, quoting Pfingst, reported Wednesday that the new motion does not seek to change Hunter’s plea or represent a legal challenge that would invalidate his plea deal.
In a Jan. 20 post, Judicial Watch said that Robinson and Allen, both registered Democrats, took photos with Clinton at the fundraiser, held at the home of Qualcomm co-founder Irwin Jacobs and his wife, Joan.
“Within months of the fundraiser, Hunter became the first sitting member of Congress to publicly endorse Clinton’s opponent in the 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump,” the group said. “Robinson became acting U.S. Attorney in January 2017, and her office commenced its investigation of Hunter and his wife the following month.”
Judicial Watch targets Democrats, but especially Hillary Clinton.
In 2016, The New York Times reported that Judicial Watch filed its first lawsuit against the Clintons shortly after its formation in 1994, “and it pretty much never stopped,” with more than 20 suits involving Hillary at the time.
“Judicial Watch’s strategy is simple: Carpet-bomb the federal courts with Freedom of Information Act lawsuits,” the Times said. “A vast majority are dismissed.”
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