Former GOP congressman: Trump should commute Duncan Hunter's sentence to save money

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Back in 2000, then-Rep. Darrell Issa demanded 'swift and certain punishment' for criminals.

Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) pleaded guilty this week to a federal corruption charge. Now, the former congressman hoping to replace him thinks Donald Trump should let Hunter walk free to save on jail costs.

Former Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) did not seek reelection in his own district in 2018 but announced in September that he would run for the neighboring (and more Republican) 50th District seat — which currently belongs to Hunter — in 2020.

At the time of that announcement, Hunter was still a candidate for reelection, albeit awaiting trial on federal charges related to illegal use of $250,000 worth of campaign funds, which he used to fund personal expenses, including payments to multiple mistresses.

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Hunter long denied the allegations, but on Tuesday changed his plea to guilty, admitting to one charge of conspiracy to misuse campaign funds.

Hunter is currently awaiting his sentencing hearing, which is scheduled for March 17, 2020.

This week, Issa argued that Trump should use his commutation powers to spare Hunter from any jail time.

In an interview with the San Diego Union-Tribune's editorial board, Issa said, "I would certainly say the commuting of sentencing … has a certain ability to balance the public good. Are we better off spending $60,000 a year to put him behind bars or are we better off with him doing community service and going on with his life with the likelihood of him committing a crime in the future being pretty low?"

Issa himself has had a checkered past. In his younger days, he was arrested for his alleged involvement in a series of car thefts, though he was not ultimately charged. He withdrew his name from consideration for a Trump administration appointment in September after a Senate committee postponed his confirmation hearing, citing concerns about his past.

"There's information in his FBI background investigation that concerns me greatly, and that I believe members may find problematic, and potentially disqualifying for Senate confirmation," Sen. Robert Menendez (NJ), the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations committee, said at the time. (Menendez himself was admonished previously by the Senate Ethics Committee over prior dropped corruption charges.)

Issa dismissed the concerns, saying his alleged actions were youthful indiscretions that were already public.

During Issa's first House bid in 2000, he made tough-on-crime views a major part of his campaign. An archived copy of the "Crime" section of his 2000 website shows his position on sentencing was especially aggressive.

"Criminals must be punished. Swift and certain punishment for those who commit crimes is the best deterrent," he wrote. "As your Congressman I will support tough crime legislation aimed making our neighborhoods safe for senior citizens and families."

Issa similarly showed little mercy for those involved in government corruption during his tenure as chair of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. In 2014, he boasted that his committee had "worked tirelessly to demand accountability of the Federal Government and to protect the right of American Taxpayers to a government that works for them."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.