Do Not Go Gentle
December 6, 2019

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-Calif.) pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of conspiracy to misuse campaign funds, but he has shown no rush to quit Congress. He has blown off reporters who've asked when he is resigning, and as of Wednesday, Politico reports, he had not met with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to discuss his legal situation. "Our patience is not unlimited," a top Democratic leadership aide told Politico. A GOP lawmaker added that Hunter would be given time to "get his affairs in order .... but not forever."

The House Ethics Committee took the first step in nudging Hunter out the door on Thursday, telling him in a letter to stop voting in the House. If he does vote, the top Democrat and Republican on the committee warned Hunter, "you risk subjecting yourself to action by this committee, and by the House, in addition to any other disciplinary action that may be initiated in connection with your criminal conviction."

"In the past, members who have cut plea deals or been convicted of criminal offenses have come under enormous pressure to leave office quickly or face action by their colleagues, including expulsion," Politico reports. "The late Rep. James Traficant (D-Ohio), for instance, was expelled by the House following his conviction on bribery and other corruption charges. Traficant was convicted in April 2002, but then he refused to resign. Following a 'trial' by the House Ethics Committee, Traficant was expelled from the chamber three months later by a 420-1 vote."

Hunter took a plea deal to avoid dozens of federal counts of campaign finance violations for improperly diverting hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign funds for personal use, including, allegedly, extramarital affairs with lobbyists and congressional staffers. House GOP leaders asked Hunter to give up his committee assignments when he was indicted last year, and when he didn't, they forced his hand. Peter Weber

March 13, 2017

President Trump can (and did) make Preet Bharara vacate his office as U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York — firing him on Saturday after Bharara refused to resign. But he can't make him go quietly.

The Moreland Commission was set up by New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) in July 2013 to investigate corruption in state politics — then abruptly disbanded by Cuomo in March 2014 after, The New York Times reports, "Cuomo had hobbled its work, intervening when it focused on groups with ties to the governor or on issues that might reflect poorly on him." Bharara — who successfully prosecuted more than two dozen New York politicians of both parties for corruption, including the leaders of the state Assembly and state Senate — looked into Cuomo's handling of the Moreland Commission but ultimately concluded there was not enough evidence to prove a federal crime.

So Bharara's tweet on Sunday suggests that he was fired while he was investigating either Trump or his allies. On Sunday's This Week, House Government Oversight Committee ranking Democrat Rep. Elijah Cummings (Md.) touched on that possibility:

Without clarification from Bharara, there's only speculation as to what he meant. Bharara had a lot of enemies and critics: on Wall Street, in government, abroad — the leaders of Russia and Turkey had targeted him — and at Fox News, which Bharara was reportedly investigating, along with its former chief, Roger Ailes. The top name floated to replace Bharara is Marc Mukasey, a white-collar defense lawyer who once worked as a prosecutor in the Manhattan U.S. attorney's office; he's also the son of former Attorney General Michael Mukasey and a member of Ailes' legal team.

CNN's Jeffrey Toobin also noted on Saturday night that Bharara "has been involved in a lot of investigations that are at least peripherally related to Donald Trump," apparently including "some investigations that involve the Trump Organization and Russia." The ongoing investigations in Bharara's office are expected to continue with minimal interruption under career prosecutors, at least for now.

A White House aide criticized Bharara's refusal to resign, telling The Wall Street Journal that all 46 sacked U.S. attorneys were treated in the same way and "45 of the 46 behaved in a manner befitting the office," while "Preet wants everything to be about Preet." Reached for comment, Bharara responded: "It was my understanding that the president himself has said anonymous sources are not to be believed." Peter Weber

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