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Nicole Lafond

Nicole Lafond is a news writer for TPM based in New York City. She is also currently earning a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University and previously worked as an education reporter at The News-Gazette in Champaign, Ill. Follow her on Twitter @Nicole_Lafond.

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Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA) could have been a comfortable contender for TPM’s Duke of the Week back in 2016 when he followed Rep. Chris Collins’ (R-NY) lead, strapped on his red MAGA hat and stepped out as the second House Republican to bearhug then-presidential candidate Donald Trump, just days after Trump claimed he could “shoot somebody” on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan and not lose a single supporter.

But this week, he outdid that cringeworthy deed.

In the same week that one of Trump’s former associates was convicted on eight counts of financial crimes and his former lawyer pled guilty to charges associated with a Trump hush money payment, Hunter planted himself ahead of that Duke-worthy competition by taking notes from Collins’ playbook again to, this time, get indicted by the federal government.

On Tuesday, Hunter and his wife Margaret Hunter were charged with misusing $250,000 in campaign funds to pay for the most basic of necessities, like flights for their pet rabbit, sojourns to Italy, dental work and even fast food. Following a yearlong Justice Department investigation, the couple was found to have not only misused their campaign donations, but were also charged with falsifying campaign finance records to cover it up. While Speaker of the House Paul Ryan swiftly booted Hunter from his committee assignments “pending the resolution of this matter,” the Republican congressman took great pains to cast the blame for how he funded his lavish lifestyle on everyone but himself.

On Wednesday, Hunter parroted his boss by tossing culpability onto Trump’s favorite punching bag: He accused the DOJ — the “Democrats’ arm of law enforcement,” led by early Trump supporter Jeff Sessions — of having a “political agenda.”

“It’s happening with Trump and it’s happening with me,” he told a local news station, invoking the deep state mere hours before his court appearance.

And while an ardent Trump supporter could not be wholly condemned for lashing out against the President’s foe du jour, Hunter took his blame game to a shocking new level on Thursday: He threw his wife, and fellow indictee, thoroughly under the bus. 

Hunter, during a sweaty interview with Fox News, withstood limited poking and prodding from host Martha McCallum before he waved his white flag and effectively pinned the entire financial fiasco on his spouse.

“I’m saying when I went to Iraq in 2003 the first time I gave her power of attorney and she handled my finances throughout my entire military career and that continued on when I got to Congress since I’m gone five days and home for two,” he told McCallum. “She was also the campaign manager. So whatever she did, that will be looked at, too, I’m sure. But I didn’t do it.”

The scapegoating was hardly a shock to local reporters, who witnessed the awkwardly chilled relations between the couple during their hearing, when the two, represented by separate legal counsel, both pled not guilty to the federal financial crimes without so much as a glance at one another.

For darting responsibility — and shamelessly embodying the exact traits you’d expect a vaping congressman to possess — Hunter is our Duke of the Week.

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During an off-the-rails interview that consisted primarily of CNN’s Chris Cuomo painstakingly attempting to get White House counselor Kellyanne Conway to answer one question — Did Trump lie about his knowledge of the Michael Cohen payments? — Conway accused CNN of the same crime that the U.S. intelligence community believes Russia committed in 2016: Interference in the election.

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